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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. castleofargh Contributor
    normal music listening is an added condition. and even with something as unclear as "normal", it's a big one. another one could be a CD that wasn't mastered by a moron trying to prove a point. maybe we could also push toward DACs and restrict the claim to stuff that will not have a ****load of aliasing because the designer never understood how digital audio works. luckily those are becoming rare nowadays, but they surely still are owned by someone on the forum. same with treble roll off, we probably shouldn't have to bother with that, but some audio devices do roll off the trebles in a way that at least a youngster will easily notice at 44.1kHz. me, you and bigshot consider such devices as flawed, but others absolutely love them.
    also, perfect is a heavy word. I wouldn't use it for anything in real life application except perhaps to lie to a pretty girl.

    a claim is a claim, our job isn't to say that we agree when we more or less do. everybody already does that on the web. our "job" as casual science wannabe club is to apply the scientific method and try to disprove things. which I can with bigshot's statement as it is. of course I'll have to manufacture conditions for that to happen because I don't purchase weirdo designs and I don't have the years I once had, but the fact that I can disprove the claim if I work on it, means it is wrong.
  2. bigshot
    I'm happy to define normal listening conditions... a volume level that is comfortable and won't incur hearing damage- it can even be loud, a fixed volume level- no gain riding on fade outs, a program that consists of music- not abstract test tones, equipment that plays back the files faithfully- the way they were designed to be played... basically listening to music the way normal people do in their living rooms.

    We've been soaking in the what ifs and extreme exceptions around here so long, it's starting to affect us and make us crazy too. It's time to take a step back and focus on what really matters, not the crazy extremes. I leave the semantics to the nuitjobs. I am focused on sound quality.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2019
    gopack87, GearMe and castleofargh like this.
  3. castleofargh Contributor
    good. I take that. already under those conditions, it becomes really hard to disprove transparency of the format itself for a random human.
  4. bigshot
    The goal is to listen to recorded music in a way that requires no significant compromise to appreciation or relative convenience, yet still produces sound quality that is audibly transparent. CDs accomplish that. If you have to resort to extreme situations to the degree that discerning a difference seriously impacts appreciation and relative convenience, you are trying too hard.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2019
  5. analogsurviver

    Like using - headphones ?
  6. KeithEmo
    However..... what you have stated is YOUR DEFINITION of normal listening conditions.
    I should point out, however, that the definition is different for each of us.

    It's also interesting to note that a live classical concert will OFTEN exceed what OSHA considers to be safe listening levels.
    And, as we all know, many rock concerts exceed safe levels for extended periods of time, as do the levels many people use when listening with headphones.

    I've seen statements like this made many times on this forum.....
    "It doesn't matter if there is some tiny flaw that you can only hear if you crank the levels up to 120 dB - because that is far above normal listening levels".
    However, in point of fact, for people who routinely attend classical concerts, which do occasionally hit peak levels that high, 120 dB is actually not "above normal listening level" at all.

    You seem to be asserting that it matters whether music is reproduced audibly transparently "the way normal people listen in their living room"....
    But that it is foolish to worry about whether an audio system, or a format, can reproduce what we hear at a typical concert with equal accuracy....
    Are you suggesting that anybody who sometimes attends live concerts, where levels may occasionally top 120 dB, is "a nutjob"... living their life at "crazy extremes"?
    Or are you suggesting that, even though they occasionally encounter such levels when listening to live music, it is unreasonable to expect, or at least hope for, similar performance when listening to reproduced music?

    Note that I personally tend not to listen to music that loudly....
    But, considering how many people attend live concerts, I can hardly write off those levels as "not normal listening conditions" either....
    I would rather say that they are "louder than the conditions under which I personally prefer to listen to music".

    I might also point out that, with a lot of modern music...
    I don't see much of a bright line between "music" and "test tones"...
    (I would be hard pressed to find a test tone that hasn't ever been used on some modern electronic music album.)

    I ran across an interesting description of some "typical SPL levels"....
    Both for various sorts of noises and various actual musical instruments....
    Note that some unamplified instruments also reach well into those higher SPL numbers.


    Last edited: Feb 6, 2019
  7. analogsurviver
    Well said.

    I am of the "play it as close to live" variety listener.

    And, since the recordings available commercially, are compressed - in one way or another ( CLASSICAL INCLUDED !!! ) - I have been forced to start my own recording.

    A week ago, we had a listening session with two of my friends - on stereo speaker system. The owner of the speaker system is well aware of my recordings - and knew, more or less, what to expect. The other friend is vinyl listener only - CD player is in some remote corner, not connected to the system, with correspondingly high dust "cover" ( more than one year since he touched the ... THING )..

    And the vinyl listener was - shocked. Why ? DSD128 masters of course contain next to zero (audible ... ) noise and distortion. Dynamics is - shall we say - unbridled. I NEVER use any compression. And, these recordings of course do go quieter than vinyl - and also louder. He felt somewhat as a skier who has not been standiing on skis for a decade and more ... - and all of a sudden finds himself at the start line of some VERY difficult giant slalom at world class level competition.

    Two extremes have been recording of string section playing ppp - and the climax section of Varese's Ionization ( 13 percussionists at full steam ). During the string section, he loudly asked IF the music really was so quiet live - and the same question, this time if it was really that loud during the reproduction of Ionization, simpy vanished in all the majestic sound..

    I am even less tolerant of compression when listening to headphones - particularly for binaural recordings. I want, crave and demand realistic SPL - end of discussion. If someone would think that the AVERAGE level of listening as described above is high or higher than "normal" listening , I will answer that the average level is LOWER. But when the tympani strike at the end of a symphony, they should be both heard and FELT.

    That is WHY I mostly listen to headphones. Listening at peak levels described above are likely to give you troubles with your neighbours - and I do not want to worsen good relationship with neighbours with whom I have been living for decade(s)..

    I did write about listening to headphones using binaural recordings - AND subwoofer(s). TBH, I did NOT implement it yet - but, it WILL be done when the conditions get ripe again.

    Now, be a sport... and try to squeeze Mahler's 2nd - unbridled, unrestrained, without any concerns regarding speakers/neighbours issue - on CD.

    The closest came Telarc - BUT, it has been an original DSD recording. CD for binaural does not have neither the dynamic range nor frequency range sufficient to give it justice.

    Now, I may well be accused of using extreme composition ( from dead silence to threshold of pain in shortest amount of time ) - but it IS a real thing . I would have to go and count all the recordings of 2nd in my library - both on vinyl and CDs, as well as my test recordings exploiting the dynamic range requirements - but it is a double digit number for quite some time now. 2nd is an interesting example of studying exactly which measures have been taken by various recording engineers... even multiple takes by the same recording engineer - and just how much of the real dynamic range and frequency response ( bass in particular.. ) has been sacrificed at the altar of "compatibility" with less than optimum playback systems - not to say - listeners..

    On calendar stands 2019. Technically, there are NO more limitations that it could not be done. Question is, who will have the opportunity AND guts to do - RIGHT, for the first time.
  8. bigshot
    I'm using my definitions all the time. Not the definitions of people who spend half their life thinking about what ifs and talking about things they really know very little about.
  9. analogsurviver
    Without "what if" people, we would probably still be living in caves.
  10. gregorio
    1. How is that definition different for all of us? How many of us only listen to recordings of test tones and at uncomfortable/damaging levels?

    2. It would be "interesting to note" if that assertion were true but it's not.

    3. Me too ... By misinformed audiophiles or those creating the lies to try and sell something to audiophiles. Your "point of fact" is misinformation but far worse, as we've been through all this before, you are aware it's misinformation and yet here you are stating that misinformation as "point of fact" again!!

    4. Yes, I'm definitely suggesting that such a person is a complete "nutjob" because to experience 120dB at a live classical concert one would have to be actually sitting inside the orchestra and if a member of the audience attempted to do that, they would be removed by security and treated by everyone as a "nutjob"!!
    5. You're joking? You really can't tell the difference between say a continuous and unchanging sine wave and a piece of contemporary music?

    6. And again, without relative distance those SPL numbers are meaningless. A trumpet can produce over 140dBSPL a few inches away from the bell but when you go to an orchestral concert, do you sit a few inches away from the bell of the trumpet or do you sit many feet away in the auditorium, where there the SPL is probably 100 times lower?

    So here we go again, not actually discussing any science or facts, just refuting the exact same misinformation/lies we refuted a few months ago in this very thread. Round and round and round we go!!

  11. 71 dB
    2a. Of course, but what is significant attenuation at 20 kHz? 1 dB? 2 dB? 3 dB? 6 dB? Something like 3 dB attenuation at 20 kHz due to a "soft knee" filter is probably quite insignificant.
    2b. Yep.
    2c. Higher than Nyquist frequency content being folded into audible frequency range isn't necessorily audible, but it's technically wrong and against the principles of digital audio.
  12. 71 dB
    OSHA is primarily interested of the occupational safety of the musicians in the orchestra who experience much higher levels that the the audience and OSHA's remarks on this matter are totally justified. For the audience sitting at a distance classical music concert can be considered quite safe, because the dynamic nature of the music.
  13. bfreedma
    Until you test a hermit from Timbuktu at an altitude of 25000 feet while driving around a rock concert in a sports car, we know nothing...
    gregorio and castleofargh like this.
  14. bigshot
    Where do people get the idea that volume levels at classical music concerts are extremely high? Have they never been to a classical music concert? I play classical music louder at home.

    I think it all comes down to people not understanding what a decibel rating or frequency range sounds like. It's easy to fall into the "more is better" trap if you have no clue about what the numbers relate to in real world sound. I can see how that disconnect would be a positive thing for a commissioned high end audio salesman. But for a person looking for a system to play music in their home, they couldn't choose a better way to shoot themselves in the foot.

    You could chop off all of the content above 17kHz and I doubt it would have any real impact at all on the perceived sound quality of commercially recorded music. The whole argument about roll offs at ultra high frequencies is a complete red herring. Most music doesn't contain any information up there. This is just another example of audiophool goalpost shifting. Good enough is never good enough. Neither is better than good enough. They feel the need to push everything to the limits of possibilities and beyond even if it makes absolutely no difference whatsoever.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2019
    gregorio likes this.
  15. bfreedma

    They get it from quoting maximum volume levels of instruments and not the volume levels experienced by attendees. Either due to lack of understanding or having an agenda.
    gregorio likes this.
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