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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. Sgt. Ear Ache
    nobody under the age of 30 has ever suggested to me that the $3000 amp he just purchased is "night and day" better than the $500 amp he had before. That's the guy I'm interested in. I want that guy to show me in a blind test that he can actually hear a difference. Or, the 50 year old guy claiming the new rca cables he just dropped $400 on are worlds better than the $20 ones he replaced. No 12 year old kid has ever tried to convince me my amp needs 300 hours of burn in to sound right, lol...
    PMAismycity likes this.
  2. analogsurviver
    Count me then as Nobody.

    I developed and build electrostatic headphone system - better than anything that will ever be allowed to be sold as a commercially available product. Current levels for the performance found to be required are, unfortunately, lethal.

    You can't buy such a thing - nor can you put price on it. It can only be if the person behind it is driven by the passion that can not be satisfied before the final goal is not reached - at least not a VERY good approximation of what is desired and lusted for. And you put in it whatever you can think of , are able to find/steal/procure ... and repeat that until the goal is reached.

    Over days, weeks, months, years... - because you know - EXACTLY - what you want to achieve, cost be damned.

    I did that. From around 1984 to 1988. By upping - bit by bit, quite literally - the quality of the parts. And it was - procure, literally - because certain parts were not available off the shelf, at any cost.

    And you can only find out the time required for something never available before to reach its final performance in one way

    It was everything Jecklin Float SHOULD have been - but newer was or will be. Before you spew out another stupid comment, please inform yourself what are the requirements of an electrostatic amp, capable of driving an electrical equivalent of Jecklin Float - directly. That is NOT a Stax kindengarten variety .

    But, technically, you are right. I did not buy a 3000 $ amp and claimed it better than my 500$ previous one.

    I had to BUILD IT. And it took all the money I could earn, spare, or whatever. For more than 4 years. From when I was 24 to 28.

    In those days, I have been the boogaboo of the whatever the hearing doctor is called in English; they had to repair and recalibrate their measuring rig, after I have proven the switces and dials they have been using were off.

    Certainly, my hearing can no longer be as it has been more than 30 years ago. I can no longer enjoy the carnocopia of different noises each bubble bursting on the surface of the puddle after the summer shower is making.... - for example. Each bubble bursting with a slightly different sound - one hell of a fun back in the day. But the experience gained over the decades sure gives me the ability to discern things in sound some much younger people never will - because, usually, they are either not interested, they have been told CD is enough but listen to MP3 anyway - or , plain and simple, have no NEED to ask for more. 12 years olds have grown up listening to MP3 - and are mislead to believe that is everything to be heard. That's partly THE reason why late teens today - after discovering good vinyl - are among the most valued customers. They certainly CAN hear higher frequencies better than most of us on this thread. And are willing to pay the price.

    It has been CD CD CD CD ....... CD from 1984 to 1988 - but "perfecr sound forever" HAD to be aided by the analog - no review of any top speakers - and particularly headphones - worth its salt could afford to use only RBCD.

    Today, things are exactly the same - only analog has been joined by the hirez digital. And the requirements for the amplification are more demanding than for amplification only required to cater to RBCD.
  3. KeithEmo
    But what would be the point of introducing measurements?

    Someone posted an excerpt from one of those amplifier tests.
    The authors heard a difference between two amps which they'd expected not to.
    So they investigated and found that one of the amps was clipping a small percentage of the time.
    Note the sequence there.
    It kind of sounds like science.
    They heard a difference...
    I don't recall reading how they first convened a major test to make absolutely sure they weren't imagining what they heard.)
    But I DO recall imagining that, if they hadn't discovered clipping, they might have tried a few more measurements, rather than simply assume that the difference must be imagined.

    Yet, oddly, whenever someone suggests that they hear a difference lately in this thread (for example between amplifiers or DACs).
    And someone notes that, well, yes, those DACs do in fact have measurably different filter characteristics.
    Everyone piles on with "proof" that "they must have been imagining it" because "we already know such a slight difference it couldn't possibly be audible".
    (In other words, they apparently know that, in this particular case, the differences must have been imagined, and those differences aren't worth checking out.)

    I'm totally missing any slight sense of discovery here.

    I absolutely agree that this thread includes a lot of useful advice...
    However, rather than ever discussing new things that can be tested, or discoveries that might be made, or even reasons why old tests just might be wrong...
    All I keep seeing is a total rehash of a few very old, and mostly somewhat dubious, tests...
    Interestingly, real scientists generally delight in analyzing each other's work, and picking apart the flaws...
    Most real scientists have this idea that it's what drives them to find flaws in old tests...
    Which, in turn, helps them devise better tests...
    Which sometimes leads to finding out new and interesting things...

    In fact, from the attitude I'm seeing from many people here, I can't quite figure out how the thread has gotten so long.

    All we really need is two posts....
    The first one could just list every test that's already been run, and published, regardless of when, or what flaws it may have, and suggest that we study it carefully...
    And the second post could say: "If you have any doubts, please read the first post."
    It could then be locked - because, obviously, as far as many are concerned, no further testing is welcome or necessary.
    (And there is absolutely no point to pointing out the flaws in any of those tests or suggesting their results might prove wrong or outdated.)

    And, for that matter, since apparently the tests run by Stereo Review in 1987 already proved that everything sounds the same, and found some equipment that "sounded perfect"...
    There isn't much point in designing any new gear either...

    Then we have BigShot...
    Who says he always tests every piece of gear he buys to ensure that it is in fact audibly transparent.
    (Since we haven't seen any published results of those tests it sounds sort of... anecdotal... to me...)
    Apparently it makes perfect sense for BigShot to use anecdotal evidence...
    But the rest of us are supposed to carefully avoid it...

    Please understand that I actually suspect that BigShot is probably right most of the time.
    And an awful lot of recent audiophile nonsense really is... nonsense.
    However, I'm not quite convinced that we should all buy some nice "audibly perfect" 1990's vintage gear and then stop looking.

    And, yes, when I started reading this thread I had sort of hoped it would be about designing and running new tests to find out new things...
    Which is why I find it a bit disappointing that all it seems to be is about "finding new ways to prove that we already know everything".
    (Or would that be "simply accepting that, since we already know everything, even thinking about finding out anything would be a waste of time".

    Perhaps I'm being pedantic about the semantics here...
    But it really seems to me that a better name for this thread would have been "Debunking Audiophile Myths" and that "Testing Audiophile Myths" is actually a bit misleading.

    However, for better or worse, it seems quite clear to me that there is no desire whatsoever to learn anything new here.....

  4. KeithEmo
    Now you're just being ingenuous....

    I'm sure we could pick out any kindergarten student...

    Throw a rock through a window...
    Record it...
    Play that recording for them on two different devices...
    And ask them if they hear a difference - and if one recording sounds more like a real window breaking than the other.
    We could try two recordings of an ice cream truck (if they still exist)....
    And see how many kids in our test sample assume each is a real truck and come running...
    I suspect they also might have opinions about which recording of a dog, or cat, or a bird singing, sounds more real...
    And it would be very interesting to find out if, with a recording of mommy's voice, they could tell the difference between "real" and "Memorex" with various amplifiers.

    In fact, with a little ingenuity, we could even get my cat to participate in a study of "which recording of a can of cat food opening sounds more realistic".

    I do also find it interesting that there are actually tens of thousands of tests run every year that prove this...
    Even though, of course, none of us is permitted to see or confirm those results...
    After all, they're either "top secret" or "unavailable"...
    It's sure lucky that we have a few privileged experts who can interpret them for us...
    Personally I would love to see some of those results - just to see what other interesting results might be in there....

    Incidentally, my first statement is both true and a sort of "truism"....
    When performing any test claimed to represent "the human race" it obviously makes sense not to exclude ANY significant demographic.
    Therefore, since children comprise a significant percentage of the overall human population, they obviously should be included.
    No "evidence" is required to "prove" than any legitimate member of a test population "deserves" to be included.
    However, it makes even more obvious sense to be sure to include members of any group who are reasonably likely to be significant.
    For example, if you want to find out "how fast a human can run", it would be sort of foolish to exclude professional athletes and tall people.

  5. Sgt. Ear Ache
    yup. And they found the explanation (which had nothing to do with the expensive one sounding "better" than the cheaper one.) Which is all anyone wants from you. Show us the data. Show us the (audible by human ears) difference between your expensive amp and the lesser one. Don't just say "I can hear the difference." You are an amp manufacturer right?? Surely you can show us the measurements you've taken that explain what you say you hear. If two things sound different, something as simple as a frequency response graph will show that right? This ain't rocket science. But no, instead of providing that you fall back on what amounts to "it's magic and there's no real way to explain it." Amps don't have to sound the same. They can be made to sound how ever the designer wants them to sound...but that isn't really what most of us want right? We want amps that take a signal in, amplify it cleanly, and then pass it on to the speakers. So given two amps that both profess to do that, what makes your more expensive one sound better?
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
    gregorio likes this.
  6. Sgt. Ear Ache
    That's amazing! But since anecdotes don't mean much, it's not that conclusive. Because nobody anywhere is claiming that you don't believe it sounded better. Were telling you WE don't believe it sounded better and that your golden ears are deceiving you.
  7. analogsurviver
    Said a driver of - say - stock Mustang/Cobra/Lambo/WhateverCommerciallyAvailable - to the driver who built by himself an Indy 1500 car - that has to be outlawed in a regular Indy 500 race.

    Out of curiosity - can you even take an educated guess at what are the requirements for the amplifier I said I built 30+ years ago ? Voltage swing, current capability into designated load ?

    Please make yourself a favour - and go and listen to any live sound event produced by acoustic instruments - from mosquitos flying trough coal shoveling up to symphony orchestra with choir and organ - and everything in between. Then ask yourself how close whatever equipment you are using comes to the sound of the real thing. Repeat improving that equipment until the answer is something to the effect of "next to none or very little difference".

    What I can asure you you will not find that path easy - nor, upon sucessful completion, find calling it to be deceiving yourself amusing.
  8. Sgt. Ear Ache

    ...to the driver who SAYS he built himself an Indycar.

    That's a significant distinction. You talk a lot about what you've accomplished in your quest for sonic nirvana, but you don't provide much evidence of anything. Sorry if that doesn't amuse you, lol.
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
  9. analogsurviver
    Yes, I DID build it. And decided it is too dangerous for permanent use, even for myself. In storeage since late 1999 - but, it worked without a hitch, for more than a decade.

    Goes WAY over any electrical safety legislation limit. You can joke as much as you wish, but lethal current is lethal in anyone's language - and is no laughing matter.

    Stepping down to Stax Lambda Pro/SRM1MK2 level was - sonically speaking - a sour pill to swallow; but playing electr(ostat)ic chair roulette on daily basis does not exactly sound like relaxing with listening to music. Cable insulation in headphones is likely to fail - and the loss of signal is the least concern in this case.

    On the other hand, no other amp can teach you nearly as much as electrostatic amp can - one HAS to consider factors that are not even mentioned in dyanamic speaker amp requirements.
  10. bfreedma

    As usual, you completely ignore the post you're responding to and go off on a rant.

    The level of self importance displayed is stunning. You can't even follow forum convention and respond below the quoted text to maintain context.

    I'm completely uninterested in your product marketing masquerading as interest in actual science. Have fun with absurd edge scenarios, flying pigs, A-bombs, and other attempts to deflect. You have convinced me of one thing though - I will not be considering any products from your employer.
  11. bigshot
    Let's play the Head-Fi Sound Science Home Game! Just quote one line and cite the logical fallacy that goes with it. Fill your card and call out BINGO! when you've had enough. I'll start...

    Reductio ad absurdum
  12. KeithEmo
    You seem to be seriously confusing my posts with someone else.

    As you say - I work for a company who makes amplifiers - among other things.
    And I can tell you that no two of our models have ever measured EXACTLY the same.
    There are always tiny differences in frequency response, or THD, or the actual spectrum of the tiny amount of THD that's present... or any of a dozen other things.
    And, yes, in many cases, even though they measure slightly differently, at least to me.)

    I am also the first one to agree that ANYTHING that can be heard can be measured.
    And there is absolutely, positively, NOT any such thing as magic.


    If you hear a difference, but can't seem to find a measurement that would account for it....
    - maybe you're simply not measuring the right thing
    - maybe you're not measuring it accurately, or carefully enough, or under the right circumstances
    - maybe you're not interpreting one of the measurements you've taken correctly
    - (and, yes, maybe you were just imagining it)

    But, just maybe, the 0.2% THD, which you're quite certain couldn't possibly be audible, really IS audible under certain circumstances.

    This was commonly the case back in the early days of amplifier design.
    An imperfect Class B output stage will often exhibit "crossover notch distortion".
    This is typically a "spike" of distortion that occurs right around the zero crossing point of the waveform.
    (At certain instants, the signal that should be present is entirely missing, which calculates to a very high percentage of distortion.)
    The result is a very high level of distortion - but for a very short duration - and a very small percentage of the time.
    And, if you look at the waveform on an oscilloscope, the flats around the zero-crossings with be quite obvious.
    However, if you measure the THD, using standard techniques for doing so, the readings will be quite low.
    THD is an averaged reading... and very short spikes of high distortion average out to a low overall value.
    However, if you look at the THD reading, and fail to look at the oscilloscope, you will reach an entirely erroneous conclusion.
    (And, more to the point, if, after seeing the THD reading, you'd concluded that "they must be imagining that it sounds harsh", you would never have discovered the truth.)

    My point, in the very general sense, is simply this....

    If what you think you hear seems to disagree with the measurements...
    You should consider taking a few more measurements...
    Or even, perhaps, examining the situation a little more closely, and attempting to figure out what you might have missed...
    Instead of just discounting what you heard as "something that couldn't possibly be true"...

    I consider this to be even more true with modern digital devices like DACs.
    The possible distortion mechanisms for this sort of equipment are much more complex than those amplifiers are subject to.
    And, with digital components, it's not at all unlikely that new sorts of artifacts and aberrations may occur.
    How DO you count the "distortion percentage" of ringing (where output signal is present when there was no input signal).
    And how do you rate the audibility of pre-ringing.... where output signal is present BEFORE the input signal that caused it.
    And how do you determine the "THD" on a lossy file - where entire complex sounds are omitted after being calculated to be "inaudible"?
    (For example, an amplifier with 50% THD sounds audibly MUCH worse than an MP3 file where 50% of the information has been omitted by the encoder.)
    The previous simple metrics for what's audible simply cannot reasonably be ASSUMED to apply to these sorts of situations.
    So we need more testing, in order to develop new metrics, which do apply, and which do correlate to what we hear.
    (And, no, the basic theories behind "rocket science" are actually pretty simple... and a lot of this stuff is in contrast quite complex.)

    And, incidentally, in the "grand audiophile scheme of things", and of comparing various products at different price points....
    The company I work for, Emotiva, is generally the one offering "the economical model with the good performance", and not "the expensive audiophile model".
    (So, if you want to ask "what makes the expensive one sound better", that would probably be a question for someone else.)

  13. bigshot
    I think you are closer with the first statement than the second. They don't seem like they are performing any kind of job here, they're just performing. I doubt that they have any purpose in mind other than to grandstand. If they pull these sorts of stunts in the real world, they probably get shut right down quick. It's only here in an anonymous internet forum where they feel comfortable giving free rein to this behavior. I can definitely put a word to it. But I won't because I would get in trouble.
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
  14. Sgt. Ear Ache
    thanks for that bit of information that has literally nothing to do with anything.
  15. Steve999
    @analogsurviver and @KeithEmo . . . Why don’t you go over and join the Audio Science Review forum and try your ideas over there. They are not so regimented in separating the objectivist and subjectivist camps because they are not so wedded to commercial interests.https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php

    There are some head-fiers who bounce back and forth. My guess is that they would be somewhat more sympathetic to your philosophical bent. For example, they are sympathetic to the idea that amps will sound different when you push them to the edge of their operating limits and will investigate exactly what is going on, and they do test audiophile equipment and enjoy impressive performance beyond audible transparency for its own sake. The general advice for the edge-case amp problems is sometimes just to turn the volume down a little. They have some moderate “believers” and moderate “non-believers” who have common ground in the middle and the forum has a very cordial posting style. They do lots of testing and measuring. Some of them have experience designing and building big-league stuff. Why not try your hand at it?
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
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