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Not Just About Cables: Objectivism vs. Subjectivism in Audio - Page 2

post #16 of 89
Well, the truth is that discrimination in all perceptions is under attack. Our society has little respect for sensitive people. TV, movies, much music is made for people adapted to a noisy society, so why should uppity audiophiles get away with discriminating such small details?

I was playing music for a party the other day, through Shoutcast. One of the people listening asked me to Email her one of the songs. When I told her the file was about 38MB she gasped and asked "Why so big?" "Apple Lossless," I said. Her response was to berate me for the next few minutes. "No one can hear the difference between MP3 and lossless. I'm an audio engineer. I'll bet you $100 you can't tell them apart in a blind test."

Well, OK, that's her opinion. Why the religion? Some hear differences, some don't.

It takes me some time to hear the difference. I transcribed a new CD a while back and then listened to it. Something didn't sound right but I couldn't put my finger on it. "Is the music really this dead?" I checked the files and found that I'd set Itunes to MP3. I re-ripped it as lossless and the zing was back.

Scientific? Hardly. I have no idea how I'd fare in a real double-blind test.

We all reach our level of happiness with the machinery in our lives. I like my music. My system is better than some, worse than others. It meets my needs: I can immerse myself in music and forget about the machinery.

Speaker cables? The 16-gauge that came with them.
post #17 of 89
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lord Chaos View Post
I was playing music for a party the other day, through Shoutcast. One of the people listening asked me to Email her one of the songs. When I told her the file was about 38MB she gasped and asked "Why so big?" "Apple Lossless," I said. Her response was to berate me for the next few minutes. "No one can hear the difference between MP3 and lossless. I'm an audio engineer. I'll bet you $100 you can't tell them apart in a blind test."
That all depends on the encoding. While all lossless is pretty much the same thing, a lossy file is not necessarily like that. If the MP3 was encoded at 64, I'm sure everyone could hear a difference. If it was encoded at 320 LAME, she is quite correct.

Lossless is great for archiving your masters. For an iPod, it's a complete waste of hard drive space. Every format has its strengths and weaknesses. Experience leads you to using the right one for the right application.

See ya
Steve
post #18 of 89
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LawnGnome View Post
Why WOULD appearance affect the cables sound?

Just because something looks different on the outside isn't enough to assume it is different.

You shouldn't assume a yellow lambo is faster than a black lambo.

This is not a matter of point of view.

Whether or not cables affect sound more than just placebo in the listeners head is something that can be measured, and proven either correct, or incorrect.

You and other are claiming the make a difference, I'm saying prove it for me to believe it.
In other words, you cannot even conceive of the fact that others have a different point of view and way of thinking.

If one cable is thicker and is made of a different material from another why wouldn't it sound different? Yet you claim they nonetheless sound the same--without even needing to know how much thicker or what materials each is made of. You are making a claim and I say prove it for me to believe it!

I hope others at least see the symmetry and lack of precedence of these approaches to the subject.
post #19 of 89
You can't prove there is no difference. That would be attempting to prove a negative. But it is possible to prove that there is a difference under certain circumstances... like for instance the difference between Radio Shack Cables and those fancy "golden pear" cables. If that was possible, folks around here wouldn't be quoting made up magical thinking from advertorials, they would be citing measurements and the results of controlled listening tests.

See ya
Steve
post #20 of 89
Do any of you actually beleive that by using snide comments, snappy remarks or egocentric arguements that anyone from the other side is even going to consider your thoughts? I'm not sure why these threads bring out the self appointed experts, armchair scientists and so called consumer advocates in headfi but they are magnets for them. I'll let you decide who you are

BTW if the purpose of most of the posts is to get on the soapbox and rant to the inferior side then so sorry my mistake

Audio is going to subjective as well as objective. While I can not see a real reason why a cable would make a difference beyond a point when the component you are using to lositen to the music with is filled with average grade copper wire for the most part. I am not ready to say it does not make a difference but isn't it up to each person to make that call for themselves.

I have a friend that has cables that cost about half as much as the components of his system. Hey I think it's not the best way to spend money but then again it's not my money, it makes them happy so that's ok no?
post #21 of 89
Quote:
Originally Posted by Riboge View Post
Perhaps many of you are familiar with the history of these debates and disputes in Audiophile Land not just about cables. There have been intense ones about whether amplilfiers sound different and about the Tice Clock which went much like the ones here recently about cables and about a Machina Dynamica tweak device.

I find these disturbing as do many of you, especially the ill will and intolerance that emerges and takes over repeatedly. I've been looking around the net some to learn about ABX testing and the history of all this and came across an article that captured a lot of what I have been picking up on. It surely is from one side of the issue but that is not why I offer it. Rather it is the overall theme expressed in the title that seemed so on target about what is so disturbing about it all:

http://www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/107/
Quote:
Originally Posted by LawnGnome View Post
That isn't the point of discussion.

It is whether or not cables actually make a difference.

Who likes to buy them, and what they do with them isn't part of it.
actually I am going to have to disagree the original post speaks repeatedly about the tone of the discussion. The thread is not about if cables make a difference please read the title it starts "Not Just About Cables" . I have also bolded a section of the OP for you to point out why my post was relavant. I might add that maybe for you most posts around here are about if cables make a difference but as I read the OP that is not what is was about.
post #22 of 89
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
You can't prove there is no difference. That would be attempting to prove a negative. But it is possible to prove that there is a difference under certain circumstances... like for instance the difference between Radio Shack Cables and those fancy "golden pear" cables. If that was possible, folks around here wouldn't be quoting made up magical thinking from advertorials, they would be citing measurements and the results of controlled listening tests.

See ya
Steve
As an example of what I'm talking about I quote the above. It is such a shame that Bigshot cannot stop at the first part about proving a negative. That is a good point.

But he cannot resist going on to polemic falsehoods like that no one has cited testing results that support hearing differences. I have seen many over the many tortured threads on this subject. He may believe this are imperfect and hence inconclusive, but that still is a whole lot more experimental support for hearing a difference between at least some cable pairs than anything he can or has cited to the contrary in the way of experimentation rather than theory-based assertions. Again, that doesn't make him wrong just not fair and even-handed in his treatment of the subject.

And then, alas, the over-the-top stuff about magical thinking and advertorials. I guess he didn't get that the latter is part of why I chose the article to demonstrate the intolerance of both sides because he is so lost in his ego-trip of being the assassin with a smile or the Ralph Nader of cabledom.

It is so puzzling since about speakers he wrote some very good advice about how to select speakers by going and listening to and comparing many in a methodical way and with avoidance of the influence of salesmanship. About this he believes in one's ability to listen, hear and decide for oneself. But about tweaks and cables and ? what else, he does not believe in this but the opposite: Don't be fooled by what you think you hear, you will inevitably be placeboed by the ads and hype so don't listen to them or the cables but listen to him who will lead you from, horrors!, the wasting of money.

Which is not to say, I repeat sincerely, that he does not have creditable position on this matter save for the extremeness of how far he goes with it. He does. It is best to be skeptical about cable claims when choosing them, to not assume more expensive is better, etc. It is best to listen and decide for oneself armed with the knowledge of how one might be influenced by those selling and promoting them.

He says amps make a difference worth pursuing while cables don't. I wonder if he noted in the article, in case he wasn't already aware of it, that many of his fellow engineering-types (I don't know exactly his training) don't believe in amp differences either. I wonder what a dialogue between him and them would be like?
post #23 of 89
Given the way this thread has progressed so far, it seems to me that this is the most significant quote in the article that Riboge posted:

Quote:
I also know that tests such as we witnessed here and in many other circumstances will not change anybody's mind. They do not prove anything. They are not well conducted either in terms of environment or equipment...[interrupted by applause]...and so I would like to see an attempt at open-minded cooperation between audiophiles and open-minded engineers to satisfy both camps. Only in this way will anybody's opinion be changed in one way or the other."
Can I suggest that for the rest of this thread, we all ask ourselves the following question before hitting the "submit reply" button:

"Am I responding to the message or attacking the messenger?"

If the answer is, "responding to the message," then post, otherwise, don't post. Riboge has framed an interesting issue, and I think that if we all make an effort to discuss the issue rather than attack each other, the discussion could result in everyone better understanding the opposite side's position.
post #24 of 89
Quote:
Originally Posted by Riboge View Post
But he cannot resist going on to polemic falsehoods like that no one has cited testing results that support hearing differences. I have seen many over the many tortured threads on this subject. He may believe this are imperfect and hence inconclusive, but that still is a whole lot more experimental support for hearing a difference between at least some cable pairs than anything he can or has cited to the contrary...
Again asking me to prove a negative.

Here is the problem with the anecdotal experiences posted on this board... This is way too much to deal with in one post, but I'll give it a shot by boiling each concept down to one or two sentences...

Most of the people who claim cables make a difference refuse to believe in standardized testing procedures. They claim that the differences they hear are not measurable. They use circular logic to invalidate any controlled test- either arguing endlessly with the testing procedures, claiming that a test with one $500 piece of wire doesn't mean that another $500 piece of wire won't sound different, or claiming that the equipment or ears of the listener aren't sensitive enough to detect the difference. They claim that differences are only evident over long term listening, when psycho-acoustic research tells us that auditory memory in humans lasts for seconds, not hours. They seem to have little sense of proportion, with claims that cables make a big difference, when it's obvious that the difference, if it exists, is very, very small. (Otherwise, why wouldn't everyone hear the difference?) There are attempts to make it a status isssue ("You just say you can't hear a difference because you can't *afford* good cables...") When questioned, many of them resort to argumentative techniques that do nothing to make their case- just to bully down people who disagree with them and tell them they have no right to participate in the discussion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Riboge View Post
And then, alas, the over-the-top stuff about magical thinking and advertorials.
Both of those issues are directly related to this topic. Magical thinking is an explanation for why expensive equipment always seems to sound better to people. It is also an explanation for why silver and copper are described as sounding "bright" as opposed to "mellow". Obvious examples like Brilliant Pebbles, green felt tip markers and The Clever Little Clock show that magical thinking is alive and well in high end audio. But it doesn't end there... It extends into overkill shielding, cables that are way thicker than they need to be, pointless vibration damping, shaving the edges of CDs, and the ultimate science hoodoo- jitter.

Unless you were around for what hifi was like in the sixties, you don't know what real responsible audio journalism looks like. The engineers employed by stereo magazines had absolutely no contact with the advertising department. The reviewers would rather be fired than give inaccurate advice. Equipment was directly compared and tested. Clear terms and facts and figures were used, not techno jargon and poetical descriptions of the aether.

Am I mad that this sort of unbiased journalism doesn't exist any more. You better frickin' believe it! Do I know how to fight the spread of advertorial? you bet. Horse sense right here in public discussion forums like this are the common sense cross to the advertorial vampire.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Riboge View Post
Don't be fooled by what you think you hear, you will inevitably be placeboed by the ads and hype so don't listen to them or the cables but listen to him who will lead you from, horrors!, the wasting of money.
Here is why I care about how you spend your money... When I was just starting out in the hobby, I hung out with some friends of my brother who were older and more experienced than I was. They gave me teriffic advice on how to put together a great system on a budget. On a meager student's budget, I was able to put together a darn good system that compared remarkably well to the all MacIntosh system my brother blew thousands and thousands of dollars on.

I'm here to return the favor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Riboge View Post
Which is not to say, I repeat sincerely, that he does not have creditable position on this matter save for the extremeness of how far he goes with it.
It isn't extremism. It's passion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Riboge View Post
He says amps make a difference worth pursuing while cables don't. I wonder if he noted in the article, in case he wasn't already aware of it, that many of his fellow engineering-types don't believe in amp differences either.
Yes. I can give you a little history lesson on that debate too... There was an equipment reviewer for Stereo Review, I believe, who tested a bunch of solid state amps and determined that they were for all intents and purposes identical sounding. When he reported his findings the advertising department raised a huge furor and it stirred up dust all over the hifi community. He held his ground and gained the respect of a lot of people for putting his neck on the line for what he believed.

The problem was, audiophiles were applying the common sense they had back in the tube days to solid state amps. A lot of that just didn't apply any more. The exact same thing happened with CDs- in fact the fixation on vibration damping feet on CD players goes back to the vinyl days when acoustic feedback was a real problem. It's totally irrelevent today.

In any case, if you have a perspective on the way things have been going since the 60s, you'll realize that there really was no limitation on sound quality in the recording of music. The only limitations were the quality of the playback equipment. In the old days, good sound was costly. Now, you can buy an iPod that has sound quality better than any turntable we had back in the 70s, and it can hold more than a room full of records. That's pretty darn good in my book.

The last 5% of sound quality was captured in the digital age. It's a waste of time to go around crossing t's and dotting i's. The challenge now is how to incorporate digital music into our lives. Apple is making great strides there.

Well, that's way too much information to squeeze into one post. Suffice it to say that when I was 17 years old, and I was just starting out with building a really good stereo, I listened carefully to the advice of people who had been at it longer than I had. I didn't argue with them. I pumped them for useful information. Internet chat boards breed sloppy habits in some people. The idea is to share information, not to win battles. Some kids just need to open their minds and their ears a little. I know I'm always happy when I stumble across someone here that knows more about something than I do. Getting new ideas and solid practical advice is why I'm here.

See ya
Steve
post #25 of 89
Discuss the topics, not the people
post #26 of 89
Thread Starter 
Dear Bigshot,

This biographical info helps understand and empathize with where you're coming from. It doesn't explain why you want to or think you can force this stuff down people's throats. And it doesn't explain why you haven't been able to figure out that ours is not your brother's more fancy equipment you had to enviously attack with radical debunking in order to compete rather than feel outdone.

I was around in the 60's and know what you are referring to. There is much in life that has changed in the regrettable way you describe in re audio reviewing, etc. No argument there. In this post-modern world absolute and persisting standards such as you wish to apply simply are dinosaurs, much as we ourselves may be regarded by those for whom this is not even recent history.

I bought my first audio equipment in the 60's--my father had a decent MacIntosh setup in the 50's--and was selling audio equipment with a friend out of his apartment in spare time while training in psychiatry in the early 70's. The general level of audio equipment is far better and relatively less expensive now than then, but the top end is less so or not always so at all. The return to vinyl on turntables makes this clear. Some of the tube amps and planar speaker I had then could compete now quite well, but they are far more widely known and used and relatively less costly now though, save for the top, top end which has gone nuts pricewise.

I have bought systems later at several phases of my life on the philosophy you espouse about looking for the giant killers that compete with the pricey items for far less and avoid the things less substantiated or less banging for the buck. So again I know and understand where you are coming from. What you seem not to want to admit is that this sort of approach involves COMPROMISING for the sake of economics and not wanting to succumb to the diminishing returns of seeking perfection and advertising hype.

If some wish to tilt at the windmill of perfection in sound you need to understand and appreciate how important this is to some. Better is better, however much it seems to others not worth it. It is self-deception to think you are doing someone a favor by bludgeoning and interfering.

On the other hand, an account such as you have just given may be meaningful and helpful to some if you can empathize and respect them enough to leave it to them to make use of it if they can. You mention horse sense so let me point out: you can lead a horse to water...
post #27 of 89
I don't shove anything down anyone's thoat. I don't blugeon or tilt at windmills. I simply state what my experience has taught me.

You don't realize who our audience is here. It isn't the five or six willfully ignorant souls who snipe and pollute these threads over and over again. I have no interest in convincing them of anything. I couldn't do it if I wanted to. Our REAL audience is the thousands of readers who peruse this forum looking for information but never get around to posting.

There are people here all around us whose minds aren't closed to the subject, people who are just looking for straight answers to their questions. Even though I don't address them directly, they're the ones I'm sharing my information with.

If someone wants to blow $100 grand on a truckload of brilliant pebbles to cover the floor of their listening room, I really couldn't care less. But if they want to recommend that others do that, or claim publicly that it made a "night and day" difference for them, I'm going to speak up and call a spade a spade... Not for them, but for the people they might lead astray.

Now that's said...

I have theories on tube amps and turntables. My feeling is that cables, power amps and sources are the wrong place to color your sound. If you want to add euphonic tweaks to your system, do it through outboard, dedicated equalization and compression/expansion the way the professionals do it. Control your precisely and create exactly the sort of dynamic envelope you want. Don't leave it to chance or try to achieve it by trial and error through matching and rematching differently colored components looking for the right combination.

As much of your system as possible should be neutral- stone flat, accurate and clean. Thankfully, modern stereo equipment has nailed that. A midrange solid state amp sufficient to power your speakers, a modern midrange CD player with controls that you find logical and ergonomic and regular old cables that just pass the signal cleanly are ideal at achieving this... and they are very affordable.

There's one area that can be the wild card in all this... your speakers. There's no such thing as a neutral speaker. They are all wonky in one direction or another. You have to find the right set of compromises for you. This is the one area of home audio where the money buys you real sound quality. If you are going to scrimp, don't cheat your speakers.

Now... turntables. The CD format is hands down superior to vinyl. I'm not denegrating records when I say that... I say that as a collector who owns well over 30,000 records. (I have a warehouse to store them in.) CDs are perfect. There, I said it. No need for SACD or DVD-A. Forget high bitrate playback. It isn't necessary. CDs are what two channel sound recording has always been aiming for.

The reasons to have a turntable have nothing to do with sound quality. The REAL reason is that records can be had for a dollar or two a disk at swap meets and garage sales. There's a tremendous back catalogue of great music on records that will never be released on CD. The quality of recording, mastering and mixing in the early stereo era has never been surpassed. Records are fun with big pictures on the cover and liner notes you can read as you listen.

Anyone who thinks vinyl *as a format* sounds better than CD has never transferred an LP to CD and compared it to the original. With a good capture card, they sound exactly the same.

There's some more good solid info for the silent majority!

See ya
Steve

P.S. High standards and rational thinking are not dinosaurs. I think quite a few young people still hold those antiquated concepts! I'm happy to continue to try to infect more with the way of the dodo!
post #28 of 89
The problem with the "subjectivist vs objectivist" debate in audio these days is very similar to the one in US politics, the sides are far too polarized & adversarial, and on top of that they're both in coo-coo land.

On one had we have subjectivists who say hearing is all that matters and measurements are irrelevant and useless. On the other we have the objectivists who don't know what the heck they're measuring and the importance of said measurements and how they correlate to perceived sound quality. They pull out the basics such as frequency response graphs, THD numbers, and impedance numbers, and that's about where it ends. From there, both sides have endless pissing matches which accomplish absolutely nothing.

Few people bother to look deeper into the picture. For instance, let's pick on THD numbers for amplifiers. The THD number by itself doesn't tell you much, two amps could have a THD of 0.2% and yet sound completely different. What the THD meter is missing is the distribution of the harmonics; how much 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. The spectra of the distortion will tell you a lot more, yet this is almost always simplified into the "even vs. odd" harmonic debate, which only shows an incomplete part of the picture. The important part, as shown decades ago by D.E.L. Shorter of the BBC is the fall-off of the harmonics, it's acceptable to have 2nd & 3rd harmonics 50-60dB down from the fundamental, but 8th or 9th harmonics at the same level are a really bad thing. The higher the harmonic, the more sensitive our hearing is towards it, and thus the lower in level it must be for good hi-fi sound. Simple, but almost always ignored.

Then there's the endless tube vs. transistor crapfest, wherein it's claimed that tubes have euphonic distortion and solidstate is overly harsh. If they're "smart" they'll go on to claim that tubes have no high order distortion harmonics while transistors have lots of them. I guess they never looked at what happens when one runs transistors at 150V-200V and tubes at 15V. See here to have that myth shattered, scroll down a bit for the graphs. Gee, they look mighty similar, and not surprisingly, they sound pretty much identical. I have a set of high-voltage transistor amps which prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Few people in audio think or listen, they're too busy stroking their fragile egos in pissing contests. Many subjectivists are off in la-la land, and quite a few "objectivists" wouldn't know the difference between an oscilloscope and a spectrum analyzer.
post #29 of 89
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
I don't shove anything down anyone's thoat. I don't blugeon or tilt at windmills. I simply state what my experience has taught me.

You don't realize who our audience is here. It isn't the five or six willfully ignorant souls who snipe and pollute these threads over and over again. I have no interest in convincing them of anything. I couldn't do it if I wanted to. Our REAL audience is the thousands of readers who peruse this forum looking for information but never get around to posting.

There are people here all around us whose minds aren't closed to the subject, people who are just looking for straight answers to their questions. Even though I don't address them directly, they're the ones I'm sharing my information with.

If someone wants to blow $100 grand on a truckload of brilliant pebbles to cover the floor of their listening room, I really couldn't care less. But if they want to recommend that others do that, or claim publicly that it made a "night and day" difference for them, I'm going to speak up and call a spade a spade... Not for them, but for the people they might lead astray.

Now that's said...

I have theories on tube amps and turntables. My feeling is that cables, power amps and sources are the wrong place to color your sound. If you want to add euphonic tweaks to your system, do it through outboard, dedicated equalization and compression/expansion the way the professionals do it. Control your precisely and create exactly the sort of dynamic envelope you want. Don't leave it to chance or try to achieve it by trial and error through matching and rematching differently colored components looking for the right combination.

As much of your system as possible should be neutral- stone flat, accurate and clean. Thankfully, modern stereo equipment has nailed that. A midrange solid state amp sufficient to power your speakers, a modern midrange CD player with controls that you find logical and ergonomic and regular old cables that just pass the signal cleanly are ideal at achieving this... and they are very affordable.

There's one area that can be the wild card in all this... your speakers. There's no such thing as a neutral speaker. They are all wonky in one direction or another. You have to find the right set of compromises for you. This is the one area of home audio where the money buys you real sound quality. If you are going to scrimp, don't cheat your speakers.

Now... turntables. The CD format is hands down superior to vinyl. I'm not denegrating records when I say that... I say that as a collector who owns well over 30,000 records. (I have a warehouse to store them in.) CDs are perfect. There, I said it. No need for SACD or DVD-A. Forget high bitrate playback. It isn't necessary. CDs are what two channel sound recording has always been aiming for.

The reasons to have a turntable have nothing to do with sound quality. The REAL reason is that records can be had for a dollar or two a disk at swap meets and garage sales. There's a tremendous back catalogue of great music on records that will never be released on CD. The quality of recording, mastering and mixing in the early stereo era has never been surpassed. Records are fun with big pictures on the cover and liner notes you can read as you listen.

Anyone who thinks vinyl *as a format* sounds better than CD has never transferred an LP to CD and compared it to the original. With a good capture card, they sound exactly the same.

There's some more good solid info for the silent majority!

See ya
Steve

P.S. High standards and rational thinking are not dinosaurs. I think quite a few young people still hold those antiquated concepts! I'm happy to continue to try to infect more with the way of the dodo!
Of course I realize what you say I don't realize. Why do you think I called you the Ralph Nader of cabledom? You are clearly addressing the world at large or at least the forum audience at large.

You say you have an open mind--or is it just your audience that's supposed to?--but you state that you learned your basic view from your brother's friends 40 years ago and haven't changed. And your opinions about amps and vinyl and cds, etc, come across as very much inflexible, not-open stands the way you state them and then simply dismiss all differing views of others. I find them useful and creditable opinions, but I sure wish you could know what it's like to be on the receiving end of how absolutely and manditorily you assert them as if others MUST submit or be declared fools. Your reformist "passion" is what is inappropriate here--not the opinions but the passionate campaign to set others straight . Here we have gathered around another shared passion--the love of listening to music with high quality audio equipment. Stick with that.
post #30 of 89
I have to admit I'm intolerant. Intolerant of sloppy and magical thinking, sophistry, and grand unfounded claims.
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