Justin Uthadude writes:
I believe some of my tubes sound different than others, and also believe it can be measured; most particularly in the extremes. I have a tube that emphasizes the bass noticeably more than another tube. I believe it would show up in a frequency response comparison. I haven’t performed any testing, nor have I read any test results of this nature on various tubes, but as I said, I believe they are different.
I too believe that I can hear differences between some power valves (we call tubes "valves" is the UK). However I would be very happy to be proved wrong in a blind ABX.
What if I can’t instantly identify the different tubes in an A/B, yet almost without fail can do it if given 3 days with each one?
I think that if you can identity the differences if given three days with each one then that is surely convincing evidence that you can hear the difference.
I am agnostic on the subject of cables. On the one hand, it is possible to me that there could one day be a test available to show those sonic differences some people speak of (and I hope Uncle Erik is on the ground floor of it), but I also believe whether there is a test or not, someone (not everyone) should be able to demonstrate it. Different wires transmitting electrons differently doesn’t seem far-fetched to me, but only affecting certain frequencies of electrons is hard for me to imagine.
Well I agree with you on the assessment of what differences there are likely to be with cables. Personally I think that these differences are very small, and that the reported differences are primarily auto-suggestion. I would be very happy to be proven wrong, I wish that the people reporting the differences would do some blind ABX tests.
As for psychological impressions, I admit to the following:
When I have my wife make me a playlist with different bit rate songs and I blindly rate them, sometimes I will rate an mp3 above a wav. (It could be recording quality, because when I re-listen with eyes open, I sometimes do it again.)
Personally I think mood has a massive influence on my ability to hear differences such as this.
I used to work with rocket scientists (really) and got to play with their toys and test gear sometimes. Like many of us, I think I have good ears. Although the tester said my ears tested very well, I saw the graph and it was nowhere near ruler flat, and it started sloping downhill way before 20k hz. I listened to some music and had to signal when I heard something wrong. Truth is they were introducing harmonic distortion, and there were times when I couldn’t tell until it got to 1%. (Notice there is no decimal point before the one). Truth be told, as good as I think I am, a lot of what we mull over on these forums is probably below my detection capability.
I think the part of hearing that, if you like, really matters for this discussion of what people can and cannot hear is the perception.
The amazing and marvellous thing about human hearing is its selectivity. The people who have been sold expensive cables really do have good reason for their belief that the expensive cable is better because when they listen to music through it, then it does sound better to them. I know this very well because I have experienced this myself.
The problem is that what they are experiencing is the effect of the highly selective nature of their hearing. This is auto-suggestion. As long as they know which cable is in use then they will elect, unconsciously, to hear the differences in that cable. For the listener it is absolutely clear there is a difference.
Until they do a blind ABX test...
In the blind ABX test the cues for the auto-suggestion are removed and so we get to find out what the listener can and can not hear.
So, for me the main issue is not, so much, about a measurable hearing capability (ironically), instead it is about the much more mysterious area of human perception.