Quackery, gullibility, and open-mindedness

Gullibility is a disadvantage in any business, but it's a cardinal sin in journalism. During my J-school years, I acquired the occupational deformity that afflicts most reporters: a degree of skepticism bordering on the cynical. In my professional circles, an adage holds that "if your mother says she loves you, check it out."

I internalized the lesson and became a lifelong doubter, fairly smitten with empiricism and evidence. If you say X, and X sounds the least bit unlikely to me, I may go looking for proof. If I don't find it, I'll be disinclined to believe you.

But sometimes there's crow for dinner. When I threw my back out years ago and found myself supine on the tennis court in agony, it took some self-convincing to go see a chiropractor, because most people in my tribe of agnostics and science venerators believe that chiropractors are quacks. But the professional back-cracker I visited realigned my spine with startling efficacy, producing such a wave of instant relief that I actually wept.

Which brings me to New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. Douthat suffers from Lyme disease. He too is by nature or training a hard-core empiricist. But he has gradually become a convert to Rife therapy, which involves a machine that emits a "mortal oscillatory rate" for various pathogens, a frequency at which they would vibrate and then shatter, somewhat like a wineglass exposed to a resonant pitch belted out by a skillful opera singer. This discovery was, alas, suppressed by powerful medical interests, or so Rife's admirers claimed. His work was taken up by entrepreneurs on the medical fringe who sold frequency-generating machines to rid the body of all kinds of pathogens.

Initially skeptical but in pain, Douthat ordered a Rife machine. Acknowledging that he "[fell] through the solid floor of establishment consensus," he quickly became a believer. His change of heart was the subject of a recent column, titled "How I Became Extremely Open-Minded." (He has also written a book about his transformation; footnote 1).

I scoffed the first time I read the column. But on the second read, I had to admit it took a brave man to write that article. Douthat, a poobah at a pedagogical newspaper whose middle and upper echelons think of themselves as supremely rational, is willing to be mocked for telling the truth—his truth, shaky and subjective though it is.

Why am I bothering you with all this? Because his experience strikes me as analogous to that of a lot of audiophiles, sans the physical illness. By insisting that swapping interconnects can make an audible difference—for which there is little if any rigorous scientific evidence—high-end aficionados invite ridicule, including allegations of deception, self- and otherwise. We spend a small fortune on vibration-reduction solutions, claiming that this will help focus the soundstage or confer other sonic benefits. In doing so, we swim against a tide of incredulity.

Cables are mild compared to some of the more bizarre audiophile tweaks: clocks in freezers, special creams, bottles of tiny rocks. Proponents of such products endure the stifled giggles of those who simply know this to be quackery. But there's a difference between unproven claims and unprovable claims. They shouldn't all be lumped together.

Please don't think I'm being flippant about the analogy between hi-fi woo and unproven medical treatments. In his columns, Douthat goes further than I'd be willing to go, stopping just short of advocating serious medical woo. (But, hey, it works for him.) When an audiophile tapes a piece of colored foil to his wall or paints the edges of his CDs with a special green marker, there's little risk. The worst thing she or he ever parts with is hard-earned cash, and always by choice. (Plus, often there's a money-back guarantee.) As far as I know, no one has ever died from indulging in audiophile tweaks.

But when Steve Jobs rejected surgery and turned to acupuncture and juices to cure his pancreatic cancer, it may have cost him his life, and it almost certainly shortened it. (Biographer Walter Isaacson said Jobs belatedly regretted his own "magical thinking.")

In his response to an early draft of this column, Stereophile Editor Jim Austin was spot-on in saying: "In medicine as in hi-fi, there are some seriously crooked entrepreneurs aiming to take advantage of human credulity. In medicine, they're also exploiting desperation. In hi-fi, people are spending their own money on entertainment—not on the very survival of themselves or a loved one."

That important distinction noted, Douthat's account very nearly knocked me off my show-me-the-data perch. He nudged me closer to audio's subjectivists, the brave (or foolish) folks who argue that if our senses can perceive it (whatever "it" is) but modern machinery can't measure it, it's the measuring machines that are wrong. To put it another way, maybe rigorous proof isn't always necessary—maybe it's okay to approach these things as a whole human being and not as a scientist. Maybe it's better, because doing so sometimes opens us up to experiences we miss out on if we cling to certainty, and there's little real risk.

In Joe Abercrombie's novel Before They Are Hanged, a character spits out this aphorism: "An open mind is like to an open wound. Vulnerable to poison. Liable to fester. Apt to give its owner only pain." I'd counter that possessing an open mind lets people develop an ability to steer clear of unshakeable dogma. I admire those who are truly open-minded. The human brain is forever on a search-and-destroy mission against ambiguity—some human brains, anyway. For some of us, it takes effort to tolerate some doubt and cognitive dissonance, keeping us safely away from what our gray matter craves: dead certainty.


Footnote 1: The column, which is the third part of a three-part series, can be found here. (There's probably a paywall.) The first two parts are here and here. Another relevant Douthat column is "Long-Haul Covid and the Chronic Illness Debate." Douthat's book, The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Discovery, is at Amazon.

COMMENTS
Anton's picture

"He nudged me closer to audio's subjectivists, the brave (or foolish) folks who argue that if our senses can perceive it (whatever "it" is) but modern machinery can't measure it, it's the measuring machines that are wrong. To put it another way, maybe rigorous proof isn't always necessary—maybe it's okay to approach these things as a whole human being and not as a scientist."

Arguing that lack of measurement is not lack of proof is fine.

That doesn't mean an issue can't still be examined with some rigor or that all claims are equally valid.

Heck, if rigorous listening itself is too off putting, just tell the wild side tweakers to simply change their grammar from "this applies to everybody because I say so" over to "I noticed this phenomenon, you may or may not."

As you say, " I admire those who are truly open-minded."

I do to, just not so open that their brains fall out. We should be challenging ourselves, as well...you say you want to avoid science, which is fine. Just don't willy nilly insist your own individual conclusion is universal.

I think all audiophiles can play together. Even the most dyed in the wool objectivist chooses gar by listening.

This isn't rocket surgery: You mention the clock in the freezer. Even a 'non-scientist' can likely figure out a way to test this hypothesis, right?

bhkat's picture

The placebo effect is real and can account for subjective differences. In a analysis of 198 placebo control studies of Osteoarthritis pain, there was a statistically significant improvement in pain, functionality, and stiffness with placebo. In fact, injecting the joint with placebo worked as well as ibuprofen and other non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory agents.

Ann Rheum Dis. 2008 Dec;67(12):1716-23.

mns3dhm's picture

The discussion between objective vs. subjective camps seems to devolve rapidly into a screaming match once an actual discussion takes place. While the measurements crowd has a valid point of view surely they must realize that not all things that are important can be measured quantifiably and that some things that are measured have little to no bearing on how an audio component actually sounds. Their belief that things that measure poorly cannot sound good is valid insofar as the measurements reflect things we can actually hear. Where this group, particularly Amir at ASR, have really made their point well is on audio products that are obscenely overpriced and indistinguishable performance wise from products costing several orders of magnitude less. Who actually buys an $1800 dollar piece of coaxial cable?

maxmelvin19's picture

Hi,

This is a very interesting topic and something, as a aspiring rationalist audiophile, I've thought a lot about.

I think modern medicine has something to assist here. The definition of 'alternative medicine' is any medical treatment that has been demonstrated not to work better in any statistically significant way than a placebo. Crucially, it does not state that 'alternative medicine' is any treatment that *doesn't* have a provable hypothesis as to *how it works*. What does this mean? Basically, if one can show that hopping in a circle whilst singing the national anthem of Belgium *works better than a placebo* to improve the symptoms of eczema then *that is medicine*, i.e. we need not understand how or why it works.

So... audio. We *do not* have to have a theory for why, say cables, improve or degrade sound quality or even measurements to show that they do. We simply need a fair test for whether trained, talented audiophiles can tell the difference in a blind test. That's it. If they can't, all reason (such as Occam's Razor) and experience (also a form of inductive reasoning) will put the belief in such 'tweaks' down to the very well understood placebo effect.

Are the stakes as high as with health? No. But rationally speaking, that is a glowing red herring.

People pay their money and make their choices, as they do with water divining and astrology. But there is a straightforward way to find out: get your most experienced test subjects and see if they can really tell the difference. If they can, you need no further explanation.

I've heard the other argument - from Darko, for example - that since people question everything from cable risers to amplifiers themselves that if you accept some of it you must have an open mind to everything. More faulty reasoning. Clearly everyone can agree that somewhere between changing speakers and putting rare species wood dots at strategic points on the ceiling and walls, things stop being real and start being fake. The question is where? How do we test it? Well, easily. What do we call the real stuff? 'Hifi'. What do we call the not real stuff? 'Alternative Hifi'.

The other common objection - again from Darko - is: "how do you explain makers, sellers and consumers all believing that things like cables work? Is it all a conspiracy, then?" Do I need to pick this apart? Religion, ideology, astrology, homeopathy, crystals, etc., etc., etc.. We haven't evolved brains that direct themselves towards true beliefs, per se. Just beliefs that are helpful to survival, group identity and so on. I mean, obviously.

None of this is when related to hifi is life and death, sure, but that's a silly condition for when and when not to turn your rational brain on.

I don't actually have a dog in the fight and I don't assume I know where real tweaks stop and fake ones begin. But even if I did, that wouldn't affect the reasoning of the above, now, would it?

It seems to be what I can only describe as a 'career preserving bias' that intelligent members of the hifi community (makers, sellers, reviewers and consumers) *will not* see the simplicity of the above reasoning. No, no one here is hurting any one but if you have a aspirations of moral and intellectual integrity then that hardly matters, does it?

Perhaps most importantly, especially since journalistic integrity has been evoked here, we are in a period of history when we are most at risk of the Enlightenment progress being rolled back. People on all sides of debates in the western world seem to see no reason *to make sure that they believe things for good reasons*. Cognitive dissonance is basically the conscience of the rational mind - it is an alarm bell that rings when our beliefs don't cohere with one another. It tells us that we need to think harder and jettison our irrational beliefs. It's never been more important to do so. To show that intellectual integrity and thereby moral integrity. So hifi might not be life and death but the slow creep of lax thinking in the educated West certainly is, don't you think?

Something to think about maybe. And I only write the above because it actually undercuts the debate between measurement objectivists and devil may care subjectivists. You're both wrong and there is a simple way to settle things. If someone else has made the above argument then good for them but I haven't seen or heard it articulated properly and so thought there was a good reason to post the above.

I would be interested in some thoughtful responses.

Best wishes,
Max

bhkat's picture

And, there are a lot of "proven" treatments in allopathic medicine that aren't evidence based as well but they continue to be used.

vmartell's picture

Which ones? Please elaborate.

The use of the term "allopathy" is telling - that is how homeopathy believers ( quackery - please see https://youtu.be/c0Z7KeNCi7g?t=696 ) refer to modern, effective, proven, SCIENTIFIC medicine...

rt66indierock's picture

Your idea probably sounded good but where are we going to get trained, talented audiophiles to do the testing? There are about 300 or audio writers completely unacceptable as testers to people on my side of the fence, the measure listen and discuss crowd or rational audiophiles as Archimago calls us. And they don’t trust us. Also, the measure listen and discuss crowd isn’t all that close to the objective crowd either so you have three sides that don’t trust each other, sorry.

Keep aspiring to be a rational audiophile but if you have been thinking about it is time to start being one.

bag3nd's picture

We simply need a fair test for whether trained, talented audiophiles can tell the difference in a blind test. That's it.

Hi Max, I respectfully disagree with this premise. "Blind test" is virtually meaningless for listening purposes, and is a recipe for failure. As someone who recorded and mixed hundreds of tracks, using big and complex signal chains, where we listened intently for every detail--we conferred with each other, we debated what we heard--but nobody pulled out an AP machine to try to "prove" something was better than something else--you would have been laughed out of the studio. It's simply not how it's done. So I reject the entire "your ears must behave like my AP machine or you're fooling yourself"--(and I am NOT saying that's what you meant, but it's what many people say)--to which I say, what an unscientific, garbage argument.

My point is, listening is a complex biological process, electrical and neurochemical, and vastly more sensitive and complicated than an oscilloscope. No, humans are not meant to "ABX blind test"--that's pure reactionism, and conveniently plays into the hands of the measurement boobs. Listening is a creative act--saying that rooms, acoustics, equipment, hearing differences, and even things like memory, emotion, and feelings--these all impact how we hear, and it changes constantly.

As a mixing engineer, something that sounded good the night before can sound terrible the next day--why is that? What has changed? Would you call that placebo effect, delusion, because the oscilloscope scribbled some electrical twitches on a screen? Please. Show some respect for the miracle of hearing, and the bottomless complexity of our brains and nervous systems. We are not a collection of transistors.

What is fascinating to me is that the measurement crowd has completely abandoned the concept of differences in sound--they know there is absolutely no meaningful difference between, say, a "sinad" of 120 and a "sinad" of 110, and yet they cling to these measurements as gospel. It's bizarre, to say the least. These sites are teeming with literally fake, meaningless stats that exist solely for the gamification of engineering to satisfy the human centipede of pseudo-scientific coprophagia that passes for "objective" listeners.

I'm sorry I get testy about this, and I don't mean to insult you--you make a very common argument that I must read 100 times per day, and I contend that it is completely horsesh*t.

Tim

Jack L's picture

Hi Tim.

Bingo.

Not many objectivists, education level irrespective, know how powerful is our brain which blows away any measurement metholodogy ever existed todate. God knows when we will develop measurement technology that can come close to what our brain can do with the music !

Good luck, objectivists. Ever heard of the ancient Indian parable: "The blindmen & the Elephant" ??

Listening is believing

Jack L

John Atkinson's picture
I wrote about this 30 years ago: www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/787/index.html.

"The problem with having an open mind," someone said to me recently over Tanqueray'n'tonics, "is how do you keep it clear of garbage?"

In a response to reader, published on the second page of that link, Richard Lehnert wrote "it is important to remember that, in the history of science, theories usually come after the facts to explain otherwise inexplicable events. If Peter Belt's tweaks work, then it is the responsibility of professional audiophiles to first investigate and report that fact (or, at least, that opinion as informed by experience, however subjective), then speculate as to its cause."

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Jack L's picture

Hi

Pardon my ignornace. Please qualify "professional audiophiles", a new terminology to yours truly.

I understand audiophiles enjoy listening music as leisure/pass-time. Yet "professional audiophiles" got "the responsibility" "to carry out investigation..." per your above statement.

Jack L

RH's picture

"He nudged me closer to audio's subjectivists, the brave (or foolish) folks who argue that if our senses can perceive it (whatever "it" is) but modern machinery can't measure it, it's the measuring machines that are wrong."

Of course. But that sentence contains precisely the question-begging that is so often seen in the purely subjective audiophile domain (where most woo-woo occurs). That is, if they have the impression of hearing something, they assume it's true, and move from that to "I guess science just hasn't caught up with my perceptual abilities."

Which is exactly the mindset you will find in virtually every area of superstition, pseudo-science and "woo-woo" thinking the world over.

Anyone of course can believe what he wishes...but that's the company you are keeping if you question-beg like that. And it should be no surprise that skepticism will be justified in the face of those type of claims (particularly when they are based on dubious technical claims, and bereft of any objective evidence).

One would hope that the claim "my new USB cable greatly increased the fidelity of my system" wouldn't have essentially the same evidential status as prayer...but that's where lots of audiophile claims stand, unfortunately, in terms of evidence and inference from personal experience.

maxmelvin19's picture

Agreed.

RH's picture

"To put it another way, maybe rigorous proof isn't always necessary—maybe it's okay to approach these things as a whole human being and not as a scientist."

Agreed! No audiophile needs to be a scientist, or do science in buying his gear.

But some things to untangle: It's an unfortunate shibboleth among people - usually those who believe in dubious phenomena - to equate "science" with Absolute Certainty and being "close minded."

Nothing could be further from the truth. The scientific method is simply a way of vetting claims with skeptical rigor. And the reliable knowledge that has arisen from this has been astonishing in every direction! The proposition, for instance, that this entire universe arose from a relatively tiny state of high density, is mind bending. But this, as well as countless bizarre phenomena, are justified on the rigor of the evidence. Any scientist will accept that the world is weirder and wilder than most of us can imagine.
They are open to all of this. But confounding variables like human imagination and bias mean we need some way to filter the likely-real from error or imagination.

There is no reason why audio should be in it's own epistemic bubble from the rest of reality, in terms of grappling with these issues.

A more "objective" approach to vetting audio claims doesn't entail a closed mind. It's rather "I am willing to believe this, but depending on the claim THIS is the quality of evidence I'd like to see." So if someone is claiming amp A sounds different than amp B, evidence like measurable differences (known to be in the audible realm)...or even blind tests...can actually justify adopting the belief for the skeptical inquirer. There is an inherent "method of showing you were right, I was wrong" built in.

A purely subjective approach, on the other hand, offers no such method to settle disputes of opinion. The subjectivist's own interpretation of his subjective experience is the Ultimate Arbitor of reality. "If I heard a difference, it's true." And insofar as they reject measurements ("clearly you can't measure what I know I can hear!") or other controlled listening methods...the hold their conclusion as unfalsifiable. Even if someone uses the same method of subjective inference "I listened to those amps and there was no audible difference" the pure subjectivist can say "Well that only shows you don't have the required perceptive abilities, like I do."

Now, which of these approaches ACTUALLY mirrors incontestable religious dogma? The one offering ways to change one's mind and settle questions? Or the one that remains steadfastly unfalsifiable, and balkanizes claims in to competing subjective beliefs?

I fully agree that we regular joe audiophiles needn't go about vetting our gear choices with scientific rigor. Most of us aren't scientists, and it would be impractical in any case.

Personally, the way I make my way through these general problems are via a pretty simple heuristic: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

The more technically plausible the claim, the less rigor I need in order to reasonably accept the claim on face value. The more implausible, the better quality evidence I want. Someone auditions two different speakers and talks about the sonic differences? No problemo. Totally plausible given what we know about the level of sonic differences between speakers.

Someone auditions two different USB cables and claims one transformed various sonic aspects of the sound? Sorry...that's implausible given the nature of the technology, and since people can imagine these things, I'll want more than an audiophile say-so. I'd like to see measurements indicating something is changing in the audio signal, etc.

maxmelvin19's picture

I agree with all of this except "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." - generally a good rule of thumb to live by but as I explain above in my comment, ''Alternative medicine' and hifi', above, the claim can be as extraordinary as you like. The evidence, however, can remain quite mundane. Can it be shown to statically depart from the effect of a placebo? That's it. No measurements and no explanations need. They have a role obviously, but only if you want to *do something* (like understand, and expand) extraordinary findings. For example, if we could show that wooden dots on walls increased soundstage better than placebo (painted wood effect dots, say) then we would want to find out why.

That brings me onto another point. Psycho acoustics. In food if you dye something with a flavourless green dye it provably tastes different to the original because of the multi sensory, subjective and socially constructed phenomenon of taste. Sound quality might be similar and so there may well be plenty of *inherently unmeasurable* but provably effective tweaks that function in a similar manner!

Nonetheless, easy to show they work or don't.

RH's picture

"The evidence, however, can remain quite mundane. Can it be shown to statically depart from the effect of a placebo?"

Yes that's absolutely true in a sense.

But only so long as it doesn't dispute the "extraordinary evidence" part of the heuristic.

So for instance if you claim to have just bought a 4K TV from Best Buy, it's such an inerehtly plausible claim (and one that people don't tend to like about) that a simple receipt would suffice as justifying belief in your claim.

If you had claimed to have just bought a living T-Rex from the pet store, that same level of "ordinary evidence," a receipt for "one Tyrannosaurus Rex" would hardly suffice to justify belief in the claim. It would require a much higher standard of evidence. And any evidence you did produce would be extraordinary, GIVEN the nature of the claim. (For instance, actually showing us the living T-Rex).

But take another claim: Fred claims that he has the power to lower people's blood pressure - simply by pointing at their photograph, while they are not there. We study this with scientific controls and find, indeed, that when Fred points at someone's photo it reliably lowers higher blood pressure readings in to a healthier zone.

Now...one could point to the fact the evidence is in the form of "ordinary" type evidence - simple movements in blood pressure readings. Which in of itself is true. But it is the combination of that evidence WITH the claim - that makes the evidence still "extraordinary." In other words, given what we seem to know about the world, it would be extraordinary to see the claim that someone pointing at photographs would be substantiated by blood pressure tests.

Similarly, if an audiophile is making a claim that is "extraordinary" GIVEN what seems to be expected based on current knowledge of physics and engineering, then it would be in that sense "extraordinary" to expect the scientific/engineering evidence to end up supporting the claim when tested. Even if through "mundane" tests for signal integrity, distortion etc.

So there is still a sense in which "ordinary" evidence becomes "extraordinary" GIVEN the prior probability expectations for such evidence.

Cheers!

maxmelvin19's picture

‘Now...one could point to the fact the evidence is in the form of "ordinary" type evidence - simple movements in blood pressure readings. Which in of itself is true. But it is the combination of that evidence WITH the claim - that makes the evidence still "extraordinary." In other words, given what we seem to know about the world, it would be extraordinary to see the claim that someone pointing at photographs would be substantiated by blood pressure tests.
Similarly, if an audiophile is making a claim that is "extraordinary" GIVEN what seems to be expected based on current knowledge of physics and engineering, then it would be in that sense "extraordinary" to expect the scientific/engineering evidence to end up supporting the claim when tested. Even if through "mundane" tests for signal integrity, distortion etc.
So there is still a sense in which "ordinary" evidence becomes "extraordinary" GIVEN the prior probability expectations for such evidence.’

Ah I think I see. We (respectfully) part ways here.

I think your argument is: any supporting evidence for an extraordinary claim is de facto ‘extraordinary evidence’. Which takes:

P1 ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’

To mean:

P1a ‘evidence for extraordinary claims is by association extraordinary’

Which would make it a bland truism. You’ve essentially smuggled the extraordinary status of the claim into that of its supporting evidence making it a property of both, automatically. I think the popular phrase almost certainly means something more like:

P1b 'Extraordinary claims require *different* (i.e., a higher quality or threshold or larger critical mass of) evidence than ordinary claims.'

I think that’s more charitable to the intentions of the claim we’re discussing. So in the sense of *simply deciding whether or not a tweak works* (regardless of its apparent battiness) in precisely the way we (that is, members of the accredited medical community) distinguish medicine from ‘alternative medicine’ as per my original argument, then extraordinary claims may rely on functionally (and actually!) mundane evidence (i.e, simple significant departure from the placebo effect). Crucially, the size of that departure need not change depending on the extraordinary-ness of the claim. And in that sense, it is less confused to assess the ‘extraordinary-ness’ of the claim as *separate* from that of any *convincing* evidence. In the case of assessing the efficacy of hifi tweaks at least!

Did you study philosophy too? Either way, thanks for the work out!

Best

RH's picture

Thanks for the pushback, max.

(Yes, I do enjoy studying philosophy...though not on a professional level).

>b> I think the popular phrase almost certainly means something more like:

P1b 'Extraordinary claims require *different* (i.e., a higher quality or threshold or larger critical mass of) evidence than ordinary claims.'

Absolutely. Or another way of putting it: our demands for the quality of evidence should scale to the plausibility (or implausibility) of the claim.

But this still leaves unaddressed as to why the heuristic (by Sagan) was coined "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

Now in one sense that COULD be seen as a slightly misleading coinage, for the reasons we both have acknowledged. But on the other hand, the phrase seems to strike an intuitive cord for a reason. So insofar as one can roughly define "extraordinary" - e.g. well outside normal experience or the expectations based on current understanding of the relevant phenomena" then I think my general train of argument holds.

So for instance, if I claim to own a living T-Rex, that would be "extraordinary" in the sense of being far removed from normal experience and/or being seen as extremely improbable based on the current science of evolution, biology and paleontology.

I could present as evidence to scientists an actual T-Rex romping around in my backyard (which they can examine). That would be "extraordinary evidence" for the same reasons the claim was extraordinary. It's so far outside of our experience and/or scientific expectations.

The same would apply to any other claim that is "extraordinary" for the same reasons. If someone claimed to lower blood pressure by pointing at people's photos, that's an extraordinary claim, given what we think we know about the world. Yet if upon testing this claim we observe that people's blood pressure does reliably drop when he points at their photo, surely that scenario would rate as "extraordinary." This isn't because it took a mundane blood pressure examinations to test the claims: it's because the results are so outside what we would expect, given how we currently think the biological world works. Someone pointing at photos, followed by reliable lowering of the subject's blood pressure, would reasonably be seen as "extraordinary."

So "extraordinary" in this sense is always relative to the current status of the relevant probabilities, based on what seems to be "normal" everyday experience, or what we deem scientifically plausible or not, at the time.

Of course "extraordinary" remains a bit squishy - one could give examples of claims that are clearly "extraordinary" and others that would seem to be in a more ambiguous gray area of plausibility.

But, that's often the nature of heuristics.

But for AV gear, for instance, I would regard the claim that a boutique super expensive HDMI cable improved the contrast, color saturation, resolution etc of an image, when compared to a less expensive HDMI cable (where BOTH cables meet basic HDMI spec and are employed properly in a system). Given how HDMI works, that's so improbable as to warrant the "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" heuristic. And if the boutique HDMI cable was actually demonstrated through objective measurements to alter the signal in such an unexpected manner, whether to call that result "extraordinary" will amount to a semantic discussion. But it's still invoking the heuristic meant by "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," IMO.

Cheers.

bag3nd's picture

Wow, are canned FFT charts from a $40,000 measuring tool really the same as the Big Bang Theory and Relativity?! Who knew??? ;)

Maybe the "science" folks are really just studying an EKG to tell them if a person has a good heart.

The problem here is not scientific, it's rhetorical. Some people use language well, some use it badly. It's sort of like the "science" audio guy who tried arguing that frequency and time are not correlated. He had a YouTube link to share and everything!!! Give that man a Nobel Prize. /sarc

People use flowery, inaccurate language because listening to music is intensely emotional, and honoring that love with gear that the listener hopes will improve the sound is goofy, but it's not getting in the way of any science, is it? Why the obsession? I'm reminded of Mencken, who said that a puritan is someone who lives in constant fear that somebody, somewhere, might be having a good time. If you are offended by language, say so. Don't pretend to erect a measurement defense to a bad review.

I would argue that pseudo-science is a pose, a stance, a way to assign and enforce a kind of quasi-masculinist pecking order on a purely unscientific, emotional, biological process (hearing). Enjoy your charts in good health. That Harman Curve? It's so scientific it's been revised several times already. It's the subjective opinion of thousands of listeners, filtered and interpreted by other subjective humans, and now abused and rigidly applied as scientific dogma by emotional objectivists! Very sad.

Tim

Jack L's picture

Hi

May I ask how are you so sure they "usually" do such non-scientific thing & "equate science..." ?????

Otherwsie, Your above statement I would dismiss as "strawman fallacy".

FYI, I tweak a lot since day one many years back: all my audio items are "floated" on acoustic tiptoes & spikes, includigng EVEN my 2 turntables, standspeakers & 3 subwoofers. All my floor lying audio/power cords/cables are "floated" on semi-rigid open-cellular foam blocks from the floor.

All my audio interconnects/detachable power cords are my design/built 99.99% pure silver. Should I carry on..?

I did the above "tweakings" on scientic ground. YES, I surely "equate" them to science as I can explain them technically.

But, noooo magic wall stickers though which can't pass me scientfically at least for todate.

So how come magic stickers are highlighted & singled out as the only snake oils "usually" or popularly used by subjectivists ???

Strawman fallacy !

Jack L

Valter's picture

listening to musical sound is an exercise that involves the human brain, the human brain has a very complex functioning.
Over the years we have developed measurement techniques to try to explain what our brain hears without being able to explain what happens to sound.
Those who deny the possibility of a different sound because they do not have the measure that explains it, are usually people who have studied old books .. and at the same time this person refuses to listen, this person is proving that he has not understood the meaning of research and progress, if this person needs to find written in another book that the sound of cables exists, this technician is a failure.
The measures are used to investigate and try to give meaning to what our brain perceives and processes when listening to a musical sound.
No microphone connected to a computer has the ability to hear what our brains hear.
Yes, the computer can say many things presise that a person cannot say, for example the precise frequency of a note, the cascade, etc., for these things the computer is absolutely accurate and efficient.
If you want to be a serious person you have to use a scientific method, first of all you have to listen without any prejudice and you have to be humble and ready to learn new things, things you can't find written in your old electrical engineering book.
Everything has an explanation if you want to learn it you have to study and apply the right research method.
Denying the existence of the sound of cables because you don't have a measure that explains it?
Switch hobbies and go for something less technical.
With this I don't approve of the price of cables and I'm not willing to spend too much on cables.
In my setup the cable costs between 5% and 10% of the cost of each single device.
If your hifi does not sound it is not with the best cable that you will solve the problem, worry about the acoustics of your room and how it interacts with your speaker, when you have solved it then as icing on the cake you can decide if it is justified to spend a little more for the cables.

RH's picture

The original vaccines DID work essentially as advertised AGAINST THE ORIGINAL STRAIN.

The real world data that poured in during that early period, once the vaccines were introduced, was quite consistent with the trial results. The real world data for the protective effect for severe disease and death especially was extremely high.

But...in case you missed it...the new strains evolved NEW characteristics that made them more resistant to the effects of the vaccine (particularly for reducing infection, though still retaining good protection from severe disease).

Not that this information, freely available to anyone throughout the pandemic, will make a dent at this point to someone choosing to believe otherwise...

ok's picture

I had all 3 shots and I got 3 different versions of covid19 right after the last 2 of them - every next one even worst from the previous one. I also tried a lot of audio cables in my system in order to prove them scam, but I ended up buying the best of them and never looked back. So stop playing the seasoned scientist you are not and better start looking at the mentally deaf insincere idiot you actually are.

RH's picture

It comes as no surprise, given your first post, that you don't seem to understand the difference between personal anecdote and scientific data.

Anton's picture

He was in a car wreck and was wearing his seatbelt and had air bags and was still gravely injured.

I conclude seat belts and air bags are science mumbo jumbo. Don't try arguing.

;-D

ok's picture

I won't.

johnnythunder1's picture

by your Uber-moronic trolling. It's a shame you can't use your crayons to pen a letter to The New York Times and knock out an op-ed on your findings.

ok's picture

..Johnny Thunders thinks you're a jerk.

vmartell's picture

Hrm, you seem not to understand how vaccines work, what a virus is and what the placebo effect is... will address the last one, it is the only one related to audiophilia. A positive placebo effect does not mean and IT IS NOT a "miraculous" cure. Is just reduced PERCEPTION of symptoms, most commonly, well pain. Again, not a cure. In our case, if the symptom is "bad sound", the placebo is the $8000 cable and the placebo effect is "hearing" improved sound.

butch.bond's picture

In at least one aspect of his life Douthat is not "... by nature or training a hard-core empiricist": He's a devout Roman Catholic.

JHL's picture

...are Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, residents of the most ostensible urbane, metropolitan, secular, and thus "scientific" frame of mind in modern society.

butch.bond's picture

Yup. I'd have mentioned them, too, if van Bakel had used them to illustrate his point in the article we're commenting on.

bhkat's picture

The real question is: how much is a (possibly)placebo induced improvement in sound worth to an individual.

Anton's picture

Did not JA1 once tell a story about how Enid Lumley had him fleetingly convinced that a pizza box 'holder upper' tripod act as an acoustic tweak in a room?

It can happen to the best of us!

So, I guess one way to audition tweaks is to see if they stand the test of time over repeated listening sessions instead of the effect going to extinction.

Archimago's picture

As a doctor, I am a bit concerned about all this stuff around alternative medical practices, beliefs in all kinds of things that probably make no difference (even if some people feel strongly about them), etc...

We are talking about electrical devices created by engineers, right? Digital music is based on mathematical sampling theorem, right? Streaming and playback devices, networks, are based on technologies developed from computer science, right? Vinyl LPs are products of the material sciences, phono cartridges and turntables were invented by someone based on engineering principles, and can be evaluated using certain standard metrics, right?

If the origin of the audio products we buy came forth from human ingenuity, based on the laws of physics, developed using engineering principles, why are we using medical science examples around not-fully-explained medical conditions or idiosyncratic responses using atypical treatments (like Rafe) into the discussion here? Are we that desperate to keep minds "open" in this hobby!? Do we not trust that audiophiles have a level of understanding already about audio science and that common sense prevails; recognizing that there's a lot of nonsense in this hobby?

In principle, we can at least say that biological processes came from millions of years of evolutionary change (or divine inspiration if one believes - that works just as well in my argument). So the medical sciences still have much to learn about diseases, infectious processes, the immune system, treatment options, etc. which we as humans did not design but can observe, and empirically test. Amps, DACs, speakers in contrast were not the result of natural processes but created "artificially" by us using understood principles, and also can be empirically tested with controls in place. Those audio products created by "alternative" principles (eg. much of Machina Dynamica, Synergistic Research), should by right be met with skepticism, awaiting evidence.

Why not keep this simple when it comes to unexplained "subjective" phenomena which have not been verified by measurements (eg. after all these decades, some claiming that expensive cables make significant audible differences)?

IMO, here are a few items I hope audiophiles can generally agree on:
1. We understand and accept that the placebo effect happens. This is the nature of our brains and the fact that we're all psychologically affected by the multimodal perceptual systems and shaped by our own internal schema of the world. In the capitalistic world of consumer products, the intent of advertising is of course to affect psychology.

2. Given (1), empirical testing is needed if we are to claim that something is indeed audible. Let's make sure to isolate sound quality by itself. In order to do that, we must do blind testing since the human visual system is our primary sensory modality (for example the power of the McGurk Effect as an obvious example) before accepting something as "fact". This is especially important for subtle differences since IMO, obvious changes would not be controversial after all this time! "Blind testing" doesn't just mean "double blind" - single blind or ABX techniques likely would be just fine. The nice thing about measurements is that it provides evidence that a difference exists - but often the differences are not audible.

3. We accept that each of us has a right to own and like whatever device we desire. Emotions are relative. Price is relative. I can say whatever I want about a product being "right for me", but if we are to make a general claim about sound as if the difference is audible for others, I think we each have the responsibility of making sure that items (1) and (2) have been seriously weighed.

Alas, broad comments like "This $3000 cable sounds so much better than 12AWG OFC speaker cable..." is an example of a controversial statement that should be confronted with some skepticism unless basic evidence is available. (Or specifically qualified as "This might only sound good to me".)

IMO, vague, unexplained, often empirically unsupportable medical treatments should have nothing to do with this.

latinaudio's picture

Thank you for shedding light among so many extremists who believe they possess or have "more truth" than others.
Thanks also for explaining and clarifying placebo effects in medicine. Our profession is the most imperfect of the sciences and is constantly evolving, something that no one can deny. However, millions are given to "alternative medicine" because health is vital, irreplaceable, unique. Faced with this fear of suffering, they look where there are no genuine answers (only my opinion) in the same way that those obsessed with finding improvements in their sound equipment often spend hundreds of thousands on dubious improvements. In the middle (as always) is the truth.
Finally, an observation: we went from aerial TV to streaming, from black and white to 6k monitors, from typewriters to computers, from cars with carburetors to electric cars... and in terms of sound, vinyl records still sound more natural and better than other stuff! Can someone explain it?

Archimago's picture

Hey there latinaudio,
Yes indeed, greetings colleague...

I agree. While medicine has had its multiple failures over the centuries, like other areas of knowledge, it seeks to move forward though imperfectly and within the confines of the culture and prevailing attitudes.

I believe that "we" (doctors) do try our best and ultimately it is a noble pursuit that incorporates as best we, as humans can, to relieve suffering, ethically.

You hit it on the nail the core fear which "alternative medicine" taps into. Fear of death as sentient beings, loss of control, pain, suffering... Yes, the alternative practitioners are often nice people (I have one in my family!). They can in some ways provide emotional support. But if one is looking for answers that gets at the heart of biological pathology and treatments that can relieve the person of said pathologies, alternative medicine is highly unlikely to offer answers, nor have the foundation to resolve modern medical complexities. Good luck treating appendicitis with "psychic surgery". Be careful with diabetes control and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Make sure to get affairs in order before heading down to Mexico for laetrile cancer treatments...

I too see commonalities with audiophilia. While it's not as serious as health care matters, the companies that sell "alternative" products based on pseudoscience are tapping into the anxieties / fears / insecurities of the obsessive audiophiles. They promise solutions to both real and unreal conditions. They do not utilize methodical evaluations of their "treatments", and are more than happy to obscure the work of those who do want to find solutions ("No double blind testing needed!", "Measurements don't mean anything!").

Ultimately, in a capitalist system, these are all Industries - medicine, alternative med, "value" audio companies, "high-end" audio, etc. So there's nothing wrong to be skeptical or ask for evidence before handing over the dollars. It's up to each of us to be wise in figuring out what makes sense and which is most likely "right". As with medicine, I personally vote for audiophiles seeking rational explanations for devices built on science, and rewarding companies that actually do meaningful research & development work.

Good point about vinyl. Apparently human ingenuity hasn't found anything better sounding than spinning non-biodegradable plastic disks at 33.333rpm with spiral grooves, using contact needles and amplifying mV signals in the last few decades. (According to certain audiophiles...)

ok's picture

then experiments would be utterly superficial and space rockets would just pop out of 19th century's deterministic science books.

ChrisS's picture

We're just shopping.

We are not going to the moon.

RH's picture

Knowledge is power.

If you and I are buying a diamond ring for our fiancees, you may not care if the diamond you are buying is fake or not. "What does it matter? So long as my fiance and I think it's a real diamond, we are happy, so the $7,000 on the ring is well spent money for us."

That's fine, though weird, for anyone to think that way. Just don't expect everyone else to think the same way. I would care quite a bit as to whether the diamond I bought was real as advertised, or whether I have been mislead and could have bought the same thing for $40 instead of $7,000. Knowledge is power.

Similarly, it may not matter to you if a $1,000 USB or AC cable actually produces the performance differences it advertises "so long as I think it does, that's all I care about." But it matters to plenty of other people who want to allocate their limited funds to areas in a system where real sonic differences will actually be found. Knowledge is power.

This is where Stereophile measurements can come in handy. It's also where tests like those performed by Amir of Audiosciencereview on, say, the Nordost Tyr 2 USB cable can be very useful. The Nordost Tyr costs $1,400 USD and comes with all sorts of claims about how it will improve the sonics of a system. Meanwhile, when someone took the time to actually objectively measure the performance - to no surprise to those who understand the technology - the Nordost turned out no better performance than a USB cable you can buy for $$6.83 from amazon! And the very nature of the comparison, and the explication of the results, educates as to why the claims for expensive USB cables are implausible to begin with. So the implications go well beyond just the review of that particular expensive USB cable.

THAT is very powerful information to have at hand, if someone is looking where to allocate their funds for actual performance gains.

It may not be information someone like yourself cares to take advantage of. A tool is only useful to one who chooses to use it.

But there certainly is a very good reason many other people would care - who prefer to have a better understanding of the plausibility of claims in high end audio, to allow their purchases to meet their goals.

ChrisS's picture

...in a 99cent store is worth 99cents.

People spend millions of dollars on stuff that end up in the landfill.

ChrisS's picture

...a "trusted" jeweller.

RH's picture

Is your jeweler willing to show you a diamond is real via objective evidence, such as the variety of ways one can determine a real from a fake diamond?

Then I'd agree he would have earned trust.

If instead he simply asked you to take his word that he was selling you a real diamond, or his "method" amounts to "Hey, it looks real to me, doesn't it look real to you? If so, we're good!"...

...then your trust may be misplaced.

As I say, it comes down to how much you care about the truth of the matter. Some people don't really care.

ChrisS's picture

...you can trust.

That's usually how one shops when spending the big bucks.

They do the research.

Or not.

ChrisS's picture

...Sony receiver for 99cents because they know the brand and the lights turn on.

Is that a better or worse purchase than someone who buys a high end receiver sight unseen and unheard for $5000 because they read a rave review somewhere?

RH's picture

From my perspective it all depends on the individual and what he/she wants or cares about. Anyone is free to buy for whatever reason they wish.

If you are happy paying 99 cents because you like the brand and the item works, knock yourself out.

If you want to buy a $5,000 receiver...again, knock yourself out. Enjoy.

It will depend on a person's goals. For the expensive receiver, one person may say "I have a cheaper receiver at the moment but I'm willing to pay significantly more money for one that will upgrade the sound from my old one."

That person may look for good objective evidence for the performance of a receiver to guide his purchase, because he cares that his money is actually going towards real performance gains. Another person may not care that way, spend $5,000 based on a review, and be happy.

It takes all kinds, and that's fine :-)

I agree that "objectivists" shouldn't push or bully people to buy gear on the same grounds as they do. I myself own some gear that many on the "objectivist" forums would never want to own, based on measured performance (e.g. my tube amps).

But the same goes for the reverse, where some who don't care about measurements denigrate the very idea that measurements matter, and imply that it's silly for other people to care about objective evidence.

ChrisS's picture

..."knowing".

But...

What a waste of time and energy going on and on, debating at length on "how" to shop for stereo equipment.

RH's picture

"What a waste of time and energy going on and on, debating at length on "how" to shop for stereo equipment."

I suppose that's how things look if you can only see things from your own point of view.

Personally, I like to consider different points of view. A good portion of audiophiles enjoy learning about and understanding the technical nature of the gear they use. Knowing how something works, how measurements relate to the design etc, is fun and educational and helps guide their purchases.

I get that.

I also get the people who don't care a damned thing about how their gear works, and just buy it and like it.

Like I said: room for all.

(And as for debating the merits of various gear, that's par for the course in any enthusiast hobby. It would be rather boring if everyone had the same opinion and approach).

ChrisS's picture

...research on any consumer products.

We generally don't do rigorous "testing" ie. DBT or randomized controlled trials, while shopping, unless you're trying to test yourself to see if you actually prefer Pepsi vs Coke for fun.

We read the ads, listen to the pitch, talk to the sales person, ask our friends and family, read the reports and reviews, go for a test drive, look in our wallets, toss a coin and roll the dice.

Wait for a sale.

Then we buy it.

Or not.

RH's picture

You seem to want to remain argumentative, but I don't even know what point you are trying to make anymore.

A consumer who cares about objective performance information doesn't need to do the "rigorous testing" or blind testing himself; he can refer to where it's been done, or being done elsewhere. I don't have to measure amps or speakers: I can look to measurements by JA available at stereophile, or audiosciencereview, or Erin's Audio Corner, or the work of Floyd Toole and others, etc.

Again..if someone cares to ask "Is it likely an expensive audiophile USB or AC cable will make a sonic upgrade to my system" then there is in fact information out there about that. For instance the information you can find in audiosciencereviews of such cables and others.

There isn't nearly as much as there could be, in terms of objective evaluations, but thankfully there seems to be a rising trend of more people taking a technical look at audio gear.

I'm not forcing you or anyone to seek out this information. Do as you please. But more information being available is always better FOR THOSE WHO CARE ABOUT IT.

The more product claims that are put to rigorous testing, the better IMO.

BTW, I've used blind testing myself at times. It's saved me some money and peace of mind. Do you have to do that? Not at all.

You seem to want people who use only their subjective impressions to be left alone, not bullied by arrogant "objectivists." And yet even when I keep saying over and over "nobody needs to care at all about objective testing, buy what you want" you can't get comfortable with the idea other people care about such things as measurements.
It needs to be sniped at constantly.

You shop the way you shop. That's great. It's ok if other people do things differently. It really is.

ChrisS's picture

...for you.

And neither is it up to Stereophile to "test" the way many commenters here think they should.

ChrisS's picture

Hahahahahahahaha!

Oh, in case you forgot...

"MQA"

Jack L's picture

Hi

Get REAL, Pal!

You really fancy consumers nowadays got so naive to buy a fake stone for $7,000 ??? Smoke mirrors ! This is a criminal scam if customers not told beforehand.

FYI, jewellery storeguys nowadays teach their potential customers how to gauge the purity of diamonds by offiering them to view the stones thru an eyepiece magnifier. This is the real world, No fancy.

Strawman fallacy !

Jack L

ChrisS's picture

...Many, many millions of dollars worth of stuff end up in the landfill, poisoning our air and water.

Every year, every day.

Knowledge?

This is the real world.

JHL's picture

...and one at the heart of the objectivist fallacy that automatically equates things other than genuine quality of sound, as heard, experienced, and assessed by competent ears, with real vs fake diamonds or those humorous SINAD rankings or ten other incorrect but objective assumptions.

Obviously there is no correlation between your example, in which there's an immediately verifiable difference between real vs fake, and the pursuit of incremental advances in the relative authenticity of reproduced sound where there can be and is no comparable metric.

Quote:

to actually objectively measure the performance

is quite wrong. "Performance" is physically and pragmatically relative and draws not at all from "measure". Put another way, *show* that the two are intrinsically and meaningfully correlated.

I can measure torque. Have I assessed driving experience?

Secondly, it follows that there is no so-called objective measure either. Every one has to be interpreted and applied with an effect that serves the sound.

I can measure 0,1%. I can measure 0,125%. Which one sounds more like live music?

You've resorted to the one-measurement canard, one used a little too often for high end audio's good. Unless you have an iron-clad correlation between X and Y in good-sounding audio, which certainly does not exist, you certainly haven't a valid example with real versus fake articles.

JHL's picture

...with the assumption that common, retail Objectivism is scientific and objective.

-First, extraordinary claims require no more or less evidence and no greater or lesser evidence than mundane claims. Sagan was wrong and there's no physical or metaphysical or logical thread connecting the magnitude of a claim with the magnitude of evidence;

-Likewise, there's nothing extraordinary about saying you heard the same thing a hundred other listeners have (which you commonly learn by comparing notes after the fact). It's common, not extraordinary;

-Thus, hearing a thing is sufficient. That's what this is for. The fact that sound is invisible and graph paper isn't doesn't change that. Like has been said a thousand times, everything sounds exactly like what it is;

-Objectivist metrics have not been shown - "proven" - to deliver musical authenticity. If Objectivism is honest with itself its core hinges on the axiom of the fallibility of all audio components and stacks. From there it's all *relative*;

-Objectivism is, by strict definition, a belief system. It deals not in sound but in epistemic closure - the belief that measured data is a sufficient facsimile or proxy;

-The trope that the "ear" is so poor - the mind so flawed - that seeing a device hopelessly and irreparably ruins the "objective" sound is risible: Then why do audio? The obvious answer is that it's become a belief system and not a sensory experience;

-Which brings us back to how because sound is invisible there's a constant demand to produce something *other* than sound or be nullified. When all you have to do is go experience it. Proof of sound quality *is* relative quality of sound. There is no substitute and there is no predictor.

It all boils down to one thing: If you require something other than the sound, then you've incapable of hearing the sound itself.

Either you're in it to physically strive toward some meaningful degree of truer, more authentic music or you're in it to verbalize about it. And of the two camps, the one making those better sounds is obviously the one *trying* to make them. This is a practice. This is not a belief system.

Decrying that pursuit because in 2022 there isn't yet a developed applied science that translates its results down to the street doesn't change that.

RH's picture

-First, extraordinary claims require no more or less evidence and no greater or lesser evidence than mundane claims. Sagan was wrong and there's no physical or metaphysical or logical thread connecting the magnitude of a claim with the magnitude of evidence;

I'm sorry, but that's, to put it politely, an untenable claim.

If I claim to have bought a TV at Best Buy, it is rational to accept this claim based on my telling you this. Or even seeing a receipt for the TV.

If I claim to have a receipt for a living Tyrannosaurs Rex, it is not reasonable to accept this claim simply because I told you I had one. Or even if I produced a receipt that purports to be the sale of a living T-Rex.

If you think it's reasonable to believe I have a pet T-Rex because I say so, you have lost your mind. If you can't see the difference between the two claims (owning a TV or a T-Rex) and how skepticism demands far more robust evidence for the latter, you may as well join whatever local cult suits your fancy. You have no principled way of dividing the implausible from the plausible.

The fact is, as social creatures, we do more by exchanging information. The problem is two pronged:

1. We are also prone to error.

but also:

2. We can not put our every belief and inference, or every claim someone makes, to rigorous scientific tests. We'd never get through the day.

That's why we need some sort of guiding heuristic to help justify beliefs in some claims, but not others. Roughly speaking, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" is the heuristic we tend to use.

If my wife, phoning from the supermarket, mentions she bought some milk on sale, I don't need to rush there and check her story, or perform rigorous tests on the claim. It's an entirely routine, plausible claim, something that routinely happens in our experience, and there is no reason to expect she is likely lying. It would therefore be an irrational use of limited time and resources to demand more rigorous evidence in each such trivial claim.

Whereas...it DOES make sense to put extra rigorous resources towards vetting a claim when you want to have much stronger confidence, especially insofar as the claim is dubious.

If my wife claimed to see a living T-Rex at the supermarket, I'd hardly be rational to accept this claim on the same level of evidence for her claim of buying milk on sale. If she started claiming to be able to turn wood into gold, again, I'd want far more rigorous, empirical evidence for such a claim, beyond her say-so. As anyone else ought to demand.

So to say "logical thread connecting the magnitude of a claim with the magnitude of evidence"...is utter nonsense.

Life would literally be untenable without a heuristic like the one I've described, the logic of which Sagan captured in his expression.

JHL's picture
Quote:

If I claim to have bought a TV at Best Buy, it is rational to accept this claim based on my telling you this. Or even seeing a receipt for the TV.

If I claim to have a receipt for a living Tyrannosaurs Rex, it is not reasonable to accept this claim simply because I told you I had one. Or even if I produced a receipt that purports to be the sale of a living T-Rex.

It may be *reasonable* to assume that you are a truthful individual who claims to own a television. Obviously it's not reasonable to believe you have a dinosaur.

I certainly hope Sagan didn't mean the degree or value of evidentiary quality - where a positive always equals a positive, dinosaur receipts and all. I think he indicated instead the magnitude of the evidentiary *impact*, two much different things.

It's a pertinent point that goes to the problem with audio Objectivism and its demands. There's nothing *extraordinary* about claiming something has a sound so if that's Sagan in a nutshell, either he's wrong or the application to audio is. If we want to reconstruct Sagan in semantic or linguistic terms, that's another matter. Have at it.

Of course, you'd never strawman the living hell out of any of this.

Quote:

If you think it's reasonable to believe I have a pet T-Rex because I say so, you have lost your mind. If you can't see the difference between the two claims (owning a TV or a T-Rex) and how skepticism demands far more robust evidence for the latter, you may as well join whatever local cult suits your fancy. You have no principled way of dividing the implausible from the plausible.

And yet there it is.

Anyway, apparently what Sagan meant is that plausible claims require credible evidence, assuming you're dealing with living dinosaurs in 2022 and cosmology and such.*

Quote:

2. We can not put our every belief and inference, or every claim someone makes, to rigorous scientific tests. We'd never get through the day.

True on face, but clearly not applicable in this context where audio goes. In audio there are at least two motives at work. The first is sound. I wish to experience it and I experience it.

The second is this odd need to demonstrate that it has some automatic, indebted, and "scientific" basis transferable to others - like receipts for televisions - which per your #2, it rationally (but subjectively) cannot have. In other words, it need absolutely no "guiding heuristic" to produce anything to anyone, unless the goal is to do that and not to do sound.

You've conflated the nature or quality of evidence with the subjective need to know it. If by "extraordinary" we include subjectively relative to an arbitrary demand to know - a commenter heckling folks who listen to audio for them to improve it - the nature of evidence is irrelevant.

The same is true of your wishes:

Quote:

Whereas...it DOES make sense to put extra rigorous resources towards vetting a claim when you want to have much stronger confidence, especially insofar as the claim is dubious.

And by now we've veered off into wants, rigor, strong confidence, and the dubious claim. Maybe we're about to be led to believe that per Sagan, a power cable is a living dinosaur where evidence is concerned.

This is one of the problems with the subjectivity of the Objectivist belief system. You can't expect that a capable, listening audiophile with no less credibility than your claim about televisions, provide material to satisfy an inquisition as to what sounds like what into the typical gale of negativity, and even *if* one provide this work, that you won't expect that there must be a science, complete and fully-formed and reliable, that comes with it.

There actually happens to be a mountain of good work in the field ranging from power cables to loudspeakers and everything in between that I've yet to see any objectivists cite. It doesn't fit that system of belief and so this and that must be snake oil.

And that is an falsifiable claim and unscientific. A belief system.

Quote:

Life would literally be untenable without a heuristic like the one I've described, the logic of which Sagan captured in his expression.

The liberties taken in this context are even less impressive than Sagan's showy facade. Let's not quote Bill Nye next.

*Obviously there are degrees of wisdom. Threads like this tend toward the smug notion that accepted conventions are sufficiently comprehensive that the so-called science is settled. But this is rarely true in practice. Cosmology itself is in crisis as scores of accepted theories are coming part. The same is true for the current vaccine sciences, mentioned upthread, where enormous research reveals a deeply divided and credible alternative field. The raw statistics alone are damning. The list goes on.

Reproducing sound is not exempt from this problem. Not only is there a vastly more formed and coherent science involved than convention allows, it directly refutes that conventional belief. It's not a particularly extraordinary field, but it's lent itself to an extraordinary degree of poor thought. And like so much of modern society, as a conventional wisdom it's philosophically barren and epistemologically flawed.

It doesn't require evidence, extraordinary or not. It wants for simple clarity.

Anton's picture

I am pretty sure you meant to say "And that is an unfalsifiable claim and unscientific. A belief system."

Not meaning to pick nits because I agree with you on this!

JHL's picture

Thank you.

(And "improve" above should be "prove").

RH's picture

There's nothing *extraordinary* about claiming something has a sound so if that's Sagan in a nutshell, either he's wrong or the application to audio is.

That statement is full of confusion.

Of course Sagan's dictum would apply to audio. It applies anywhere someone is making a deeply dubious claim. If I claim my new audio cables revealed the singing of angels in Kind Of Blue, that's an extraordinary claim about what those cables can do!

If you claimed to hear 70,000 Hz from your stereo, that's not only almost certainly wrong such frequencies are coming through your speakers, it is certainly wrong you can hear that high. That's an extraordinary claim. Audio does not have some Magic Power to block extraordinary claims.

When an audiophile claims that, for instance, a $1,000 boutique USB cable changed all sorts of aspects in the sound of his system vs a properly functioning but lower cost USB cable, given how the technology works, that claim borders on the extraordinary. It is in all likelihood wrong, and so it makes sense to vet such claims with more rigor than "He Said He Heard It."

All that is in keeping with Sagan's advice to scale the demands of evidence to the plausibility of the claim.

"There actually happens to be a mountain of good work in the field ranging from power cables to loudspeakers and everything in between that I've yet to see any objectivists cite."

I'd be willing to bet we'd differ on what makes for "good work."
And the reason you likely don't see objectivists "citing" that work is because it doesn't actually establish good evidence for the claims many make about cables. What you often see is a lot of theory, often pseudoscientific, but in any case, almost no controlled evidence that these things actually changes the musical signal. Witness all the audiophiles who are swayed by some manufacturers of AC cables plugging them in to outlets and measuring changes in noise levels. Then we are to take the inference "therefore this will lower your noise floor!" SKIPPING the fact that most well designed equipment is already designed to filter out such noise! But you pretty much never see the measurements made for changes in the musical signal, or blind tests establishing anyone can hear, for instance, differences between USB cables.

But, be my guest, cite some of this research. Let's see if it doesn't have some of the failings I just mentioned.

It doesn't fit that system of belief and so this and that must be snake oil.

Which are just the type of statements you'll hear regularly at your local Psychic Fair, when trying to dismiss skeptics. "This doesn't fit your belief system" is red herring tactic 101 in the playbook.

It's not simply about "not fitting a system of belief" it's about whether it passes a certain system of rigorous inquiry. The system of inquiry isn't just assumed a priori - it has gained justification from the long process of winnowing it from less reliable methods.

"and that is an falsifiable claim and unscientific. A belief system."

Except what I'm talking about is anything but. As I explained earlier, a scientific method of inquiry is anti-dogmatic. The method allows the possibility of falsifying claims, of justifying changing one's belief. No claim is held to be above the crucible of skeptical inquiry. As I explained earlier, it's the purely subjective approach that mirrors dogmatism. As long as someone claims that his subjective impressions are the ultimate arbiter and rejects any methods to dis-confirm the claim, he has removed his claim from falsification. He's made audio a religion.

But...we've been here before.

So long.

JHL's picture
Quote:

That statement is full of confusion.

Heh. Of course it isn't. It axiomatic: Everything has a sound - unless you're arbitrarily allowing X and denying Y, which is transparently faulty - and per your interlocutor upthread too, invoking that particular Saganism for a mechanism involving audio is arguably at least somewhat incoherent.

The point remains: you can't credibly deny a phenomenon - until sufficiently lobbied by The Science as you particularly see it - and then go on to yell for this extraordinary evidence.

Quote:

Of course Sagan's dictum would apply to audio. It applies anywhere someone is making a deeply dubious claim. If I claim my new audio cables revealed the singing of angels in Kind Of Blue, that's an extraordinary claim about what those cables can do!

How bizarrely fallacious. It's "deeply dubious" because it's automatically akin to hallucination? How about if I heard, today, a chime I hadn't before in 20 years, which I did, and it was due to new work on the power side of my system? Is that "deeply dubious" or did I hear it where I hadn't before?

Quote:

When an audiophile claims that, for instance, a $1,000 boutique USB cable changed all sorts of aspects in the sound of his system vs a properly functioning but lower cost USB cable, given how the technology works, that claim borders on the extraordinary. It is in all likelihood wrong, and so it makes sense to vet such claims with more rigor than "He Said He Heard It."

In other words, you *are* here to argue audio based on your perceptions of how it works. And again: I'm here to listen to audio. Nobody actually owes you anything and this isn't all that extraordinary.

Quote:

All that is in keeping with Sagan's advice to scale the demands of evidence to the plausibility of the claim.

Huh? There's no demand here, you're rephrasing Sagan (closer to my take on that unfortunate turn of phrase, by the way) and now apparently you've positioned your formulation that X has no sound, according to you, even closer to dinosaurs or hallucinations.

Quote:

"There actually happens to be a mountain of good work in the field ranging from power cables to loudspeakers and everything in between that I've yet to see any objectivists cite."

I'd be willing to bet we'd differ on what makes for "good work."

Undoubtedly. I see how you operate.

Quote:

And the reason you likely don't see objectivists "citing" that work is because it doesn't actually establish good evidence for the claims many make about cables.

Circular. And reinforces audio objectivism's not-uncommon conditional arbitrariness. Define good in this context. (After zillions spent through a hundred major research projects, at least half of astrophysics doesn't know what dark matter is, which is why it's still just a place-holder in their equations. But from what I hear, evidently *some others do*. So define good in the context of the far less complete applied audio sciences. Where there's no grant money.)

Quote:

What you often see is a lot of theory, often pseudoscientific, but in any case, almost no controlled evidence that these things actually changes the musical signal.

Loaded terms. Define them. Tell the audience how to measure a cable, in your example. Remember, in much of audio objectivity, "measure" is the catch-all for tacitly asserting that every phenomenon is observable and quantifiable, a patently unscientific formulation.

Quote:

But, be my guest, cite some of this research. Let's see if it doesn't have some of the failings I just mentioned.

In other words, spend a few hours, here in our hosts space, providing you with material you'd judge by your own lights, just to see how flexible you are when presented rational explanations and research for things you already *know* don't exist? Some or even many of which could be nascent, phenomena being what they are?

I'll ask you how there can be such a common thread of the sound of a thing, often a cable and commonly a power cable or other passive device, cited over and over, from folks who heard it without either communications or apparent preconceptions, but who then discovered *afterwards* that others heard the same sound and described it using shared language. Or how a listener will hear unintended effect X a year from now, and find that another listener heard X last week, and again eventually compare notes to find they jive right down to the same language.

What you're proposing, assuming X is indeed inaudible, is clairvoyant mass delusion involving time distortion. I'd like to see your research study and its data on that now. I'm quite serious. Remember, it's inaudible and for you X is an extraordinary claim. Yet it happens despite your mental model.

Quote:

"It doesn't fit that system of belief and so this and that must be snake oil."

Which are just the type of statements you'll hear regularly at your local Psychic Fair, when trying to dismiss skeptics. "This doesn't fit your belief system" is red herring tactic 101 in the playbook.

Actually it's a paraphrased quote, uttered a hundred times a day, as part of the obvious belief that apparently you subscribe to in this very comment thread.

Quote:

It's not simply about "not fitting a system of belief" it's about whether it passes a certain system of rigorous inquiry.

It's clearly and absolutely a belief about a *certain system* of *rigorous inquiry* you'll determine, despite your not knowing how that system would work or if it exists. That's your phenomena problem. Remember, you're promoting a belief tantamount to an insistence that a phenomenon cannot exist until you say it may using a system you can only assume rhetorically.

Quote:

"and that is an falsifiable claim and unscientific. A belief system."

Except what I'm talking about is anything but.

What you're talking about doesn't necessarily exist, although there is indeed *good work* all over the high end landscape working toward more thorough explanations. Not one of which either eliminates audibility *a priori* or may be credibly ruled off limits arbitrarily.

I'm sure you see this as a violation of the scientific method. At worst it's actually the hypothesis stage *of* the scientific method. At best it's stuff you don't know and I imagine, don't care to.

Quote:

As I explained earlier...

The rest of your bit is no more coherent - nobody owes you an explanation, this isn't extraordinary, your method isn't strictly scientific, absence of a conclusive evidence is not absence of a phenomenon, and from all this - which is just a primer on the totality of the incoherence of too much of this kind of discourse - there are three choices:

1. Deny it and carry on. Don't buy it, don't use it, don't read about it, and kindly reconsider subjecting others to your immutable beliefs about the unknown;

2. Find a reviewer you trust and go and do thee likewise;

3. Try it yourself without any other preconception. Unless you already *know* how that'll turn out in which case goto line 1. Scientifically, of course.

Jack L's picture

....... with material you'd judge by your OWN lights,.." qtd JHL

Hi JHL

Indeed. You have said it right.

Whoever he is, his hidden agenda is to SHOW OFF at the expense of whoever involved in this forum topic.

I said it again: strawman fallacy !!!!

Listening with own ears is believing

Jack L

PS: his $7,000 fake diamond fancy story already made him a laughing stock all over. HAhahahaha.

ChrisS's picture

What they say is called advertising.

What we do is called shopping.

We're not going to Mars.

cgh's picture

Interesting perspective Rogier. I’d only add that the most fervent rationalists, skeptics, or open minded people are still guided largely by mimetic desires, the only difference is in how the justify their position.

Long-time listener's picture

"If I claim my new audio cables revealed the singing of angels in Kind Of Blue, that's an extraordinary claim about what those cables can do!"

It's rather telling, isn't it, that in order to illustrate your ideas about "extraordinary claims," you have to come up with claims that are not just extraordinary, but in fact so far-fetched and ludicrous that no one would ever actually claim them. Apparently this is the only way to give your ideas weight or applicability. Seeing T-rexes or hearing the sound of singing angels would, in fact, be extraordinary. But the claim that cables can sometimes make a difference is in a different class. Unlike seeing T-rexes or hearing angels singing, it's an experience millions of audiophiles have every day. It's a common claim, not an extraordinary one.

Kudos to JHL above for debunking some of the common myths of objectivism, and to John Atkinson for pointing out that the discovery of a phenomenon generally precedes scientific rationalization of it.

John Atkinson's picture
Long-time listener wrote:
Kudos to . . . John Atkinson for pointing out that the discovery of a phenomenon generally precedes scientific rationalization of it.

I have successfully identified interconnects in a blind A/B test to a statistically significant degree - it turned out that it was the same interconnect but with the shield connected either to just the source ground or to the destination ground.

I have also identified speaker cables in blind comparison - Martin Colloms has written that a possible reason for the difference is the manner in which speaker cables reject RF interference. Everyone assumes that an amplifier has a single input. But the output terminals are the input to the negative-feedback loop and the cable connecting the amplifier to the speakers is actually an antenna. At audio frequencies, that antenna is connected to a very low impedance, so why would this matter? But while the loudspeaker may have low impedance at audio frequencies, this may well not be so at radio frequencies. And at frequencies at which it best behaves as an antenna, the cable will inject RF energy into the amplifier's feedback loop. Even a few millivolts of RF can drive a feedback amplifier into slew-rate limiting.

There is also the fact that making any change in a system affects people's susceptibility to stimuli. The ritual involved in playing an LP will make it sound better than a CD. And if you paint the edges of a CD green how could you not then hear an improvement even if the sound quality hasn't changed.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

CG's picture

There's more to it than that.

Three terminal amplifying devices are inherently unstable at some frequency. That means transistors and tubes. That's not audiophile wisdom, either. It's well understood by engineers who care nothing about audio.

Two examples:

https://audioworkshop.org/downloads/AMPLIFIERS_OSCILLATION_BJT_CIRCUITS.pdf

https://www.hifisystemcomponents.com/downloads/articles/Prevent-Emitter-Follower-Oscillation.pdf

(Dennis Feucht has a longer book on this and other topics.)

You can also simulate these effects in computer models or measure it in the lab.

Loudspeakers present a very complex load above the audio band. It gets more complicated when a speaker cable is added. The same is true to a lesser degree with interconnections between components.

So, unless the gear in question has really been designed and built to minimize the effects of lousy loads at RF and other similar problems, it's likely that the performance will vary depending on pretty much everything.

But, the kind of argument I just made really doesn't sway much of anybody. It's not fun to discuss and argue over.

It's sorta ironic that hard core objectivists apparently won't (or can't!) do the analysis or make the measurements. Hard core subjectivists don't believe in that stuff anyway. So, here we are.

Archimago's picture

Each of these examples would be either measurable or an admission of the placebo effect, right?

And the placebo effect ones (LP ritual, greened edge CD) could be identified with a blind test, right?

Nothing here suggests to audiophiles that expensive Nordost cables or AudioQuests do anything of value. Much less the "active shielding" stuff like Synergistic.

@Long-time listener: So what if "millions of audiophiles have every day" claimed to hear differences between cables? That is not special because indeed we can hear differences between 50' of 24AWG speaker wires and 50' 12AWG. The argument is not that you can't ever hear any differences, but that we don't need to spend crazy money on nonsense companies who insist that there are differences to be heard with zero evidence compared to otherwise technically sound cables.

Millions of people apparently are believers in Scientology. Heck, there might even be more "Flat Earth" believers than there are audiophiles out there. So what?

Archimago's picture

First part of the response above was to JA's comment.

John Atkinson's picture

Archimago wrote:
Each of these examples would be either measurable or an admission of the placebo effect, right?

As the tests of interconnects and speaker cables in which I took part were blind, there was a) no placebo effect, and b) there must have been measurable reasons for the audible differences. However, as I was taking part in these tests as a subject, not the organizer, I didn't have the opportunity to perform subsequent measurements.

Archimago wrote:
And the placebo effect ones (LP ritual, greened edge CD) could be identified with a blind test, right?

No, as the knowledge of what is being listened to changes the listener's state of mind. The ritual etc changes the experience and an improvement is perceived as a result. Take away that knowledge and there is no change in perception. Researchers at UC Davis published a paper a decade ago, a conclusion of which was that knowing the price of a bottle of wine didn't make people simply believe that a more expensive wine tasted better. Instead, it changed their perception so it did actually taste better.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Anton's picture

"...knowing the price of a bottle of wine didn't make people simply believe that a more expensive wine tasted better. Instead, it changed their perception so it did actually taste better."

That's a good point. I guess knowing that a given cable/component costs more doesn't just make it sound better, it changes your perception so it actually does sound better.

That sums it all up pretty well.

RH's picture

"Researchers at UC Davis published a paper a decade ago, a conclusion of which was that knowing the price of a bottle of wine didn't make people simply believe that a more expensive wine tasted better. Instead, it changed their perception so it did actually taste better. "

This is why I have no problem with my (or anyone else) taking advantage of bias effects.

For instance I use tube amps that I perceive as sounding more "organic" and pleasing vs solid state amps in my system.

Bias effects being a real thing, it could be that my impression is swayed by some sort of expectation effect: "look at those glowing tubes; tubes add warmth to the sound!"

Or...it could be do to some plausible way the tube amps are interacting with my speakers differently from solid state. Hence I'm really hearing a sonic difference.

But either way, one thing I know is that I RELIABLY perceive the sound as more pleasing whenever I compare my tube amps against solid state (e.g. as I did yet again, against a borrowed Bryston amp) and I RELIABLY get pleasure from having tube amps - the look, the concept, the way they seem to "sound."

If it is in fact a mere sighted bias, it so reliably influences my perception in a positive way, that I'm fine with incorporating that in to my enjoyment of the system.

And I'm not against blind tests btw, I do them once in a while. Unfortunately it's a challenge for various reasons to blind test between tube and solid state amps. However I did recently do a blind test between my CJ tube preamp and my Benchmark LA4 preamp, and the results were almost perfect for detecting the differences.
Which were the same sonic differences I perceived during sighted listening.

Ultimately controlled tests are the way you would want to winnow out the variables so you can understand what is actually causing the results (e.g. bias effect or actual audible differences). But that doesn't mean you also can't take advantage of bias effects if you wish.

JHL's picture

...we conflate the common myth that tube electronics are inherently technically inferior with bias in *favor* of their final sound, we've still engaged a sighted bias, even if ironically.

Granted, I can't know what tube electronics you're using but if I read you correctly, the general notion that the preference for tube sound arises from bias is incorrect. Occam says here preference comes from sound itself.

Here again it's incumbent that we'd show how a reliable cross section* of tube circuits are musically inferior as manifest in our conventional measured data. We cannot. That is, we can show this or that "objective" datum has this or that presumed effect, but we cannot show just how that effect manifests either nested in all possible data, nor can we show it appears at the ear and mind of the listener.

The goal is musicality and the authenticity of reproduced sound. Even if we assume that tube circuits are automatically inferior and even if we escape the obvious sighted bias of that conclusion, doing so offends your formulation that objectivity is thus served.

All use of data to ascribe "performance" as it specifically relates to global sound has to clear the equivalency hurdle: What's data sound like and what's it sound like contextualized across the range of possible hardware.

I don't think it has or can. I say show otherwise or risk the *subjectivity* that automatically correlates a datum with sound.

*good audio tubes generally have inherently lower, intrinsic, single-device distortion. Vacuum devices account for the widest bandwidth amplifiers of all amplifiers (or until recently had). And tubes supported by a small handful of elements like current sources exhibit distortions measured at two places to the right of the decimal. Any notion that practical tube circuits reproduce musical content in a colored fashion is itself a substantial example of bias.

RH's picture

"Granted, I can't know what tube electronics you're using but if I read you correctly, the general notion that the preference for tube sound arises from bias is incorrect."

That wasn't my claim. Tube amps can often plausibly interact with speakers in a way that alters the sound vs an SS amp. It's also possible that, before one knows the relevant details in any individual case, an expectation effect is causing the perception of different sound instead.

That is not saying that all or most instances of people preferring tubes over solid state is a result of sighted bias. It's just being honest with how human beings work, in terms of variables to consider.

"Occam says here preference comes from sound itself."

That's a misapplication of Occam's Razor. You don't just randomly invoke parsimony for the simplest inference, isolated from the rest of your model of reality. If that were the case one would say the most parsimonious inference is that any person's claim of experience
is accurate. Which of course is ridiculous, particularly when their claims are in contradiction to our other best, most verified theories. Flat Earthers report the earth as being flat. Occam's Razor doesn't council us to accept their claims due to parsimony, because the claims do not in fact adequately explain all sorts of related and much stronger observations pointing to the spherical earth.

Similarly, IF some audiophiles claim to hear sonic differences between properly functioning USB cables, it isn't more parsimonious to presume the claims are arising from "the sound itself" of the cables. That would actually fail to account for what engineering knowledge (based on theory and practice) has to say about the plausibility of such claims.

Now it may certainly be the case someone hears a real sonic difference between his tube amps and a solid state amp in a system (I think I do). But that isn't settled by some bogus use of Occam's Razor which automatically presumes the reliability of the listener.
It's best settled by appeal to the technical plausibility of such a claim, and if necessary listening tests controlling for sighted bias.

Again...that's when one wants to be as careful as possible about verifying such things.

In real, practical life, nobody has to engage in science or rigorous inquiry to buy or audition his/her gear. To each his own.

JHL's picture

As you wish:

Quote:

That wasn't my claim. Tube amps can often plausibly interact with speakers in a way that alters the sound vs an SS amp.

Literally everything "alters sound", RH, and interaction with speakers is an amplifier's intrinsic property.

Quote:

It's also possible that, before one knows the relevant details in any individual case, an expectation effect is causing the perception of different sound instead.

Given the inescapable nature of the audio arts, it's also *assured* that, before, during, and after one "knows the relevant details" in any individual case - whatever that could indicate other than sighted objectivist bias - it is *sound* causing the perception of different sound, so to put it.

Read: things still sound precisely like what they are. That's the working definition of audio.

In other words, here too Occam finds that things *having sounds* far, far, far outweighs that nonsense about the human ear being so weak that audio ends up being futile and doomed to this bias you're on about, thus calling for heaps of "objectivist" front-end loading, thus *to determine what things sound like*. Although I suppose that at your house that could be true.

Quote:

That's a misapplication of Occam's Razor. You don't just randomly invoke parsimony for the simplest inference, isolated from the rest of your model of reality.

Which of course I hadn't. Apparently I only violate your model of reality, while it remains reliably complicated by the obtuse notion that getting to a goal involves everything but actually getting to a goal, the goal being *sound*.

Quote:

If that were the case one would say the most parsimonious inference is that any person's claim of experience is accurate. Which of course is ridiculous, particularly when their claims are in contradiction to our other best, most verified theories.

Our other best, most verified theories? I've been asking myself why RH does audio and now I have an answer. To talk about it, badly. (To think that above *you* went off on the begged question and needlessly argumentative posters...)

Quote:

Similarly, IF some audiophiles claim to hear sonic differences between properly functioning USB cables, it isn't more parsimonious to presume the claims are arising from "the sound itself" of the cables. That would actually fail to account for what engineering knowledge (based on theory and practice) has to say about the plausibility of such claims.

Translation: Here are three more assumptions robbed of both literacy and genuine pertinence in order to try and slam the door on audible phenomena written all over the audio space because the supporting SCIENCE! hasn't yet been built to arbitrary satisfaction. The sheer conditionality of that scientism is breathtaking, RH.

Quote:

Now it may certainly be the case someone hears a real sonic difference between his tube amps and a solid state amp in a system (I think I do). But that isn't settled by some bogus use of Occam's Razor which automatically presumes the reliability of the listener.

Because listeners mayn't be trusted to be listeners, says you.

And there we settle the unmitigated and ungainly fallacy of your formulation: In audio being for sound, the sound of audio must not be trusted. No, we must proxy something for it, doubt ourselves always, and there achieve better sound.

In the name of the parsimonious, elegant, and fulfilling solution.

Quote:

It's best settled by appeal to the technical plausibility of such a claim, and if necessary listening tests controlling for sighted bias.

But of course it is, you conclude in defiance not just of logic, but virtually every seasoned listener and audiophile in the thread, if not the practice itself.

Quote:

Again...that's when one wants to be as careful as possible about verifying such things.

Indeed! For the musical fidelity, then? LOL.

Quote:

That is not saying that all or most instances of people preferring tubes over solid state is a result of sighted bias. It's just being honest with how human beings work, in terms of variables to consider.

Things having sounds is obviously how humans work.

Anyway, when presented with competing hypotheses about the same prediction, you characteristically select the solution with the circular, exclusive, arcane assumptions. It's ironic how often your objectivity slides into narrowing an element until it's an infinitely deep commentary on nothing much pertinent at all.

RH's picture

No. It really doesn't. That's mysticism, not reality.

And while of course amplifiers amplify the signal - a point too obvious to be of any relevance - it is not an INTRINSIC property of amplifiers to AUDIBLY alter the sound of the signal, in terms of one amp vs another.

The level of confusion going on there is simply too deep to bother trying to untangle at this point.

I'm afraid we seem to live on different planets, and the message signal has become garbled.

ChrisS's picture

...says you're wrong.

And yada yada yada....

RH's picture

Goodness I feel so chastened!

As you found out earlier: You'll have to find someone more dogmatic for your shtick to stick.

;-)

ChrisS's picture

True, you have no dogma.

But it doesn't seem to matter what you say.

Like someone pointed out your fake diamond story.

Yada yada...

Then you say something to the effect of "Nothing alters sound..."

"That's mysticism, not reality". Your words.

Yada yada...

You'll say "whatever" just so you can see your words in print.

Yada yada, yada yada.

JHL's picture

...according to your objective view *some* amplifiers generally don't "audibly" alter the sound then haven't you confirmed the system behind your objectivism: As determined before the fact, unless they're not perfect amplifying devices they *are* perfect amplifying devices whose audibility is only evident upon testing because it's inaudible.

That is, we're so suggestible that we have to be shown what to hear through another sense because intrinsic alteration of B's output versus that of A's is predictably inaudible but measurable, presumably unless it's a tube amp in which case we know a priori that it's altering the *sound* just as a matter of course.

Audibility is therefore not heard unless it is heard (?) *after* observing how we believe it's audible in the first place among various data *and* mental sets of amplifiers that either are capable or amplifiers that are not capable of audibility which is not actually heard beforehand.

This is objective. And a parsimonious logical construct. And not mystical.

I will say that you're absolutely right: This reasoning is too deep to plumb. Maybe you're just having the thread on. In which case well done, RH. Well done.

Jack L's picture

Hi

Sorry, please define your "technically sound cables" as I don't have a clue what types of cable you meant to tell.

Jack L

Jack L's picture

...... either to just the source ground or to the destination ground." qtd J.A.

Hi

For unbalanced audio interconnects, the grounding point of the cable external shield is crucial particulary if the signal ground potentials of the both interconnected equipment are not absolutely zero, generating ground current flowing through the shield & needed to be drain out through the ground point of the cord as immediately as possible.

So the sonic difference you heard there could be due to location of signal ground current draining out point !

Listening with own ears is believing

Jack L

cognoscente's picture

my partner says "in chaos the most beautiful things arise". So yes, you have to be open to, or gullible, for new experiences. And if they are there for you, they are there for you. Regardless of whether it can be scientifically proven (do remember that science is also liquid, subject to "advanced insight"). An experience is personal. And who is not looking for new and better experiences. I consider myself rationally sober and skeptical. I think "you get the quality you pay for it". However, as with wine, this is not always the case. A Montlandrie 2016 bought by me for 21 euros (can't wait to drink the better but much cheaper due de covid measure 2019), tastes better to me than a Gloria 2016 bought for 39 euros the bottle. A 4k dac can sound better than one of 8k. Nevertheless, I believe that you get the quality you pay for, assuming the same relative price-quality ratio (means you buy the best in it class). Furthermore, I believe in the principle of "decreasing marginal utility". In other words, a set of 3k clearly sounds better than a set of 2k, but that the difference between a set of 15K and a set of 10k is a lot less clear. I'm skeptical about wiring. However I would like to add that a silver cable (which I have) sounds different than a copper one. But does a 2k interlink really sound better than one of 0.5K? Or that a 2k power cable makes a real difference? I once asked a salesperson "what does that last meter matter?" He replied "you mean the first meter". Well... But back, if a placebo works for you, why not believe in and take a placebo. If your ears hear it, your ears hear it. After all, it is indeed about your own personal experience that matters and not a mathematical cold and emotionalless scientific measurement. Although and having said this I don't want to be cheated. So I remain skeptical.

Indydan's picture

I would really be happy if Amir from Audio Science Review and others of his ilk read this column.

Anton's picture

...run Grammarly and then arrive at an ironclad conclusion.

The obvious answer is both camps are partly right and partly wrong.

There is no pure subjectivist designer, and no pure objectivist audiophile.

Let's leave the bottom line to The Dude, who abides: “Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.”

ChrisS's picture

your room
your music system
your music
your ears

your wallet.

rt66indierock's picture

Why would Amir care about Stereophile or any of the AVTech publications? The last time I checked on SimilarWeb ASR got more views in March than all the AVTech publications combined.

Anton's picture

Charles Shaw sells more wine in a month than DRC makes in ten years.

Volume correlates with quality to an even lesser degree than price and quality.

rt66indierock's picture

A quality publication would have seen through MQA as quickly as people like me did. Did Stereophile?

Amir has the same problem he liked MQA and closed a lot of threads when members questioned how he could objectively support it. He is after all on the transparency side of the transparency / coloration debate within high end audio. Amir uses volume to measure influence. I consider it a part of influence and was happy when my MQA is Vaporware thread crossed 2 million views recently. But felt more fortunate by who distributed it and referenced it. Amir is retired and measuring audio equipment is a better use of his time than creating an audio codec like he did when he was working.

David Harper's picture

"knowing the price of a bottle of wine didn't make people simply believe that a more expensive wine tasted better instead it changed their perception so that it actually did taste better"

A distinction without a difference.

ChrisS's picture

...how knowing the price of a component might affect hearing perception.

There are no known studies.

ok's picture

in hard physical terms or simply measure the damn thing? Please spare me psychological anthropomorphisms of the "our brain tricks us etc" kind. If not - most certainly not - then it is just another fancy name for "I don't have a clue".

ChrisS's picture

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0130492

Read it and report back.

ok's picture

I have read countless studies of the kind. As usefull as they may be in absence of hard evidence, this is descriptive psychology - not chemistry or physics. Most illnesses that are treated today with chemical or surgical methods were thought of "psychological" origin just few decades ago. It is really funny how audio "scientologists" rely on psychological snake oil in order to account for what does not comform with their know-it-all narrow mindness. I wonder how many of them would really go for the cheap stuff if everything were offered to them for free.

ChrisS's picture

...read anything like this.

David Harper's picture

If the test subjects were lied to and told that the cheap wine was the more expensive one then that's the wine that would have "actually" tasted better to them.

ok's picture

..there is no "placebo effect"; there is no way for one to manipulate people's taste, perception or self-healing in the long term. People know what they like, see, feel - they just don't trust themselves and more often than not prefer to follow the "expert", the "scientist", the "multitude" instead. If this wasn't the case, gay people for instance would have ceased to exist centuries ago: "experts" called them freaks, "scientists" called them sick, the "multitude" mocked them to tears - nevertheless here they are no matter what everyone told them they ought to like. Audiophiles on the other hand who tend to buy the most expensive, most well-measuring or most hip hardware are not delusional; but sometimes they lie to themselves and to others for fear of being bullied as vulgar or flatearthers or tasteless. They are the ones who try "placere" (latin infinitive for to please) the authority, not the other way around. And as far as medicine is concerned, the statistically significant "placebo effect" does not mean that people miraculously heal themselves; it means that the drug in question is useless for all intents and purposes, which by the way is the case with the majority of alternative or mainstream drugs.

ChrisS's picture

...you don't know science.

rt66indierock's picture

Look at the best DAC I’ve ever measured and listened to the Okto Research DAC 8 Stereo and the worst a Schiit Modi DAC. At some point between these two extremes, you will reach a point where you can hear no more improvement in a DAC. At that point any improvement in the DAC itself will have a placebo effect on you.

Next the stereo in my Washington DC office had beige speaker grills. I had a about seven audiophile clients who frequently listened to my system. I had the beige grills changed to black grills from the same fabric. All heard a difference in the sound of the speakers. They heard a difference in the sound where none should be possible. A simple example where perception was manipulated without change in the sound.

What does this mean in practical terms? I never listen to music over 102 dB in my home or office so a lot of pedestrian DACs will hit my placebo spot. Someone who listens at the levels I did to test the Okto, a max of 112 dB should have a different spot where a placebo effect will occur.

ok's picture

but one could also say "black attracts all the sunlight in the world - so how could africans be black in the first place?"
I do think your "black grill" findings deserve further investingation!

rt66indierock's picture

Well it is 110 degrees outside right now on Phoenix. You are asking me to believe that if I left the grills outside and let them warm up that it will change the sound? I'm trying not be troubled by the logic.

ok's picture

..so this experiment might not be our first and foremost priority for the time being ;-)

cognoscente's picture

I once read an article that stated that every audiophile is actually tuning the music recodings to his or her taste with the (personal) choice of his hi-fi set in that way the audiophile thinks it should sound. And that can be very different than intended by the artist and producer. Every audiophile strives for his own ideal sound, every audiophile has his own personal ideal. S there is no general ideal sound and therefore no ideal set.

Sometimes you just know it's right when it's right, without perhaps being able to say why. It's just. That's how I think about my current hi-fi set. But when my best friend comes to listen he says that there is too much bass in electronic studio recordings such as Billie Eilish or Dua Saleh, but that my set sounds good when live recorded concerts are played such as Bill Evans Trio Sunday At The Village Vanguard or The Sound The Dutch Radio Recordings. In turn, every time I listen to his set I think "where's the bass gone?" I mean it's all personal, so subjective.

That's how I understand the article. Even if an improvement in your hi-fi set cannot be measured scientifically, but you can hear it, then that improvement is there for you. And I believe the article says you should be open to try new improvements. If you are too skeptical and rely only on scientific measurements, you can miss out on many great experiences.

That's what I meant by the placebo effect. A placebo does nothing (scientifically) but if the user believe in it? Then it works for that user, right? Same with a 2.5k power cable (instead of a reguale one) or a 5k speaker cable (instead of 0.5k). Even if that improvement cannot be measured, if you hear it, you hear it. And isn't it about what you hear and your own experience?

And as far as the wine was concerned, I only meant that a higher-rated wine with higher price does not mean it taste better to you than a lower-qualified and cheaper wine. It's all personal and subjective.

This said I reamin sceptical myself and I use the regular power cables of all my equipment and speaker cable I bought in 1995.

SteveR1's picture

How can Stereophile seriously allow someone to review modern components through a pair of Altec Valencias - seriously - I want to know.

Glotz's picture

My head thanked me as I scrolled hastily through the tribal circle jerk... lol.

I think a really great example is VTA or SRA. If the correct angle (on a severe profile stylus) that brings in the intended frequency response, width and depth presentation and is changed 1 degree (or even 1mm) in either direction (and most humans can and do hear this as being slightly off from true), can we measure this error?

With today's equipment, I doubt it. Yet our ears hear it quite easily and we must listen exhaustively to find the correct angle to attain said correct trueness as the mastering engineers intended.

The same holds true for any high priced cable vs. cheap ones. Case in point- HR's last 2 columns. He readily admits that his perceptions have been challenged by this one variable being changed in an otherwise unchanged system.

Yes, blah blah blah, placebo bs. ALL of the analogies used above do not work for listening. None of them work at all in the least. They are inherently illogical in the purposes of listening.

Glotz's picture

I felt using flimsy evidence to of Lyme Disease cures to play it into subjective likes and dislikes, and the same with Steve Jobs example. Using a medical analogy is just inaccurate and your loading your argument with the wrong ammo here.

Most audiophiles do what Herb did last month and swap out cabling or
components over several months if not years, and the lucky few have ability to open a full a loom in comparison (Audioquest in my case as well, but Colorado and Columbia respectively). The key here to remember is that a wholesale increase from $200 per cabling to $4000 per cable really does create far greater objective accuracy.

There is far more a hypothesis in audio critical listening, even with the most unscientific listeners. By the simple use of a control of your own audio system being in several parts connected by cabling is testament to the method. Yes, it's far more accurate and telling and provable at expensive levels, but that is the road of the audiophile.

Shunyata Research's technologies have proven many times that lower noise floor is obtainable and the other hundreds of companies efforts echo that.

I have returned the Venom interconnects for deviation of FR neutrality, but the balance of their Venom speaker cables combined very well and provided more transparent, mic-closer sound. I kept those as they work better with Magneplanars because the retain the audiophile lexicon signifiers. I also picked them up before they were being marketed, as a promo. I saved hundreds over the retail price.

Just because we cannot measure something doesn't mean it is unmeasurable. We haven't found that tech yet, or it's too expensive to implement for consumer use.

What it does take is your experience testing your own biases by way of swapping out gear and cabling. My old cabling ain't going nowhere. If it doesn't sound better or need replacing... bang. Back to the dealer baby. That has happened very few times. Coupled with credit card protection, how can anyone get fooled by any audio product?

Why did Roger use only the opposing analogies in his argument? What audio products did he or JA2 reference in their writings recently? (Both here and JA2's editorial.)

I find it strange after all of these years, no one can name FIVE rip offs that were substantially bad products.. NO you can't use a Tice Clock from friggin' 30 years ago to say how the high-end is still rife with charlatans. Or green pens from the same time. Those arguments were addressed back then, and using them as examples for any reason is suspect in a conversation now.

The CD Stoplight pens were proven to work by containing the red laser to the cd underside, as laser technology was just being figured out for years to come. I've used it, and it friggin' worked. It wasn't in the least bit subjective. As CD players' lasers improved the need to use the pen died off.

With my experience, I have two examples from a friend and it was from 90's Arcam as a home theater receiver that they mis-engineered IMO (much is online), as well as an well known 80's AMC tube hybrid integrated that was equally found to be rife with problems over time (boards, tubes). Even I wouldn't consider those rip-offs though most would say they were, despite working well-past their warranties.

What we are scrambling to find is a collective agreement of what components are accurate. Stereophile as a group of writers who listen and write does that. Follow-ups prove that here and more of them should be done. Strangely, they are almost never commented upon!

Audio appreciation is a collective mind, gathered by many thousands of like-minded individuals, using a specific language and shaping the industry with our wallets... and ears.

PS- I find it strange that Lyme, PA is right next to the CDC Disease Lab across the water in NY. Coincidence? Getting the government to come up with money to solve Lyme Disease in a year should be law.

Glotz's picture

What we all fail to realize in arguments that there are many parameters of accuracy within audio and listening.

Reducing a single speaker such as the KEF LS50 as perfect or Class A still does not mean it has the bass of a Wilson XLF or any other audio parameter you want to listen for.

But the overall set of parameters the KEF does very well and for the money. It can also be used with higher quality components and cabling and brought closer to accurate or 'live' or 'my happy sound' than similar speakers in that price range.

Accuracy in all of its qualities can be heard and understood collectively. Some cannot yet be measured.

misterears's picture

I'm reminded of Kierkegaard who took his life philosophy in the direction of romantic thought while Nietzsche did so in the direction of objective thought. These are both "well reasoned" paths and often "well intended" too...but in opposite directions.

There is no betterment in romance and there is no heart in objectivity. So a balance of the two is needed.

ok's picture

I couldn't say for sure who is the "subjectivist" and who is the "objectivist" one. And having read enough about the actual audio systems of "subjectivist" and "objectivist" audiophiles I could't say for sure who is actually who either.

misterears's picture

I'm 74 and have been in "this industry" for about 52 years (hobbyist and professionally) and most folks (maybe not including you) who have been in it for over 5-10 years can detect in others (and many customers/advertisers/makers clearly declare) a measurement priority vs. a music listening priority. But if you haven't seen that, then of course you haven't.

ok's picture

..cause I can definitely detect it in myself: an increasing inclination towards "objective" measurements - the way I interpret them of course and no way towards their "objectivist" cheerleaders!

Trevor_Bartram's picture

Because of Menieres disease and having traversed all music genres in the last 50 years I've moved on from HiFi to home video. My eyes are still relatively good and there are gradual improvements being made in home video presentation, that makes the pursuit worth while. Luckily I never fell for the fetishes, quackery, jewellery or status symbols; it was always about good emotions thru music.

David Harper's picture

It needs to be said; it's only home music listening. In the overall scheme of things it isn't really important. Astronomically priced gear is for people who have nothing that matters on their minds.

avanti1960's picture

and my mind is open to that fact based on my real world experiences. Different interconnects and speaker cables have shown obvious changes to the sound I hear yet the measured frequency response does not agree. Not a big revelation.
However it seems as if the article's stance is that trying the latest audiophile gazing sphere voodoo gadget because it is our choice, has a money back guarantee and won't kill us.
OK fine, but it seems quite a bit off center from what I would expect from a respected audio review publication.
My own experiences have revealed many audio gadgets do absolutely nothing to change or improve the sound- and yes some I refuse to try because I know they are worthless in application.
Supporting a solid state amplifier with vibration control devices suitable for a 450 horsepower industrial air compressor motor is one of them.
There is a rational middle ground that needs to tell it like it is- or as honestly witnessed- and that is a view I would like to see in a respected audio review publication.
The stance of this article does not reflect a rational middle ground.
My hope is for reviewers to be experienced and trustworthy as to separate what works from what does not- and then let us have the open mind- rather than the try everything approach which is all to convenient and (yes) exploitative.
Filter out some of this garbage- please. There are many among us that could use the help.

Music Maven's picture

I think where we audiophiles get into trouble is when we say that something does or doesn't make an audible difference as a statement of fact. We're always better off when we simply say, "I hear a difference with this piece of equipment or this tweak or this secret dance I do before I listen." No one can argue with that. They aren't in my head, and they don't know what I'm hearing.

If I, as a reader of Stereophile, read a reviewer saying that, I can judge for myself whether I want to try that thing and see if it makes a difference for me. If it increases my enjoyment--even if that's a placebo effect--then I'm happy. If it doesn't, then I return it or sell it to someone who likes it.

Whether that difference can be measured, now or in the future, is immaterial. If I don't hear a change for the better but a machine tells me I should, I'm certainly not going to keep that piece of equipment. If I do hear a change for the better and the machine tells me I shouldn't hear it, then I'm not going to get rid of the equipment. Measurements and machines are a distraction at best--a distraction from the music, which is why we're all here.

33Nicolas's picture

I've been reading Stereophile for some time now and this article moved me to comment.

I too was an enthusiastic yet skeptical journalist in the electric mobility field. I wrote about Tesla before Elon Musk took over and threw out the original founders. I take everything I see in the news from him with a rock salt, not a pinch. Despite 15 years of deep search, heart-to-heart talks, and conversations with founders and CEOs, I found out that the essence, that which makes people these tick, whether technology or ineffable things is beyond metrics.

In parallel research, I've been reading esoteric things - out of lack of a better word - research, daily news, etc. I noticed some had a bizarre and uncanny way of mirroring events and personal events in my life. I met and talked to a few of those "out there" folks on the fringe of empirical measurements. They mostly laughed wondering how you measure ineffable things and does it mean they don't exist?

Split hair in whichever ways, there are those who need to dissect and those who feel through experiments before communicating. I get now get along with both and equally have a great time talking to either. I've learned to use my left and right hemisphere at the right moment and with the right people. In the end, I'm left with my awareness experiencing processing my reality. It's all fun and I love good audio production in the end.

David Harper's picture

My current speakers are Magnepan LRS. They are the most amazing speaker I've ever heard (not that that means anything). Amirm at ASR tested them and his results were that the speaker is very flawed. It's dispersion is terrible. His conclusion is "I cannot recommend the Magnepan LRS."
I read his test results carefully and everything he says looks to be true. So why do they sound so good to me? Amirm obviously knows what he's doing. Do I just not know what to listen for? Or is it that there is no test for resolution and detail in speaker sound? No dynamic speakers in a wooden box has the air and detail of the maggie. Responses are welcome.https://www.stereophile.com/content/magnepan-lrs-loudspeaker-0

JHL's picture

Let's dissect this in a logical order. First, John's summary in the wholly superior Stereophile review of the LRS:

Quote:

Overall, however, the LRS appears to be capable of well-balanced sound, provided its owner takes care in optimizing such matters as placement and toe-in.

Now you on ASR:

Quote:

I read his test results carefully and everything he says looks to be true.

JA knows vastly more about loudspeakers than ASR. JA also summarizes within the context of the review, and the review agrees with your findings. Which are,

Quote:

So why do they sound so good to me?

Because they do. Back to JA:

Quote:

Interpreting the measured performance of a panel loudspeaker such as the Magnepan LRS is far from straightforward.

"Far from straightforward". For starters, does ASR even know what the inverse square law is as regards line sources like the Maggie tweeter?

Then your *opinion* of ASR:

Quote:

Amirm obviously knows what he's doing.

And your question:

Quote:

Do I just not know what to listen for?

Here the objectivist conundrum begins, which is to begin to distrust your ears.*

Quote:

Or is it that there is no test for resolution and detail in speaker sound?

Two simple questions? Does ASR's "listening" in mono and strong data-sighted bias qualify it, discarding or diminishing a handful of important phenomena even before the purported listening starts? And, might there be far more to speakers, as well as audio in general, than the usual conclusions from the data crowd?

Obviously there is and you and just about everybody else is apparently *hearing* it.

*beware this variation of the Gell Mann Amnesia Effect

Glotz's picture

Which do everything the LRS' do only with wider bandwidth. They are incredible speakers, but there are a number of areas Magneplanars don't do well. Bass fullness, lower midrange and upper bass impact, treble extension, fully-developed, rounded images within the soundstage, and other things too.

Amir judges audio components from a measurement-only perspective. As he measures other dynamic speakers over the years, he finds that their limited dispersion to the sides is not as good as dynamic speakers. He implies that dynamic speakers are the standard, which in many respects I agree. But what about rear dispersion? What about the ability for the Magnepan speaker line to play closer to side-walls?

JA1, in his reviews of the 1.6qr (I own now as well) spoke of the difficulty of measuring planar speakers. JA1 has been measuring speakers for far longer than Amir has.

Amir's ignorance or rigidity is more the culprit here. He rarely speaks of sound quality, which limits the usefulness of his reviews. Stereophile does both and correlates in some very pragmatic ways.

And lastly, when one reads the ton of reviews out there on either LRS or the 1.7i (or any other well-reviewed product out there), the collective findings of everyone are valid and in fact, the most telling and accurate to the truth. When we all hear something, it becomes truth.

JHL's picture

...an excellent observation and summation of just one of the categories in which audio science sites are generalizing to the point of misdirecting the reader. Any rubric of science has a duty to fully honor that principle and method, and the same is true of the *review* journal. Journalistic integrity is just as essential as scientific rigor.

Crowd-rating chifi gadgets on the basis of a cursory view of an AP machine's charting or a driver scanner's limited view of a complex loudspeaker fails on both counts. It's not scientific and it's discredible journalism.

Good audio journalism concerns itself with the sound. Poor journalism commits unforced errors like overdriving things in mono and sorting on the simple distortion scale. Both *are* ratings but neither has anything to do with the musical effect, certainly not as they're being misused.

Stereophile's name twice invokes the working end of the audio arts; effort and enthusiasm toward stereophonic musical realism. The magazine has reliably delivered excellent content for decades. The ostensible science sites are not scientific, however, because they lack that scope and meaning.

At best they prejudiciously presume to end run that lengthy stereophonic process and practice. As they do they actively cast aspersions on better audio and especially the high end simply because they cannot hear what things sound like or construct a proper, musical system and effect. I hope their influence is not harmful to the real cause.

Glotz's picture

Your example of over-driving tests in mono is very valid and an excellent example. I think because humans (or Americans more accurately) are becoming so mistrustful of information in general, there is a desire to create specious arguments in lieu of digging and fighting for the truth or at least a more accurate semblance of it.

Pulling facts out of the vacuum of testing will always tend to create false correlations about findings. Moreover, the desire to consistently measure the wrong things like power handling in mono or other traditionally accepted areas of testing may be just plain wrong.

And I very much think the damage has been done when one looks at their current circulation. It's telling that Stereo Review came and fell on their premises before the information age, and ASR now dominates the web presence when almost nothing has changed in their intent and messaging when compared to SR so long ago.

I hate to say this, but I think there needs to be a mouthy maverick (with deep industry knowledge and journalistic skills) to continually place truth of reality at the forefront of all readers and audio enthusiasts. Much like fighting political misinformation, it will take aggression and courage to fight this industry's maligned reputation.

ok's picture

is by far the cheapest way of system upgrade. What is an audio system anyway for the most part if not a convoluted cable of the lowest quality?

Archimago's picture

The ideas in this article clearly are controversial and I believe is damaging of the audiophile/high-fidelity hobby.

A more detailed response:
http://archimago.blogspot.com/2022/07/summer-musings-on-stereophiles-quackery.html

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