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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. bigshot
    AudioThief, Opinions aren’t the difference between subjectivists and objectivists... what they base them upon is. If you ask a subjectivist, they will talk about their personal experiences. An objectivist will point to controlled tests and explanations of how things work.

    Both sides can go too far. Subjectivists run into trouble when they apply their own solipsistic experience to others. Objectivists go off the rails when they lose sight of context and start arguing in theory with no basis in practical use.

    There is an intersection between the two sets in audiophile circles. Those are the ones who think up complicated scientific theories to validate their subjective biases. A true objectivist should accept the facts however they fall. He shouldn’t cherry pick and twist logic to “win”.

    The other side of that coin is the person who accepts that they have biases and serving those preferences can be comfortable, but with things that matter, facts rule.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2019
  2. gregorio
    1. Show me in the document where it states that. You can't, because it doesn't. You've simply made up that false assertion to suit your agenda! An analogue (or digital) VU meter is a peak meter (technically a quasi-peak meter) and is therefore represented by the left graph, the opposite of what you keep falsely stating.

    2. Again, you're in the wrong forum. This forum allows and even encourages members to refute utter nonsense. In other words, I would be a jerk if I didn't call you out for getting it completely backwards!

    3. No, that's the last thing I'd want to do! I've worked and studied hard over several decades to narrow my mind to the actual facts and eliminate the utter nonsense that ignorant people and marketers try to peddle. I'm also narrow minded towards climate deniers, flat-earthers and anti-vaxxers!

    4. Again, there's your problem. You think you understand a lot and therefore give yourself a lot of credit but you've proven that you can't even understand simple sentences (let alone technical documents). Again, if you seriously expect us to give you credit for that, then there must be something wrong with you. What other alternative is there?

    That's not going to help, he's already been told and had it explained in detail, more than once. At this stage the only rational explanation is that he doesn't understand because he doesn't want to but then of course the question is; why is he here in this forum?

  3. bigshot
    Certain personality types latch onto forums and then aim at tearing down the most knowledgeable people in the forum. They see it as a good old boys club that is closed to them, instead of seeing it as a community where everyone shares to their own experience and ability. It boils down to insecurity. Instead of learning from others, they tear down everyone above them so they are the top influencers.

    Needless to say, it isn’t a strategy that works very well.
  4. gregorio
    1. Bigshot has it right. Essentially a subjectivist believes that his/her perception isn't a just a perception but is actual reality/fact. Therefore, if a scientific fact disagrees with their perception, then the science must be wrong. An objectivist believes that the demonstrated facts are the actual facts and if they disagree with a perception then the perception must be incorrect. There's tons of evidence going back many centuries that perception can be fooled and indeed music and most other commercial audio relies on this fact but to a subjectivist that's just a circular argument because reliable evidence is just a tool of science and science must be wrong in the first place.

    2. Unfortunately, some objectivists are extremists, they suffer from the same problem that most other audiophiles do, they don't know the difference between a perception and a property of an audio signal or don't fully appreciate it. For example, we can measure the difference between a HD650 and a more expensive/exclusive headphone and that difference, while not massive would probably be within the range of audible. Now whether that difference is a "gain" (or not) is a value judgement, a perception and therefore it can only be answered subjectively because there is no objective measurement for a value judgement. So stating there is "zero audible gain above HD650" would not be an objectivist statement.

    Not sure if this helps?

    Last edited: Jul 6, 2019
    GearMe and AudioThief like this.
  5. AudioThief
    Thank you.

    Well, I am at some sort of crossroads here. Since I found this sub forum and looked into it, I've had to re-evaluate some things. I used to own a bunch of headphones, the likes of HD650, TH 900, Denon AH-D5000 etc. That was until I heard e-stats, at which point I went 100% into that. I was/am 100% sure I perceive estats to be strictly better sounding to my ears. I could swear the Stax SR-007 mk1s sounded like crap out of the small 252s amplifier, and much better out of the much more powerful 727ii amplifier. The difference was not so staggering for the L300, in fact it was very barely audible (although I did perceive it to be audible at the time).

    I also upgraded my DAC from a modi multibit to a Gustard x20 Pro, again feeling it made a difference, albeit minor I felt it was worth it.

    Since then, I've sold almost all of my gear because I missed my previous estats (l300) and prefered their signature to the 007s. Although I still believe the 007s to be technically "better" to my ears. I feel a bit ridiculous even saying it, because who knows if there actually is any difference in "technicalities".

    So I have an issue drawing the line. Clearly, subjectivism doesn't make any logical sense, and its intellectually dishonest to simply say "I can hear it so it must be true". At the same time, I am having a very hard time coming to terms with basically 95% of it all being some figment of my imagination - If our minds were that readily fooled even when looking for the honest truth, what other facet of life is but an illusion - How often am I legitimately prefering something that is equal to something else, only because of some strange bias that I generally don't hold. And in how large of a degree does a bias work the other way, i.e objectivists refusing to hear a difference because they do not want to accept that some higher priced gear might sound better?

    By the way, @gregorio, I really appreciate the way you take your time to break down the posts you reply to. This thread is very tricky to maneuver for a beginner, and its much easier when I get it broken down and answered in that matter, I am sure it must be time consuming for you.
  6. GearMe
    I'd go so far to say that a universal 'Zero Audible Gain' statement (applied to transducers) is just wrong given that people have measurably different hearing capabilities, as well as different preferences, etc.

    For instance, some like the 650's, others the 600's, still others the DT880s. Some love the orig HD800, others the 800S, still others hate any of the Senns and would choose Focal, Audeze, etc.

    Basically restating Gregorio's post with examples but I gle..snipary of people that don't allow for human variability/preferences/etc. when it comes to transducers.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2019
  7. bigshot
    There is a third camp as well... consumerists. A lot of the audiophile business is based on churning equipment... always selling off something to pay for something else, usually with no specific goal in mind. There are people who don't really care much about music, they just enjoy unboxing new equipment and setting it up. The google like mad to read every word spoken about the component and try to convince themselves that they've achieved perfection... until the new and improved model comes out and the cycle repeats.

    Personally, I never understood this. I see my equipment as tools for a purpose. I want the thing that does the job neatly and efficiently. Once I get that, I use it until it wears out. Every time I experimented with buying something because of what other people say about it, I've been burned. In my system, the equipment is all hidden out of view. The projection screen is behind a beam, the equipment is all on a bar in the back of the room. I run everything from my iPhone. Of course the speakers are visible; but honestly, if there was a way to hide them too, I would do it.

    I'm interested in the technical side of things, and I am interested in the creative side. I guess I'm neither an objectivist nor a subjectivist. When it comes to electronics, objectivism works best for me. When it comes to listening to music, objectivism is OK to provide context and to analyze structure, but subjective appreciation is the end goal. I don't see a point in assigning human attributes to machines, and I don't see a point of seeing creativity purely as mechanics. Each in its own place.

    Nothing wrong with being a blend
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2019
    AudioThief likes this.
  8. bigshot
    You ask about objectivists having bias... yes. EVERYONE has biases. That's why you do a blind test to remove bias from the equation. It might be impossible to eliminate all bias, but if you get rid of most of it, you're ahead of the game.

    There are a few tricks I've learned...

    Price does not always equate with sound quality. The component with the highest jitter ratings recorded was made by McIntosh and cost a small fortune.

    Mechanical sound is always more variable than electronic sound. Speakers, rooms and headphones all sound different, even the same make and model. I have yet to find an amp or player that sounds different.

    Having a goal in mind is the best way to achieve better sound. Random swapping of equipment renders random results.

    Understanding how sound reproduction works is key to sorting out the bologna from the truth in audio commentary.

    Your ears are where the buck stops. Sound better than you can hear doesn't matter. So make an effort to find out the limits of your own hearing.

    Controlled tests are easy and inexpensive to do. Take advantage of return windows to do a controlled listening test. Return it if there is no difference.

    Music is what matters. Spend 10X what you spend on equipment on music and 1000X the time you spend shopping on listening to it.
    WoodyLuvr, AudioThief and GearMe like this.
  9. GearMe
    AudioThief likes this.
  10. KeithEmo
    I think that, when it comes to audiophiles, even terms like "subjectivist" and "objectivist" themselves mean different thins to different people (or perhaps it's just a matter of applying them differently.) According to the dictionary, something that is objective is "not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts", and the meaning of subjective is "based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions".

    When it comes to audiophiles I've actually seem this pair of terms used in several different contexts.

    In the context of the dictionary meaning, an "objectivist" is someone who always considers the things that measures best to be best, while a "subjectivist" bases what's best at least somewhat on their personal opinion. So, for example, an objectivist would say "a good solid state amplifier is better than a triode amplifier because it has lower distortion" whereas a subjectivist might say "the triode amplifier is better because I think it sounds better". Note that there is no actual disagreement on the facts involved... but simply a different choice of priorities. (Of course, a subjectivist might point out that, since there is no objective measure for "sound quality", there can never be an objective claim about sound quality at all.)

    However, in the audiophile community, I see a lot of disagreements labelled as being "subjective vs objective" that are really something different.... and a lot of that seems to originate from the fact that a lot of the subject matter itself is very complex and often doesn't lend itself to a simple objective analysis (which is itself a subject of disagreement). For example, someone stated in another post that "if we wanted to decide which amplifier was more accurate we could simply measure it" or "we could simply do a null and the amplifier that provided the best null would be the most accurate". However, in reality it's not so simle, because there are a long list of measurements we could make, and no set way to prioritize them.

    Which would be the more accurate amplifier?....
    - the one with a frequency response flat from 20 - 20k +/- 2 dB and 0.01% THD
    - the one with a frequency response flat from 20 - 20k +/- 0.1 dB and 1% THD

    Obviously neither is perfect.
    And you can't simply say that "the one that nulls with a smaller resulting difference is more accurate"...
    Because one or the other of those differences might turn out to be far more audible.
    To make matters even more complex, even though both may be audible, different individuals may find one or the other more important to them.
    (In that context, you might say that the decision about how to prioritize the objective differences was itself subjective.)

    Another thing I find is that many arguments supposedly between "subjectivism" and "objectivism" really relate more to other distinctions....
    For example, I find that many audiophiles, and most humans in general, really prefer to self-identify themselves as being objective.
    For example, a true subjectivist would say: "I like tube equipment, even though it is less accurate, and has more distortion, because I just plain prefer the way it sounds".
    However, in reality, many audiophiles instead adopt a pseudo-objective point of view (apparently "everybody likes to believe their opinion is based on facts").
    Instead of that, they claim: "Even though the THD, IMD, and frequency response are worse, tube equipment is still OBJECTIVELY better in some other ways you aren't measuring."
    Some may claim that "it provides a more holographic 3D soundstage" - as if that were simply a mesaurement we didn't bother to make.
    Others will actually insist that there is an objective yet intangible difference - which can be easily heard but cannot ever be measured.
    Note that neither of these is "true subjectivism" because they're claiming that the difference is a real physical thing and not a matter of personal opinion.

    A "true subjectivist" would care only what they personally experienced and 'felt".
    They would say: "I like it and that's all that counts" - and wouldn't bother to argue with others whose opinions disagree with theirs.

    In the case of something like headphones it's impossible to say that "one is objectively better than the other".... because the differences are too complex.
    Perhaps, to you, the one with the flattest frequency response is better...
    While, to someone else, the one with the lowest THD is better...
    And, to yet another person, both are of equal priority...
    And, of course, to someone else, the one that is the most comfortable would be the best ("if you can't stand to wear it them it doesn't matter how good it sounds".)

    Back when SONAR was being developed, the Navy chose to use electrostatic headphones for SONAR gear....
    Presumably, based on the technology of the day, they found that electrostatic headphones were best for discerning the sorts of fine details SONAR operators need to listen for...
    This agrees with my personal experience - that electrostatic headphones seem to do a very good job of making very fine details and textures stand out.
    But I'm not sure if this means they're "accurate"... or just that they emphasize details...and it's certainly a matter of individual taste if you prefer to have details emphasized or not.
    I personally DO prefer equipment that allows me to discern all of the finest detail as well as I possibly can.
    (And, in return for that benefit, I'm willing to accept the cost that it might make some flaws more obvious that I might prefer to overlook.)
    But, of course, that is a personal choice, and not some assertion of "objective superiority".
    AudioThief likes this.
  11. bigshot
    Bias doesn't just enter the picture when you test. You can reflect bias when you put the facts into context. You can cherry pick, employ logical fallacies, refer to unrelated analogies, and refuse to accept anything until someone proves a negative to you. The human mind has a million ways to skew the truth to the way it wants it to be.
  12. castleofargh Contributor
    and there you go again. extrapolating your own meaning from a graph that is extensively described and not at all talking about what was going on during the analog era. it doesn't matter that you safeguard what you obviously know to be wrong with a big approximately, that **** has nothing to do here and you decide to make the amalgam anyway for your own propaganda. you keep lashing out while using the "if it looks like a duck, then it's a duck" mindset which on many occasions now, resulted in you presenting something from over interpreted to strictly false, as if it was the obvious reality. so of course people react to your mistakes and explain them, like they should in this sub forum. but each and every time, instead of taking it in and simply admitting that you were wrong about something, you go all in as if admitting one mistake would put your higher anti loudness war purpose in danger.
    and that's where you're really bad at handling the situation. because to most of us here your reaction to being wrong about something is only seen as ignorance or worst, dishonesty. so after that you have zero chance to convince us of anything. but what's even worse is that there isn't a single individual here who's a fan of the loudness war. you've been preaching to the choir all along, and done a crappy job at that.
    I don't take any pleasure in kicking you while you're already on the ground, but the exact same situation keeps repeating. first time I noticed you to the point of never forgetting your nickname to this day, you were massively grave digging any topic somewhat related to dynamic and loudness war, that sure wasn't a fun way to meet. the next time I think was the fiasco about how you tried to make a point using the DR app without knowing how that app even calculated its numbers, and drawing all sorts of faulty conclusions from it. next was about compressors and how they basically were the tool of the devil loudness war, while forgetting how compressors are ubiquitous because their uses are many, extending well beyond just trying to stick a record to to 0dB. then at some point it degraded into sound engineers are bad at their job, and are trying to lie about the loudness war, which is the day you and another member put a target on your own back with pure and simple defamation. I've had to strongly act as a modo a number of times to settle that crap. and you can tell how Gregorio has been truly in love with you ever since(but don't worry just because he's the most vocal one, doesn't mean he's been the only one taking offense). there has been numerous other little events, of course always related to your idea that big dynamic is good, loudness war is bad, but again, all too often with your own spin to it that makes your argument incorrect half the time. and then we're back to step one. and as soon as the topic is completely unrelated, you act like a perfectly normal and reasonable guy. I said something similar to @71 dB recently(in a nicer way), you guys are just fine almost all the time, but you have that one trigger where you let your passion for something control you at the cost of reason. and just like I said to him, you're far from alone, you just happen to have your own very specific triggers. I have mine. in fact I have more than one and all too often I start writing a bomb to exterminate someone. but most of the time, I read the message and decide not to post. that's what Headfi has done to me. I'm not more tolerant, or calmer, I just don't publish on the web any and every thought I have. you could try that sometimes.

    I don't think it's an overstatement to say that what has been going on here is not healthy. nor does it help in any way to promote more dynamic music.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2019
  13. Davesrose
    I'm not really sure why I haven't unsubscribed again from this thread...as it goes round and round in circles. Page after page of Sonic Truth not having civil discourse as to the principles of the "loudness wars": I think the rest of us do understand there's differences with normalization, peak SPL, etc. Time and time again, I've just wanted to reference the best source:

    gargani likes this.
  14. castleofargh Contributor
    I've been wondering about that for at least a decade. and my conclusion so far is that people have their own subjective interpretation of what objectivism and subjectivism mean :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:.
    I clearly believe in an objective reality because the evidence supporting that is everywhere. and I clearly make subjective decisions. so what does that make me? my first guess was that it means I'm like anybody else, but apparently not.
    AudioThief likes this.
  15. bigshot
    There's a reason for that. The original post is a smoking gun and is probably the most important post in this whole forum. It's natural that people who want to attract attention to themselves and tear down the concept of controlled testing would latch onto it to tear it down.
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