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Testing audiophile claims and myths

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by prog rock man, May 3, 2010.
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  1. gregorio
    @Steve999 I suspect you might already have an understanding of why a recording will never "sound exactly the same as the real thing" but if you don't, KeithEmo's suggestion is IMO particularly poor. Think about it logically ... If someone doesn't know "why" then that's largely because they do not know or understand all the factors involved and if they don't know all the factors involved then whatever they "try and figure out" is almost certain to be at least somewhat, if not entirely, wrong! Furthermore, particularly here on head-fi, the gaps of not knowing all the factors involved will eagerly be filled with utter nonsense invented by audiophiles and/or those who sell to them!

    As the reasons "why" have been well known and understood for many decades (though apparently not by audiophiles), far better than to "try and figure it out" would be to ask someone who's aware of what's been known for many decades.

  2. Steve999
    @gregorio , thanks, yes I am aware of probably dozens of reasons why a recording will never sound exactly the same as the real thing, including your posts here describing the actual practices in the recording studio and the mixing and mastering process, far detached from the reality of sitting there listening to a live concert. And of course these are not things you would guess by intuition or pure conjecture alone, very far from it. In fact I actually originally put a devil's head after my post above but in the holiday spirit I was moved after the concert to change it to a robot head to lighten up the humor a little bit.

    @Phronesis , I second your best wishes for the holiday season for everyone. I could not help myself but pointing out the irony (if only indirectly and gently) of posting directly below @analogsurviver and his 40 khz remark when I was about to walk into an "unfiltered," if you will, actual concert, where there were no pesky microphones or recording engineers to get in the way of those wonderful ultrasonics.

    Interesting you mention the range from 10 hz to 20 khz. They did have an organ there that went LOW (below 20 hz but not down to 10 hz I would guess, just based on book reading type of information) and to my surprise they also had a bell ensemble as well as cymbals, snare drums, etc., as well as the chorus and the brass band so I would guess there was a very wide range of frequencies at play.

    @Killcomic , I think those are pranks but very unkind ones, quite hard on the wallets of others. One might wish the holiday season would get through to the people who sell those things.

    As far as the mono sound of concerts, I tend to agree. This concert (as well as other lighter concerts at this concert hall) was very entertaining as they had bells and vocalists in the balconies and boxes and other parts scattered about the concert hall at times so that you would be quite surprised at which direction some of the sounds from the performers came from at times. It's sort of real life catching up to the surround-sound of movies. I am very fortunate to live only a few miles from a concert hall with wonderful acoustics.

    @castleofargh , I thought you were better at math than that, the scale only goes up to 1336% snake oil. But I do agree that reaches to the very top of the scale.

    @KeithEmo , get out there and listen to some classical music! Start with the fun stuff! It can be quite breathtaking and thrilling. As with many types of music I am lucky because I started listening in my teens and tried to play a little so it sticks with me, but there are whole new worlds of music out there to listen to.

    @analogsurviver , get out there and play some music! No one can argue with that (I hope)!

    This was the guy who conducted the concert, a very high energy, fascinating guy--


    The chorus itself has won a couple of Grammies apparently.

    Everyone have a great holiday season! I am infused with good spirits from the concert, at least for a little while! :)

    A little holiday music in the Sound Science music thread would be nice! Please, drop something in there! Have at it! I'll look for something from one of the groups I listened to last night to drop in there over the the next few minutes.

    Here's a recent Youtube video of a couple of the groups I saw combined with the current conductor--it's about thinking about the people who have passed away that you used to get to see during the holiday season. Quite touching really.

    Last edited: Dec 22, 2018
  3. KeithEmo
    2) The point is that a test was in fact being conducted. By your claim, as soon as they found that those students couldn't hear above 18 kHz, they should have simply packed up and gone home. However, the reason they were conducting the test wa sin fact to try to confirm whether that was true or not - under specific conditions. When you conduct a test to determine whether something is audible, or able to be tasted, or able to be seen, THE FIRST REQUIREMENT IS TO USE TEST SAMPLES THAT CONTAIN WHAT YOU'RE TESTING FOR. You cannot say "since we know they can't hear it anyway let's not bother to include it". You make up test samples that contain what you're testing for, then you carefully measure them to document the fact that they contain exactly what they're supposed to, then you present them to the testb subjects. If you don't do that then you have an invalid test.

    3) So what? EXACTLY what is "a competent system"? Can you show me the specific, certified and tested, frequency response that the term "competent system" guarantees it will meet or exceed? If not, then that seems an awful lot like a matter of subjective opinion. I also don't especially care what you believe an SACD mastering studio should be able to do either. When we do real scientific experiments, we use equipment that is calibrated to traceable standards, or at least whose performance is well measured and documented. We do NOT "use equipment that someone we trust has promised is really really good". I'll be happy to agree that your favorite SACD recording studio can deliver adequate performance - RIGHT AFTER YOU SHOW ME MEASUREMENTS OR CERTIFIED CALIBRATION CERTIFICATES SHOWING TAHT THEY CAN. Until then it's just your opinion.

    5) I don't know what university you went to or taught at.... I went to one that taught science and electrical engineering. And, I can assure you, when we ran tests, we were required to document our procesures and our results in detail.

    1) And, no, I'm not waiting for anything there. The theory of evolution in general has been shown to work by lots of evidence... but, of course, it IS still only considered to be a theory... and some of the details are in fact still considered to be very much n doubt or incomplete. For example, do you subscribe to "punctuated evolution" or "gradualism" - or do you suspect that the truth will fall somewhere in between? Likewise for climate change. There seems to be lots of evidence to suggest that we humans are in fact causing changes in the Earth's climate. Yet, with all that proof, none of the current models seem to be able to accurately predict what is going to happen five years from now. (Oh, and, BTW, we already know that flying pigs exist, so can we drop that one?)

  4. KeithEmo
    I do want to add something - short - here.

    I think we're all convinced that holistic medicine (the part with super-low dilutions and "molecular memory") is bunk.
    And that there is no science whatsoever to even suggest a mechanism by which it MIGHT actually work.
    And that we're all equally convinced that any effects observed are due to some sort of placebo effect.

    HOWEVER, note that, because there are so many anecdotal claims, it HAS still been scientifically tested numerous times. and will probably STILL be tested in the future.
    Even though anecdotal claims do not constitute evidence that something is true...
    They quite often DO constitute justification for conducting scientific testing...
    - we will test it once because we all agree that the results of a test are more useful than a scientific conclusion (aka "eucated guess")
    - and we may test it again later because we admit that, since no test is perfect, we could have missed something, or something could have changed

    There is always a cost tradeoff between "testing everything to be sure"....
    And "only testing the most likely or most useful things because we really have neither the time nor the money to test everything"....
    And, in fact, sometimes we DO miss things.

    So, yes, if a million happy customers insisted that they did hear a difference with that silly block of wood...
    Then we WOULD be justified in testing it, just to settle the question, and rule out the possibility that there's something going on we didn't include in our calculations.
    (Maybe it contains toxic preservatives that induce hallucinations in people who spend time in the room with it :) )

    When I have a headache, I take Tylenol.... because, in terms of helping my headache, it "provides the best price.performance ratio"...
    A $3 bottle of Tylenol that very probably will work is simply a better deal than a $3 bottle of holistic medicine that very probably won't work.
    Note that I have quite successfully made an efficient decision without resorting to absolute claims I cannot substantiate...

  5. KeithEmo
    Perhaps sadly - or perhaps not - I have a similar reaction to classical music and paintings by the old masters.

    I can recognize their technical artistry...
    And, on certain occasions, I even enjoy and appreciate them.
    However, in the long term, I always lose interest.

    Or, perhaps it's like Chess....
    I can play chess quickly but not very well...
    I can also play chess carefully and slowly, and quite well...
    However, I find that, when I take the effort to play it well, it's more like work, and I don't enjoy it very much...
    So neither alternative works well for me.

    I have some really nice classical recordings... which I play and enjoy every now and then.
    And I even go to a classical concert once in a great while...
    But it usually isn't my first choice when there are other options...
    Ditto for jazz...
    (I prefer symphonic metal - preferably with female vocals.)

    The really sad thing there is that the recording quality on many modern symphonic metal recordings is pretty bad.
    Even worse, they're the sort of bands where, when you do go to listen to them live, you usually end up listening to a public address system anyway.

    And, no, I can't play a note....
    I took clarinette in music class in high school....
    After two semesters, I could play Chopsticks... badly...
    I never enjoyed playing music and never had a knack for it.

    Last edited: Dec 22, 2018
  6. Steve999
    I had never heard of Symphonic Metal. So I looked it up.


    That sounds like a genre where I would definitely rather hear a creatively recorded and produced album than a live recording. It seems like it would be incredibly difficult to capture the disparate elements without some great technical expertise and artistic judgment. I’ll look for what seems to me to be a high quality recording of the genre. That would be a good case study in everything that goes into making commmercially recorded music presentable.

    In the meantime I am listening on my main stereo to what I think is a 320 kbps ogg vorbis stream of a Spotify playlist of classical holiday music and enjoying the heck out of it. :) Only a matter of time until the din of the rest of the family kicks in and it will be pointless to sit out here for listening. . .
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2018
  7. Phronesis
    I think you guys are referring to homeopathic medicine, not holistic medicine (which is a general medical approach which considers body, mind, and 'spirit').

    I've looked into homeopathic medicine a bit, and am not actually fully convinced that it never works, or that any effects are placebo. Unlike the lack of good testing for audibility of differences in audio gear, there's been some good testing of homeopathic medicine, including with animals, and it sometimes does seem to work. If it really does sometimes work, I have no idea what the mechanism might be, and apparently no one really does. It doesn't seem to make sense that something diluted to essentially zero could have any active effect at all. But if it does sometimes work, then it works, and I'm not willing to conclude that the limits of our understanding of chemistry and biology are the limits of what's possible (and I've studied a lot of chemistry, biology, and biomedicine at undergrad and grad university levels - once considered a career change from engineering to medicine). Chemistry and biology are way more complex than circuits and transducer vibrations.

    Example, hot off the press:

    Last edited: Dec 22, 2018
  8. bigshot
    Obfuscation isn't limited to just snake oil salesmen and audiophools. I see people in Sound Science doing it all the time too. Abstract theory with no practical application and sales pitch with no practical application are two sides of the same coin.

    No matter if we are talking about science or sales pitch, it all comes down to two questions... Does it make a measurable difference? Does it make an audible difference in normal use? If the answer to either of those questions is no, you can go on discussing it, but it's a complete waste of time. Most of the comments in this thread fall into that category.
    gargani likes this.
  9. castleofargh Contributor
    apparently I'm a huge symphonic metal fan. I had no idea that I was, or that it was a music genre. IMO some of the names listed in the link really do not belong together even as a joke. but I can't remember having and enjoying so many of the bands mentioned for a specific genre aside maybe for classical music. today I've learned to name a genre I like without calling it rock ^_^, I'm making tremendous progress.
  10. KeithEmo
    You are quite correct.;; although even those definitions get blurred a bit.

    "Homeopathic medicine" often refers to the odd idea that some medicines become stronger the more you dilute them - based on the idea that the water you use has some sort of "trace memory" and "retains some sort of characteristic of the material even if no measurable quantities remain". However, the category is often considered to include all sorts of "alternative medicines" - including many that are taken in normal quantities.

    "Holistic medicine" is a very vague category... and is often taken to include a huge variety of "non-traditional treatments" - ranging from aromatherapy, to accupuncture, to massage, to various sorts of "new wave energy healing", and also "homeopathic medicine". The term is also applied to concepts like "treating the entire person instead of just their symptoms". It is also, at least around where I live now, sometimes spelled as "wholistic".... either to emphasize that idea... or to avoid the mainstream definition entirely.

    Both can be almost impossible to evaluate because, while "homeopathic medicines" do include those extreme dilutions, they also include more traditional "folk remedies" and "herbal remedies".

  11. KeithEmo
    I think my favorites in that general area would be:

    Within Temptation
    Beyond the Black

    Although exactly where the lines between "symphonic metal", "death metal", and just plain "metal" seem somewhat arbitrary.

    Many of WIthin Temptation's albums in particular are very dramatic, and sound somewhat lively, but have very little overall level variation you actually measure it.
    (Although, if you want a recording that's very symphonic, and includes a symphony orchestra, check out their Black Symphony and An Acoustic Night At The Theater.

    QUOTE="castleofargh, post: 14673266, member: 188025"]apparently I'm a huge symphonic metal fan. I had no idea that I was, or that it was a music genre. IMO some of the names listed in the link really do not belong together even as a joke. but I can't remember having and enjoying so many of the bands mentioned for a specific genre aside maybe for classical music. today I've learned to name a genre I like without calling it rock ^_^, I'm making tremendous progress.[/QUOTE]
  12. Steve999
    This is trippy music!! Why not post some videos in the Sound Science music thread!
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2018
  13. Don Hills
  14. Glmoneydawg
    The medical education system has been taken over by the pharmaceutical companies with shareholders that need to see return on their investment.They have lost the plot.If it can't be maintained with pharmaceuticals, it doesn't exist.So yes sometimes less is more.
    Steve999 likes this.
  15. Phronesis
    Definitely a system warped by financial incentives. Much bigger problem than money wasted on audio gear that doesn’t sound better.
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