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kdboyce
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re: Audio listening enjoyment: Do technical specs matter?
kdboyce   10/7/2011 4:43:16 AM
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If you make and sell audio products, you had better get the 'objective' numbers right. They provide you the credibility needed to be and stay in the game. If you buy audio products, the 'subjective' stuff helps you enjoy it more and justify the price you paid. To help sell audio products, enlist those 'golden ears' that like your subjective stuff, and who hopefully are also darn good audio engineers who know what the objective numbers mean.

Paul.Pacini
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re: Audio listening enjoyment: Do technical specs matter?
Paul.Pacini   8/5/2011 8:35:58 PM
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Another aspect of the great subjectivist/objectivist is money. The objectivist claims a $100 amp measures exactly like a $1,000 amp and sounds just like it too when it fails to be reliably picked in a double-blind, ABX test. The objectivist buys the $100 amp and is happy while the subjectivist buys the $1,000 amp and is also happy. The contention starts when someone advertises $10,000 speaker cables that are directional, sound better, image better, help align the planets, etc., yet measure the same as zip-cord and canít be picked out with ABX testing. Is it okay to charge exorbitant prices and make preposterous claims to sell their speaker cables when itís demonstrably untrue? Caveat emptor? Is it okay? I honestly donít know. Iíd love to have their profits, but I have a conscience and need to sleep at night. Not everybody does. What about $485 wooden knobs that dramatically improve sound? (http://www.randi.org/jr/123104my.html#8 ) How about a magic clock-radio that synchronizes oscillation frequencies in your stereo to improve the sound? (http://www.machinadynamica.com/machina41.htm ) How about tweaking your stereo system by phone? Thin Iím kidding? (http://www.machinadynamica.com/machina60.htm ) Come on. This is why I tend to follow the objectivist side of things. Thereís too much audio-woo out there and lots of people supporting it. A fool and his moneyÖ

kendallcp
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re: Audio listening enjoyment: Do technical specs matter?
kendallcp   8/5/2011 6:02:49 AM
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"Subjectivists routinely insist that the differences they perceive among amplifiers, cables, and op amps, etc. are in fact objectively real" I share your bafflement with purporting like that. Nothing that you perceive can ever "be objectively real", though it may be related to some physical properties. Perception is subjective, as in, it's a function of the subject, not the object. "most subjectivists refuse to even admit the possibility that they themselves might be affected by unconscious bias" People will go out of their way to evade cognitive dissonance, even if this is beneath their conscious perception. Two comments, though, not intended to be mischievous: 1: is unconscious bias worse, equivalent to, or not as bad as, conscious prejudice? 2: "most subjectivists" - can you point to a survey? I'd contend that neither of us know what fraction of people who might be called, or call themselves, subjectivists, are in denial as you propose. "successfully identifying under blind test conditions the differences they claim exist" You're conflating all claims of subjective difference into one here. Some claims can be readily and quickly assessed by double-blind tests. Some take longer to tease out from the "noise floor" but are readily apparent to anyone with proper experience as a critical listener. A certain fraction of these claims, of the "you've gone too far" ridiculous kind, may well be of the type you suggest. But to assert that all subjectivists believe all those claims is as fallacious as to assert that all objectivists believe that listening to things tells you no more than measuring them.

rpell
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re: Audio listening enjoyment: Do technical specs matter?
rpell   8/4/2011 12:13:28 AM
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"Subjectivists shouldn't make objectively-oriented claims based on bogus [says the other side] physics, of the type that purports to explain why stroking your speaker cables with a rabbit's tail makes the system sound better." The issue is more fundamental than that. Subjectivists routinely insist that the differences they perceive among amplifiers, cables, and op amps, etc. are in fact objectively real. No doubt some of them are, but it's also clear from blind testing that many - perhaps the vast majority - *aren't.* Yet most subjectivists refuse to even admit the possibility that they themselves might be affected by unconscious bias - i.e., hearing what they want or expect to hear. They can't have it both ways. "At the same time, objectivists shouldn't make subjectively-oriented claims based on bogus [says the other side] perceptual 'theories', of the type that purports to explain why you can't possibly hear a difference when some change is made to a system because some inanimate detection process returns a null result." Sure, objectivists are sometimes guilty of dismissing subjectivist claims out of hand, although just as often as not they'll instead spend considerable time hypothesizing on the objective technical issues that might explain the claimed differences. This can make for interesting theoretical discussions, but ultimately leaves the question open. In any case, subjectivists are free to demonstrate the superiority of "their ears" over "inanimate detection processes" at any time simply by successfully identifying under blind test conditions the differences they claim exist.

kendallcp
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re: Audio listening enjoyment: Do technical specs matter?
kendallcp   8/2/2011 7:20:03 PM
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So it looks like we're not disagreeing about much at all then. Still: "when subjectivists make objective claims based on nothing but subjective impressions it becomes an issue" I think that contains the nub of what exercises both of us. Subjectivists shouldn't make objectively-oriented claims based on bogus [says the other side] physics, of the type that purports to explain why stroking your speaker cables with a rabbit's tail makes the system sound better. At the same time, objectivists shouldn't make subjectively-oriented claims based on bogus [says the other side] perceptual 'theories', of the type that purports to explain why you can't possibly hear a difference when some change is made to a system because some inanimate detection process returns a null result. Then we could get on with the job of both enjoying the technical fruits of our labours and, perhaps orthogonally, enjoying the improvements to the listening experience that we can make by doing occasionally contentious tweaks.

rpell
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re: Audio listening enjoyment: Do technical specs matter?
rpell   7/30/2011 2:29:11 AM
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"...by believing that there's a connection between measured performance and musical utility, one is subscribing to a belief system that's just as contestable as the position that objectivists excoriate subjectivists for taking." No one is arguing that there aren't many paths to achieving "musical utility." And objectivists for the most part don't begrudge subjectivists their choices of audio systems. However when subjectivists make objective claims based on nothing but subjective impressions it becomes an issue. "So it's important to concede that it's just as valid to prefer a product because you think it sounds better as it is to prefer it because of the impressive effort that was made to deliver a behaviour that's only of 'interest' to expensive, inanimate test systems." No one is disagreeing with this (at least I'm not).

kendallcp
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re: Audio listening enjoyment: Do technical specs matter?
kendallcp   7/29/2011 11:41:50 PM
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"added *psychological* enjoyment I would derive from listening to the amplifier knowing it was designed and tested with the goal of achieving the best objective performance possible " But what makes you think that this goal is any more relevant to its ability to reach you musically than is its colour, or density, or fragrance? The point (or one of them, anyway) is that, by believing that there's a connection between measured performance and musical utility, one is subscribing to a belief system that's just as contestable as the position that objectivists excoriate subjectivists for taking. We all suffer from cognitive resonance from time to time, sustained by a belief that we've made a good choice because it's aligned with our prejudices. So it's important to concede that it's just as valid to prefer a product because you think it sounds better as it is to prefer it because of the impressive effort that was made to deliver a behaviour that's only of 'interest' to expensive, inanimate test systems. I think some engineers think it's OK to mock subjectivists because they (the engineers) are convinced of the superiority of the objective position, on whatever grounds. The subjectivists mock back with insults about the deafness of those who choose not to listen. I consider both positions to be (a) regrettably confrontational and (b) of equal status. I listen, and measure, and just spend a lifetime contemplating why the results often don't align.

rpell
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re: Audio listening enjoyment: Do technical specs matter?
rpell   7/29/2011 9:05:47 PM
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"A firm objectivist tenet is that modern audio circuitry performs so well that it's not credible that humans can detect differences between sufficiently excellent implementations." I don't disagree. "If that's the case, you should have no expectation about your ability to detect any difference in the sound between this and other equiv-tech amplifiers." I don't. When I said I would *subjectively* enjoy the sound even more I was referring to the added *psychological* enjoyment I would derive from listening to the amplifier knowing it was designed and tested with the goal of achieving the best objective performance possible (within a reasonable cost). "But one can only take so many epiphanies before one realizes that there's just so much more to a truly satisfying audio experience than a bunch of numbers." I don't disagree. In fact this was one of the points I was trying to make in my post. "... let's not kid ourselves that the specs really tell you anything about the experience." Beyond a certain point, sure. But as an earlier poster noted, not all audio systems - especially many of those popular among audiophiles - can accurately be described as "high fidelity." In such cases the specs (if based on proper testing) may very well offer some clues about the audio experience one might expect.

old account Frank Eory
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re: Audio listening enjoyment: Do technical specs matter?
old account Frank Eory   7/29/2011 7:56:12 PM
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I have to side with the firm objectivist tenet, qualified by the observation that not every consumer chooses to connect all that excellent audio circuitry to a similarly excellent transducer. Case in point: iPods. Excellent specs from the signal chain point of view, right out to the headphone jack. But how many users still use the cheap earbuds that come with the iPod? The same could be said for many home audio systems. The signal chain and amps all have excellent specs, but many consumers go cheap on the speakers, nullifying much of that electronic excellence.

kendallcp
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re: Audio listening enjoyment: Do technical specs matter?
kendallcp   7/29/2011 7:39:37 PM
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Since I don't sell audio ICs for a living any more, I suppose I can hazard an opinion here. Rick, when you say "knowing that its technical specs are just about second to none, I know I'll subjectively enjoy the sound from it all the more", you encapsulate what some subjectivists believe is a hypocrisy from the objectivists. A firm objectivist tenet is that modern audio circuitry performs so well that it's not credible that humans can detect differences between sufficiently excellent implementations. If that's the case, you should have no expectation about your ability to detect any difference in the sound between this and other equiv-tech amplifiers. As an engineer, I started out as a 'specs are everything' guy. But one can only take so many epiphanies before one realizes that there's just so much more to a truly satisfying audio experience than a bunch of numbers. "Do you expect to dissect me with this blunt little tool?", Hannibal Lecter said, and he could well have been talking about an audio spec sheet's ability to touch your musical soul. Having said that, I'm proud of the results I've achieved in knocking out the few remaining ppm in the linearity performance of my own amplifiers! There's room for both approaches, but let's not kid ourselves that the specs really tell you anything about the experience.

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