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The Most Outrageous Comment by an Audiophile You Ever Heard (or Read)...  

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

This may not be the best place to post this thread. It’s really more about pseudoscience, but here goes.

 

In the early 80’s I worked as a lab tech at Digital Recording/SoundStream. That was the company put together by Jim Russell and Tom Stockham, two early pioneers in the field of digital recording and editing. I was just a wet behind the ears lab rat who really knew very little about the science of audio, but it was a great place to learn. I think I drove everyone nuts with all the questions I asked.

 

Anyway, we got letters from audiophiles. The one I remember most was from an audiophile complaining about the damage done to a very high end system by playing digitally recorded and mastered LPs through it.

Seems the digital music damaged the tweeters in a phenomenally expensive pair of speakers. Fortunately, this person was able to repair them by removing the tweeters from the cabinets and placing them in the freezer overnight…and in the morning the temporary damage was undone. Now I was (and am) no golden-eared audio genius, but this just didn’t (and doesn't) sound right to me.

 

Audio enthusiasts should not take themselves too seriously. I have made many poor observations and uneducated comments in my life, too. I can’t really fault some audiophile’s weird observations without pointing the critical finger at myself. Some folks just like their hobbies to be mysterious…

 

Anyone else have stories of outrageous audiophile comments?

post #2 of 24

Great post and story!  Though, frankly the most impressive part was that you worked for Tom Stockham.  That guy was recording audio digitally in 1962 and doing 16/50Khz in 1975.  Must have been an honor.

 

Flakey audiophile stories? It just might be that there are so many, so weird, that it's hard to single one out to post.  It would be perhaps more amusing if we could look at audiophoolery as something in days long past, but it's still very present with us today.

post #3 of 24

Not a story but still related, part of an interview on SP:

Quote:

Do you see any signs of future vitality in high-end audio?

Vitality? Don't make me laugh. Audio as a hobby is dying, largely by its own hand. As far as the real world is concerned, high-end audio lost its credibility during the 1980s, when it flatly refused to submit to the kind of basic honesty controls (double-blind testing, for example) that had legitimized every other serious scientific endeavor since Pascal. [This refusal] is a source of endless derisive amusement among rational people and of perpetual embarrassment for me, because I am associated by so many people with the mess my disciples made of spreading my gospel.

 

It's ironic that SP also has some very outrageous articles, for example where the writer thought that persuading people to hear differences between cables would make them hear what he heard (or imagined anyway) and when that didn't work insulted them.


Edited by xnor - 4/30/13 at 1:13pm
post #4 of 24
Fantastic post!

I enjoy tales of snake oil in every hobby or market. Nowadays my favorite forum has been the Summit-fi. The things they believe over there are hilarious.

cheers,
Leo
post #5 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by xnor View Post

Not a story but still related, part of an interview on SP:

 

It's ironic that SP also has some very outrageous articles, for example where the writer thought that persuading people to hear differences between cables would make them hear what he heard (or imagined anyway) and when that didn't work insulted them.


You know those people who start every review of some obvious piece of snake oil by saying "I don't normally go for tweaks, but this one...!"  And then you look at their history and they've done this dozens of times, all with the same disclaimer?

 

That's SP in a nutshell.

 

In film school I had a recording teacher who insisted he could hear the "steps" in a digital sound wave.  It was "harsh and jagged" to him, unlike analog.  I can only imagine he saw what a digital sound wave looked like at some point and made up his mind then, or thought we were impressed by his incredible golden ears to be able to hear the harshness of audio recorded at 24/96 even on a cheap pair of headphones.  He was an amazing teacher otherwise, but that part took a bit of effort to get past.

post #6 of 24
Quote:

Originally Posted by xnor View Post
 

Not a story but still related, part of an interview on SP:

 

Do you see any signs of future vitality in high-end audio?

Vitality? Don't make me laugh. Audio as a hobby is dying, largely by its own hand. As far as the real world is concerned, high-end audio lost its credibility during the 1980s, when it flatly refused to submit to the kind of basic honesty controls (double-blind testing, for example) that had legitimized every other serious scientific endeavor since Pascal. [This refusal] is a source of endless derisive amusement among rational people and of perpetual embarrassment for me, because I am associated by so many people with the mess my disciples made of spreading my gospel.

 

Poor Gordon. He was a good man. I came to know him in the late 80's and had the honor of working for him briefly in 1990 (as a reviewer for his short-lived Video Theater newsletter). He was convinced that the next step for high performance audio wasn't some new amplifier topology, or a set of cables, or some tweak or other, but rather the move to discrete multichannel surround which could better capture and reproduce a soundfield much better than just two channels. But even today when multichannel surround is der regeur for home theater, the music industry never followed to any degree. He was always rather bitter about that.

 

se

post #7 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by sethsez View Post


In film school I had a recording teacher who insisted he could hear the "steps" in a digital sound wave.  It was "harsh and jagged" to him, unlike analog.  I can only imagine he saw what a digital sound wave looked like at some point and made up his mind then, or thought we were impressed by his incredible golden ears to be able to hear the harshness of audio recorded at 24/96 even on a cheap pair of headphones.  He was an amazing teacher otherwise, but that part took a bit of effort to get past.

 

Oh yeah, the stairsteps. That came about from the much over-simplified "explanation" of digital audio which left out some rather crucial bits like the reconstruction filter and dithering.

 

se

post #8 of 24

I hate to propagate stuff like this, so I won't link to the site, but there's a one Dr. Diamond who, in the early days of digital audio, claimed an increase in "stress" when listening to digital recordings of Beethoven, and mounted a campaign against digital recordings.  Uh-huh.  And, apparently, he's still at it.  

 

One related digital stress test was to take an real analog wind-up watch and press it into your stomach while having someone press down on your outstretched arm to "measure" your strength.  Then, you do the same with a digital watch, and whoa-ho, you're weaker!  Ignoring the fact that the entire process has fatigued you...

post #9 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie View Post

I hate to propagate stuff like this, so I won't link to the site, but there's a one Dr. Diamond who, in the early days of digital audio, claimed an increase in "stress" when listening to digital recordings of Beethoven, and mounted a campaign against digital recordings.  Uh-huh.  And, apparently, he's still at it.  

 

One related digital stress test was to take an real analog wind-up watch and press it into your stomach while having someone press down on your outstretched arm to "measure" your strength.  Then, you do the same with a digital watch, and whoa-ho, you're weaker!  Ignoring the fact that the entire process has fatigued you...

 

Yeah, Mark Levinson (the man) got sucked in by the estimable Dr. Diamond.

 

By the way, "SACD" was just fine. It was only PCM digital that was "evil."

 

se

post #10 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie View Post

One related digital stress test was to take an real analog wind-up watch and press it into your stomach while having someone press down on your outstretched arm to "measure" your strength.  Then, you do the same with a digital watch, and whoa-ho, you're weaker!  Ignoring the fact that the entire process has fatigued you...

This is so remarkably stupid I'm not entirely convinced you're not just making it up.

 

I mean, I'm not calling you a liar.  I'm just saying I don't have the mental capacity to conceive of people who actually believe this.

post #11 of 24

And I guess it didn't matter how the SACD was created (based on PCM recordings for example), as long as the result was an SACD? x_x

post #12 of 24

Outrageous review ending by fremer:

Quote:
Switching to the DCC Compact Classic Edition, you get a superb combination of clarity, spectacular detail, a big sonic space, great reverb “hang time,” depth, visceral instrumental textures and depth-charge bass that’s not overdone and extremely well-controlled but perhaps a bit rounder and fuller than Wilson originally intended but that’s pure speculation.

So while I’d bet Capitol’s new LP issue was sourced from digital, it does sound very good and better than the CD version. Perhaps it was sourced from high resolution digital or perhaps the LP cutting process adds just the right amount of “coloration” to make it sound richer, fuller and more sonically satisfying.

If it was cut from digital do I wish it had been cut from analog? Of course. If it was cut from analog and I’m just wanking, well, if I find that out after the fact, I’ll let you know! So since the DCC Compact Classic version is OOP and probably expensive if you can locate a copy and since the Carl and the Passions—So Tough/Pet Sounds twofer and the WB single edition from 1972 is rare, this new Capitol issue is a good choice, particularly since the 180 gram pressing is absolutely perfect. My copy was dead quiet, flat perfection. My source at Capitol says Rainbo in L.A. pressed it. I hope all of their current 180 gram output is this good!
 
<END>

 

changed to, after he later found out it was cut from digital tape:

 

Quote:
[...]
 
So while I'd bet Capitol's new LP issue was sourced from digital, it does sound very good and better than the CD version. Perhaps it was sourced from high resolution digital or perhaps the LP cutting process adds just the right amount of 'coloration' to make it sound richer, fuller and more sonically satisfying, which it is. Still, it's a pale, thin and flat edition compared to the ones that are definitely analog.

If it was cut from digital do I wish it had been cut from analog? Of course. If it was cut from analog and I'm just wanking, well, if I find that out after the fact, I'll let you know! So since the DCC Compact Classic version is OOP and probably expensive if you can locate a copy and since the Carl and the Passions—So Tough/Pet Sounds twofer and the WB single edition from 1972 is rare, this new Capitol issue is a good choice, particularly since the 180 gram pressing is absolutely perfect. My copy was dead quiet, flat perfection. My source at Capitol says Rainbo in L.A. pressed it. I hope all of their current 180 gram output is this good in terms of pressing quality.

I just wish Capitol had used an analog master tape because this "clean, pristine" reissue will most likely bore the **** out of you the way CDs usually do.

Yes, it's better sounding than the CD version but it shares all of CD's worst qualities: flat, dimensionless, tinny, textureless and emotionally stunted.

Anyone who's bought this and thinks it sounds good can only think so because they haven't heard one of the good reissues.

Capitol had an opportunity to produce sonic greatness and instead insults one of Brian Wilson's greatest recordings.
 
<END>
post #13 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by xnor View Post

Outrageous review ending by fremer:

 

changed to, after he later found out it was cut from digital tape:

 


Ludicrously expensive cables: I trust my ears, screw everything else!

 

Digital versus analog: Screw my ears, I trust everything else!

post #14 of 24

Double standard, prime example of obviously not trusting ones ears (and ears only) in either case and dishonesty, which bring me back to #3.


Edited by xnor - 4/30/13 at 4:29pm
post #15 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by sethsez View Post

This is so remarkably stupid I'm not entirely convinced you're not just making it up.

 

I mean, I'm not calling you a liar.  I'm just saying I don't have the mental capacity to conceive of people who actually believe this.

Back in the early 1980s when CDs were new I was at a social gathering with several other engineers.  Of all of them I was the most skeptical.  We each took turns trying this "test", which had no control, no scientific method at all.  I raised all sorts of objections at the time, and after doing the analog watch first, then the digital watch (with the "tester" noting how much weaker I'd become), I insisted on doing the analog watch again.  Surprise, I didn't get stronger, I got weaker still!  At that point we all had dinner, and never went back to try the reverse order...digital first...it just didn't seem to matter.  We'd all bought CD players and loved them.  

 

No, not making it up.  Sort of wish I was, but sadly, no. The "digital stress" concept never really went away.  In fact, in an attempt to discredit the idea in the mid 80s, I tried to set up an ABX test where A was analog, live sound form a studio console, B was also the console but passed through an early digital recorder running "E to E", in other words A/D then immediately D/A. The digital stress people tried to discredit the 50% (yup, random guessing) results by claiming ABX testing was also stressful and reduced the ability of a person to discern subtle differences, and that the proper comparison would have to be to analog recording, not live audio.  

 

You just can't win with these people.

 

However, I have a valid reason why digital audio causes stress.  It's so much more real than analog that the recordings are more exciting to listen to.  Hows that?

 

Actually, you do have all the mental capacity you need.  I suspect those that latch onto the unbelievable as reality are the ones lacking mental capacity of some sort.  One of my favorites was the "Tice Clock", a $350 digital clock that, when carefully located on top of your audio equipment, eliminated "electron noise".  No, I'm not making that up either: http://www.stereophile.com/content/tice-r-4-tpt-coherence-electrotec-ep-c-clocks-specifications

 

The clock could only be bought from special high-end dealers...that's until somebody recognized the same exact clock at Radio Shack for $19.95!  Of course, if you only paid $19.95, the reduction of electron noise would be minimal.  Hundreds, if not thousands, were sold and it was reviewed with accolades...second only to the Audio Brick.  You can guess what that was, what it did, and how you used it on your own.

 

I've always been impressed by the need people have to hang onto the mythical and magical when reality is usually sufficiently amazing.  And, I know of no other field of science that is so unevenly populated with intense mythology as audio.  Don't know why.


Edited by jaddie - 4/30/13 at 4:40pm
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