What is sound quality, really?
May 18, 2009 at 6:16 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 29

Sinocelt

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According to HeadPhoneInfo's lab tests, the objective audio quality of the Sennheiser MM50 iP (as measured by instruments) beats that of the Shure SE530, which costs three times as much.

It begs the question: how much of our listening experience can be objectively, scientifically quantified? I know some will quickly dismiss HeadPhoneInfo's approach, but isn't it at least as valid as the more subjective approach of more traditional reviews?

In the present instance, does the Shure SE530 sound better in spite of the objective data, or does it sound better because of its price (i.e. because of a placebo effect)?
 
May 18, 2009 at 10:12 AM Post #2 of 29

KLS

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I am into this 'money wasting' hobby for about 6 months, and recently been thinking the same thing as you...

We pay more for better equipment/phones, and we 'adapt' ourself to it. It may not meets your requirements, but you 'force' yourself to accept that this must be it: this is what a higher price tag phones should sound like...Is this what placebo means
tongue.gif


Once you get used to it, it becomes your standards for judging other cheaper/more expensive phones.

I was a very happy owner of Sennheiser MX90 Style, which does not get much love here I think, and I discovered this forum which makes my wallet screams...I must say that upgraditis is a very scary illness, it hurts your wallet, making you confuse what you are actually looking for in the audio world: spend your time searching for better CDs, more enjoyable tracks, listen to music more, and always appreciate that phones produce music that is audible to my ears rather than critisizing its bloating bass, sibilance etc. Go to a local shops looking for new albums rather than scrolling appreciation threads from page 1 to page 200...
ph34r.gif


Yesterday as usual I listen to music as usual with my Super fi 5, then plug off the jack and insert MX90 into my Iphone. I think of the time that I know nothing about headphones (what is so different between a close and open phones, what the heck is the burn-in thing...). To be honest I was so touched by the sound of MX90. Ok it does not have a large soundstage and lack of bass compare to SF5, but it makes me remember those precious moments I had been spending with this phone.

That being said, I am researching IE8...

Perhaps what make phones different are their sound signature, and price, and the way you judge your purchase.

But my wallet just wont stop shouting at me
dt880smile.png
Hating me...

(Sorry for my bad english, just want to type out my expression)
 
May 18, 2009 at 10:23 AM Post #3 of 29

Duggeh

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Sinocelt /img/forum/go_quote.gif
According to HeadPhoneInfo's lab tests, the objective audio quality of the Sennheiser MM50 iP (as measured by instruments) beats that of the Shure SE530, which costs three times as much.

It begs the question: how much of our listening experience can be objectively, scientifically quantified? I know some will quickly dismiss HeadPhoneInfo's approach, but isn't it at least as valid as the more subjective approach of more traditional reviews?

In the present instance, does the Shure SE530 sound better in spite of the objective data, or does it sound better because of its price (i.e. because of a placebo effect)?



The data on the webpage you link to does not support your assertion. The websites testing may be fine (or indeed, it may not be, we do not know their testing rig) but irrespective, they draw invalid conclusions from the data and that data is too limited.
 
May 18, 2009 at 10:38 AM Post #4 of 29

Sinocelt

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Quote:

Originally Posted by KLS /img/forum/go_quote.gif
scrolling appreciation threads from page 1 to page 200...
ph34r.gif



Oh, I haven't done that *cough cough* today.


Quote:

Originally Posted by Duggeh /img/forum/go_quote.gif
we do not know their testing rig


We don't? Maybe you should have given their website more than a passing glance before passing judgment.

As for myself, I don't assert anything; I've asked a question. I can't meaningfully participate to this discussion I started, for the very good reason that I've never tried any high-end IEM.
 
May 18, 2009 at 10:43 AM Post #5 of 29

Gothamm

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interesting thread. More input from members please...


Particularly I wonder if head-fiers are going to be in denial, having spent so much time and effort on creating an ideal rig.
 
May 18, 2009 at 11:09 AM Post #7 of 29

astroid

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Overall I like the site, it reviews in depth and not enough sites do. The one thing I don't agree with is the use of the word better in respect to bass performance , they seem to think that a larger bass hump is 'better'.
 
May 18, 2009 at 11:11 AM Post #8 of 29

Duggeh

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Sinocelt /img/forum/go_quote.gif
As for myself, I don't assert anything; I've asked a question. I can't meaningfully participate to this discussion I started, for the very good reason that I've never tried any high-end IEM.


My bad there @ assert. I can't offer any more insight beyond my initial criticisms, I've never owned any IEM.

As for denial, I'm not touching that one with a long stick.
 
May 18, 2009 at 11:24 AM Post #9 of 29

music_4321

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Potentially quite a fascinating thread - I think you raise some very valid questions, and also provide some very interesting links.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sinocelt /img/forum/go_quote.gif
According to HeadPhoneInfo's lab tests, the objective audio quality of the Sennheiser MM50 iP (as measured by instruments) beats that of the Shure SE530, which costs three times as much.

It begs the question: how much of our listening experience can be objectively, scientifically quantified? I know some will quickly dismiss HeadPhoneInfo's approach, but isn't it at least as valid as the more subjective approach of more traditional reviews?

In the present instance, does the Shure SE530 sound better in spite of the objective data, or does it sound better because of its price (i.e. because of a placebo effect)?



 
May 18, 2009 at 12:13 PM Post #10 of 29

ClieOS

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Old argument tends to reinvent itself from time to time. Takes Etymotic approach to IEM's SQ as an example: They did some serious research two decades ago on what supposedly "is" the perfect in-ear sound reproduction, published the finding, developed one of the industry first professional in-ear SQ rating system which pretty much set a new standard in its own and even got rewarded with multiple patents - yet till this very day, some among us totally dislike Ety's cold analytical sound.

Sound quality is the perception of the harmonious blend of sound involving all of the sonic components. Since none of us perceives and values those components the same way, there is no such thing as an universal winning formula - no matter how technically advanced / good those individual component measured.

Spec and technical data provide a foundation for comparison, but hardly tell the whole story. If anyone with a dummy head, some measuring tools and a PC can tell you what sound great and what not, we won't be needing head-fi anymore.

Just my $0.02.
 
May 18, 2009 at 2:17 PM Post #11 of 29

charlie0904

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one thing i believe is "SQ is judged by individuals, not data/research."

if you heard what you like, that will be your standard.
your "perfect sound" would be the sound "tweak" by you and no one else. IMO
 
May 18, 2009 at 2:25 PM Post #12 of 29

Arjisme

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Sinocelt /img/forum/go_quote.gif
According to HeadPhoneInfo's lab tests, the objective audio quality of the Sennheiser MM50 iP (as measured by instruments) beats that of the Shure SE530, which costs three times as much.


You can measure objectively the frequency response, the distortion level, etc., which they do. You can also demonstrate objectively what one IEM's measurements are as compared to another's. But they did not objectively measure preference.

Quote:

In the present instance, does the Shure SE530 sound better in spite of the objective data, or does it sound better because of its price (i.e. because of a placebo effect)?


The objective data shows the two differ in frequency response, in particular. If they took a sufficient pool of test subjects and somehow devised a double blind test where they indicate which of the two they prefer, then they could make an objective case that one or the other is the generally preferred one (or there is no difference in preference). Instead, we are left to infer what people might prefer. I see the Senn with highly bloated bass in their graphs. Also, with a midrange dip. The Shures drop off at the high end (hardly news around here). So, two different sound signatures. Which would people generally prefer? If the SE530, is the difference worth the money? That's really up to the individual. This is why the best advice is to try to listen to the candidates you are trying to decide between before buying.
 
May 18, 2009 at 2:46 PM Post #13 of 29

jetlaged

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I guess it comes down to what your expectation of sound reproduction is, do you want to recreate that lush, rich, loud, complete sound of a live performance, or is music just a fun thing that fills the silence between the ears...?.

No two ears have the same frequency range,
Frequencies are attenuated with age,
There are many biological issues that can affect "sound quality" let alone the differences in sound quality induced by different electronic hardware, so, due to all these possible biological imperfections what constitutes good sound to me might not be your idea of good sound. However I can colour or influence the sound to my liking via combinations of different components, and then if possible I can still "tweak" the sound further to suit my ears, type of music, and mood with a EQ.

If you have "golden ears" and want to reproduce sound as in the studio then you need a understanding wife and a bank manager who likes to throw money into a bottomless pit
o2smile.gif
 
May 18, 2009 at 4:45 PM Post #14 of 29

eshepler

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This reminds me of an argument I had on another forum about whether or not I could hear the difference between a flac rip and a lossy v0 rip.

This guy claimed it was all a placebo effect and no matter what I told him, he claimed I just "believed" flac to sound better, because its "supposed" to sound better, and that I really couldn't tell a difference. He was all analytical and in my face with his science.

Like others have said above, you can't put an objective quantifier on sound quality. Otherwise, we'd all be sporting the same damned phones wouldn't we?
biggrin.gif
 
May 18, 2009 at 5:02 PM Post #15 of 29

barleyguy

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Quote:

Originally Posted by astroid /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Overall I like the site, it reviews in depth and not enough sites do. The one thing I don't agree with is the use of the word better in respect to bass performance , they seem to think that a larger bass hump is 'better'.


Agreed. This is a pretty weird use of the word "better". When grading studio monitors, which would translate to "analytical" headphones, what you want is every frequency on the graph as close to the amplitude at 1Khz as possible. So a big hump on the bass side would be considered "bad". Anything over a 3 DB variance from 1Khz is considered a "fail" in the studio monitor world. So a great big bass hump (10 DB?) would be an epic fail. The huge variances in the upper treble range would be a failure too.

I would actually consider the SE530 to be much better, because all of the frequencies are closer to the center line designated by 1Khz. That said, I think the SE420 is the best of the 3 (based only on the frequency graph). (EDIT: The SE420 shows a weird dip at 8Khz, which could be considered a fault. But that's where vocal sibilance lives, so if you were looking for "fun" rather than "analytical", it's not a terrible fault to have.)

EDIT: Another thing is, I think their isolation tests are useless for IEMs, for two reasons. The first is that isolation in IEMs is primarily a matter of fitting the tips to a particular set of ears. The second is that tips are designed for use at 98 degrees fahrenheit (the temperature of the inner ear), and will not necessarily work the same at other temperatures.
 

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