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PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2009 12:48 am 
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Devonavar wrote:
- There is no universally agreed on standard for what 0dBFS means in terms of voltage.
- The 0dBFS = +6dBV (+2Vrms) "CD" standard that you mention has been informally adopted by most consumer level devices that output via RCA jacks.
- The "reference" line level of -10 dBV is essentially meaningless for consumer-level digital equipment because none of these devices contain VU meters, and what matters is peak voltage, not average audio levels.

I agree on all accounts. This sums up the discussion very well.

OJG


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 8:25 am 
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Devonavar, I agree with most of what you're saying, but I take issue with this:
Devonavar wrote:
I don't see the point of blind ABX testing because if you have to blindfold yourself to verify that you can hear a difference, the difference isn't big enough to worry about.

The point of an ABX test is so you know that the difference you're hearing is real. I've browsed audiophile forums, and posters will swear that they hear a difference between FLAC and CD audio, that they really need $1000 speaker cables, that putting a little chip on top of their CD player improves its sound...

So either you don't hear a difference, in which case you shouldn't include a subjective evaluation at all (but you did!), or you do hear a difference (you think!), in which case you should include ABX results prove that you're not just imagining it.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 10:14 am 
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Did I understand correctly that in the subjective evaluation, you compared the Xonar's analog signal to the HDMI/optical/coaxial while the source was the same and let the Yamaha do the digital to analogue conversion?

It would've been nice if some note was made about the Dolby TrueHD etc. HDMI-audio quality. I think that's what this card is all about. Whether or not it's worth it for the lossless HD-audio formats in comparison to say Radeon HD 4850.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 11:29 am 
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MoJo wrote:
Devonavar wrote:
As far as I know the 48x0 series is capable of outputting these formats as downsampled PCM after they have been decoded, but not bitstreaming. I cite the many posts on AVS forum in my support, as they seemed pretty sure it could not do it (this is why there is a 150 page thread in support of the HDAV).


On further investigation, that appears to be correct, sort of. The 4800s can output 8 channel LPCM, so can output the decoded DTS-HD. However, PowerDVD current down-samples as there is no API in Windows for Protected Audio Path (PAP). The Xonar uses the proprietary Cyberlink software to implement PAP.

So, if you want DTS-HD bit-perfect on a 4800 you have a few options. You can use eac3to to decode it without any down-sampling, or rip it with any other software for similar results. Alternatively, you can wait for Microsoft to come up with an API.

You only get DTS-HD or TrueHD with the Total Media Theatre software, it does not work with Media Centre or MPC-HC etc even with the Xonar, unless you rip :(


The Xonar uses TMT that is not from Cyberlink.

right now this card is the ONLY option to have bit perfect audio from BRs

Nik


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:03 pm 
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charger2000 wrote:
right now this card is the ONLY option to have bit perfect audio from BR[


Other than a dedicated BluRay player (cheaper) or ripping (more convenient).

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:40 pm 
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MoJo wrote:
charger2000 wrote:
right now this card is the ONLY option to have bit perfect audio from BR[


Other than a dedicated BluRay player (cheaper) or ripping (more convenient).

You win the Internet! :D


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 2:31 pm 
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jessekopelman wrote:
You win the Internet! :D


A WinRAR is me :D

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 3:34 pm 
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Devonavar wrote:
At risk of feeding the troll, I will respond to this.[..]I don't think you have to worry about any more sound card reviews from me. I'm too busy with my career as a location recordist to contribute regularly to SPCR.
I nearly forgot this thread. I think there's a misunderstanding. I checked the article again and couldn't verify any of the points I mentioned either. Don't know maybe I was high at that day or something? I am sorry for any inconvenience or trouble this got you into. Best regards, Lode.


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 Post subject: Benchmark
PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 10:01 pm 
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Devonavar wrote:
knutjb wrote:
PS Go to a high end A/V store and get a benchmark for your eyes and ears.


What do you suggest?

Sorry for the rant ... I really would like to know what's out there in the way of high end benchmarks.


I suggest looking at www.stereophile.com as a reference point. There are others but they come to mind first. Yes they review incredibly silly money stuff but they also look for the best bang for the buck including very cheap components. After reading some of their stuff look for a local store. Most high end stores are quite friendly and know it takes time to learn how to listen. No one walks into a high end store to drop a lot of money without carefully listening first. It's not all smoke and mirrors some equipment will sound better to you than other stuff. What impresses you may not be my cup of tea but it's what lets you enjoy your music. Avoid the MEGA MARTS!! You need a well set up room with a knowledgable salesman and music/video the you know really well. All audio equipment does not sound alike. For pure toe tapping into the music system I have is a Denon DVD-2500 plugged into a McIntosh MC225 25 watt tube amp driving B&W 805s with Kimber Kable PBJ interconnect and 8TC speaker cable in a 12x14 room. It doesn't get LOUD but images incedibly well. Kids put further investment on hold. Most of the time I have a Denon AVR 2805 with 5 Klipsch RB-25s and an HSU VTF Mk II Sub to watch movies/tv, it's not nearly as good on music but rumbles nicely for movies. Each has its forte.

In the end either you can't hear a difference, which I doubt, or you can hear the difference in sound and have a new hobby.

I found your article interesting and want to see more along the same lines. Sound cards have been neglected but are a must if HTPC is to take off commercially.

Pink Floyd note: Dark Side ot the Moon was originally mixed for quadraphonic playback hence the well defined insturment and special effect sounds. The part where the guy is running it was from speaker to speaker in a circle on a quad system.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 11:40 pm 
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Scoop wrote:
Did I understand correctly that in the subjective evaluation, you compared the Xonar's analog signal to the HDMI/optical/coaxial while the source was the same and let the Yamaha do the digital to analogue conversion?

It would've been nice if some note was made about the Dolby TrueHD etc. HDMI-audio quality. I think that's what this card is all about. Whether or not it's worth it for the lossless HD-audio formats in comparison to say Radeon HD 4850.


Yes, you understood correctly, though the only digital source compared was optical. I don't buy that they could possibly sound any different because of the sound card (differences in processing in my receiver, maybe). HDMI can't run concurrently with analogue anyway due to HDCP restrictions that are built into the Xonar's driver. It's simply impossible to select both — maybe a Linux driver will provide this functionality, since it's quite possible the hardware could do it when HDCP *isn't* involved.

Dolby TrueHD / full res bitstreaming was not tested because

a) we don't have a receiver than can decode it, and

b) There is no difference at all for the vast majority of sources because 99% of sources are 48 / 16 releases anyway, so no downsampling occurs. Barring bugs or intentional quality degradation, the PCM audio from a Dolby TrueHD bitstream and the decoded PCM version should be identical for most discs out there. The users on the AVS forum thread for the HDAV1.3 had to go out of their way to find 96 kHz sources to test with.

c) The only possible difference there could be is the difference between a source that is 96 / 24 and 48 / 16. This difference is not audible to most people on most systems. Yes, if you have a studio, you might hear a difference (especially if you are heavily processing the audio within that studio), but for playback only purposes, it's not worth it. If you really want to know the difference and you think you have the hearing and the system to distinguish, it's not hard to put together a test yourself. You don't need a Dolby TrueHD source ... just find a lossless 96/24 recording and ABX that against the same file downsampled to 48/16. You might even be able to find test files floating out there on the web already. This will tell you far more than our review could.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 11:54 pm 
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smably wrote:
The point of an ABX test is so you know that the difference you're hearing is real. I've browsed audiophile forums, and posters will swear that they hear a difference between FLAC and CD audio, that they really need $1000 speaker cables, that putting a little chip on top of their CD player improves its sound...

So either you don't hear a difference, in which case you shouldn't include a subjective evaluation at all (but you did!), or you do hear a difference (you think!), in which case you should include ABX results prove that you're not just imagining it.


There are differences and differences. I don't need an ABX to tell that there is a real, audible difference between 32 kHz and 48 kHz audio, or between a Metallica song before it has been victimized by loudness war compression and after. My point is that, if you've reached the point where you need ABX testing to prove that you heard a difference, the differences aren't worth worrying about.

I do take your point that the differences in the subjective test were small enough that ABX testing might have been required to verify them (at least for my ears and my sound system). That doesn't help anyone else though... This was the reason for the strong disclaimer at the beginning of the subjective section. I felt it was more worthwhile to point out that the differences were too small to worry about than take the fussy attitude that I have to prove that I could hear a difference.

The problem is that, whether the differences are "actually there" to me on my system isn't actually that helpful in a review since it is limited to my own experience. There are certainly people out there with better systems and better hearing than me, and even if I couldn't ABX the Xonar's digital vs. analogue components, there could easily be those out there who could. I'm not in a position to make a definitive judgement one way or another, and I think an ABX would imply that I am, regardless of the result. The strongest conclusion I'm willing to draw is "There might be a difference. Try it yourself." An ABX test in a review like this is too easily generalized to be good testing methodology.


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 Post subject: Re: Benchmark
PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 12:07 am 
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knutjb wrote:
In the end either you can't hear a difference, which I doubt, or you can hear the difference in sound and have a new hobby.

...

Pink Floyd note: Dark Side ot the Moon was originally mixed for quadraphonic playback hence the well defined insturment and special effect sounds. The part where the guy is running it was from speaker to speaker in a circle on a quad system.


Hmm, just checked my Dark Side LP, and unfortunately, it's not in quad (not that I have a quad turntable anyway, but still...)

I've read my share of Stereophile reviews, though I've never paid close attention to their benchmarks. I'll take a closer look.

My problem is that I can hear the difference, but for the most part, the differences don't have a huge impact on my enjoyment of the music. For the most part, I hate the way high end audio forces me to analyze the music rather than groove to it. Maybe this is just because I only hear high end audio in "demo" situations, I don't know. I do get extremely picky about my *recording* gear, but the playback side just doesn't get me that excited.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:03 am 
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ojg wrote:
I agree on all accounts. This sums up the discussion very well.

OJG


Finally got around to updating the article with the correct line levels. For the most part, the article didn't need much ... most of what I changed was to tone down the language in view of the fact that the levels are really only 4 dB above what is expected, but the basic conclusion didn't change since I *did* have a problem with distortion at high levels.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 2:21 am 
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Devonavar wrote:
I don't need an ABX to tell that there is a real, audible difference between 32 kHz and 48 kHz audio


Yes you do.

The whole point about ABX is not to prove differences where the differences are very small and you are not sure if you are hearing them, but to disprove differences when you think you can hear them.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 2:09 pm 
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MoJo wrote:
Devonavar wrote:
I don't need an ABX to tell that there is a real, audible difference between 32 kHz and 48 kHz audio


Yes you do.

The whole point about ABX is not to prove differences where the differences are very small and you are not sure if you are hearing them, but to disprove differences when you think you can hear them.


I *think* I can hear a difference between my mother's voice and my father's voice. Do I need an ABX to prove that I'm hearing one or the other? I suppose you're right that I probably can't *prove* there's a difference without doing some sort of objective investigation such an an ABX. But, once the difference gets big enough, it's not unreasonable to make judgements based on that difference without needing to "prove" it with an ABX. I certainly don't need an ABX before responding to my father by name (rather than my mother's name) when I hear his voice.

For me, the difference between 32 kHz and 48 kHz is like this, though I suppose I shouldn't generalize since there are certainly sources out there where there *isn't* a distinguishable difference (i.e. sources with no high frequency content above 16 kHz). But, assuming a reasonably complex source, the difference between 32 and 48 kHz audio is obvious enough that I don't feel compelled to prove it; I simply act according to what my ears tell me, i.e. something is interfering with my high frequency content.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 2:47 pm 
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Devonavar wrote:
I *think* I can hear a difference between my mother's voice and my father's voice. Do I need an ABX to prove that I'm hearing one or the other? I suppose you're right that I probably can't *prove* there's a difference without doing some sort of objective investigation such an an ABX. But, once the difference gets big enough, it's not unreasonable to make judgements based on that difference without needing to "prove" it with an ABX. I certainly don't need an ABX before responding to my father by name (rather than my mother's name) when I hear his voice.


Yes, but no-one would question that. People do question if you can hear the difference between cables, between 32KHz and 48KHz and between downsampled TrueHD and pure TrueHD.

Don't they teach the scientific method at school any more?

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 3:00 pm 
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MoJo wrote:
Yes, but no-one would question that. People do question if you can hear the difference between cables, between 32KHz and 48KHz and between downsampled TrueHD and pure TrueHD.

Don't they teach the scientific method at school any more?


Hmm, I think the problem is that I have misjudged my example. I had thought 32 vs 48 kHz audio would be a relatively uncontroversial example of an obvious difference. I'm not sure what the comment about scientific method was directed at...


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 3:12 pm 
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I am winning so hard at this thread :D

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2009 8:05 am 
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Devonavar wrote:
I had thought 32 vs 48 kHz audio would be a relatively uncontroversial example of an obvious difference.
Try 32kbps streaming net radio versus CD. That's a big difference that everyone with normal hearing can identify.

The funny thing about ABX testing is that even when it proves the audibility of small differences, it says nothing other than "a difference exists." Identifying exactly what that difference sounds like still requires a capable listener. And, more importantly for this discussion, deciding which sound is "better" demands subjective interpretation.

I've had the objectivists' dream test in mind for 10 years now. Let's test the differences between, e.g., 2 amplifiers by measuring the speakers' diaphragm motion. Laser rangefinding with MHz bandwidth should display exactly what happens when changing the amp. However, unless the test measured no difference, we'd still be left with the subjectivists' question: "And this means what?"


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2009 10:00 am 
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HammerSandwich wrote:
Try 32kbps streaming net radio versus CD.

Note how kbps is not the same unit as kHz ;)


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2009 11:06 am 
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HammerSandwich wrote:
Devonavar wrote:
I had thought 32 vs 48 kHz audio would be a relatively uncontroversial example of an obvious difference.
Try 32kbps streaming net radio versus CD. That's a big difference that everyone with normal hearing can identify.


Kbps != KHz.

Quote:
The funny thing about ABX testing is that even when it proves the audibility of small differences, it says nothing other than "a difference exists." Identifying exactly what that difference sounds like still requires a capable listener. And, more importantly for this discussion, deciding which sound is "better" demands subjective interpretation.


Being able to say "there is a difference" is very important, especially if someone is trying to sell you a £500 power cable.

Subjective things like which sounds "better" depend on the individual, and are thus impossible to quantify and pointless to include in a review. All you can really do is give people a description of the sound, which is enough to help them decide if they want to listen for themselves. Even here ABX testing helps, because it can help you establish what descriptions are real and which are not with carefully chosen music.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2009 11:41 am 
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floffe wrote:
Note how kbps is not the same unit as kHz ;)

MoJo wrote:
Kbps != KHz.

I can't tell if you are agreeing or trying to correct me, but I'm well aware of this point. That's exactly why I chose my example.

Do you both agree that such drastic data reduction provides a difference so audible that ABX testing is not necessary to demonstrate its existence? That's the example Devon was shooting for.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2009 6:43 pm 
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I don't know what the point is...
HammerSandwich wrote:
Devonavar wrote:
I had thought 32 vs 48 kHz audio would be a relatively uncontroversial example of an obvious difference.
Try 32kbps streaming net radio versus CD. That's a big difference that everyone with normal hearing can identify.

Devonavar and you are talking about different things :?
You could record "something" at a sampling rate of 32 or 48 kHz and tell the difference, is what Devonavar says.

CD is 1411 kbps, ofcourse it doesn't compare to 32 kbps streaming audio, even if it is compressed (whereas WAV is uncompressed).

[bit * kHz = kbps
16 bit * 2 channels * 44.1 kHz]


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2009 2:47 am 
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Devonavar wrote:
MoJo wrote:
Devonavar wrote:
I don't need an ABX to tell that there is a real, audible difference between 32 kHz and 48 kHz audio


Yes you do.

The whole point about ABX is not to prove differences where the differences are very small and you are not sure if you are hearing them, but to disprove differences when you think you can hear them.


I *think* I can hear a difference between my mother's voice and my father's voice. Do I need an ABX to prove that I'm hearing one or the other? I suppose you're right that I probably can't *prove* there's a difference without doing some sort of objective investigation such an an ABX. But, once the difference gets big enough, it's not unreasonable to make judgements based on that difference without needing to "prove" it with an ABX. I certainly don't need an ABX before responding to my father by name (rather than my mother's name) when I hear his voice.

For me, the difference between 32 kHz and 48 kHz is like this, though I suppose I shouldn't generalize since there are certainly sources out there where there *isn't* a distinguishable difference (i.e. sources with no high frequency content above 16 kHz). But, assuming a reasonably complex source, the difference between 32 and 48 kHz audio is obvious enough that I don't feel compelled to prove it; I simply act according to what my ears tell me, i.e. something is interfering with my high frequency content.


I think people feel that ABX-testing and similar is more important in audio than many other fields because of the amount of bogus-claims when it comes to audio. There are so many weird claims beeing made in all kinds of reviews that proper information is more or less drowned. I think that is why (quite a few) is so eager to get objective verification.

AtW


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2009 10:34 am 
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MoJo wrote:
Even here ABX testing helps, because it can help you establish what descriptions are real and which are not with carefully chosen music.


No, it can't. This is one of the points I've been trying to get across. ABX can't identify "real" differences — there's no such thing. Perception varies from person so person, and is subjective even in the context of an ABX test. An ABX lets me separate the "perceptual" part of my musical experience from the "psychological" part, and is therefore a useful tool for identifying which differences we hear are perceptual. This can be quite useful for filtering out the "psychological" variable when trying to listen objectively. But it doesn't eliminate the listener's subjectivity from the test.

If I ABX something, I can be reasonably, objectively sure whether *I* can hear a difference (given a particular piece of music on my particular system). If you must call this difference "real", call it "real for me". But, just because I can hear (or not hear) something, doesn't mean you can or can't given your own ears and listening setup. I can't draw any conclusions about the rest of humanity based on my own testing, *especially* if I have above average ears and an above average sound system, since this pulls me farther away from being a "typical" human being.

In the context of buying a $500 speaker cable for my own use, ABXing is a very useful tool for detecting snake oil. But, in the context of a review (or when listening for other people in general), ABXing is useless. Whatever the result, it will not be applicable to everyone. This is very important, and it is why I did not attempt an ABX in this review. If I had posted ABX results, this would have given the illusion of an objective test where no objective test is possible, and people would have drawn conclusions about the HDAV that might well have been invalid for their own ears and listening setup. Many people (like you) would have assumed that, because *I* could hear a difference, that difference was somehow "real", even if they were incapable of hearing the difference themselves.

I can guarantee you that, given an oscilloscope with high enough resolution, you probably *can* detect a real difference between different kinds of speaker cables. But, unless you can hear it subjectively, that "real" difference doesn't translate into a difference in audible quality. Whether or not the difference is "real" is irrelevant — it's whether or not you can hear it that counts. And, discovering whether you can hear something will always be subjective, no matter how much ABXing you do.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2009 10:59 am 
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Devonavar wrote:
No, it can't. This is one of the points I've been trying to get across. ABX can't identify "real" differences — there's no such thing. Perception varies from person so person, and is subjective even in the context of an ABX test.


That's the ridiculous. Subjectivity has nothing to do with it, either a certain human being can perceive a difference or they cannot.

Quote:
But, just because I can hear (or not hear) something, doesn't mean you can or can't given your own ears and listening setup.


That's why ABX tests are always done by more than one person. It's a basic scientific principal - results from any experiment must be repeatable.

If five people with undamaged hearing and good knowledge of how to listen to high-end audio can't differentiate two sources in an ABX test, you can be 99.9% sure that no-one can.

I expect you will argue that you might fall into that 0.1%, but since the odds are 1000:1 against you would be mad to believe that without doing your own ABX test to prove it.

Quote:
This is very important, and it is why I did not attempt an ABX in this review.


I was not suggesting you do ABX tests for this review. Things like sound cards do certainly sound different enough from each other for it to not really be worth while.

I was suggesting that it would be worth doing an ABX test to determine if there is any difference between pure bit-perfect TrueHD and down-sampled TrueHD from a Radeon 4800. To be honest that is probably beyond the scope of an SPCR review... It's more like something AV Forums should do, but probably won't.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2009 11:03 am 
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for godsakes, can you take your audiophile flame war somewhere else please.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2009 1:03 pm 
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Quote:
My problem is that I can hear the difference, but for the most part, the differences don't have a huge impact on my enjoyment of the music. For the most part, I hate the way high end audio forces me to analyze the music rather than groove to it. Maybe this is just because I only hear high end audio in "demo" situations, I don't know. I do get extremely picky about my *recording* gear, but the playback side just doesn't get me that excited.

I understand many in the high end to do that. If you tell the sales man you don't want the music under a microscope you want to enjoy it they should steer you to that kind of setup. I only suggest to listen to silly money stuff to get a benchmark of what is in the music you like. Then go and listen to what you can afford and find what does the least damage to the music. Typically the analog side damages through additions via distortion and digital damages through omission usually when compressed to shrink the file size details get lost. If you use common readily available equipment that others can find they can understand where your comments come from. I agree some systems are overly analytical and make great music with a flawed recording sound harsh most mid range equipment does not. The whole point with music is did the equipment make you want to tap your foot while listening regardless of it flaws. Did the XONAR HDAV1.3 provide good value or is it not ready for prime time? Does the XONAR upsample the data (i.e. take 16 bit 44K and make it a 24 bit 96K stream) which can make most CDs sound better or does it truncate the data (i.e 24/96K to 16/44K).

Look at http://whathifi.com/default.aspx you might find them more to your liking. Also search the DIY tube sites most are looking for pleasurable sound. Just because its old tech doesn't mean it doesn't sound good. There is a good reason vintage McIntosh, Marantz and others are still highly prized, they're not perfect on the test bench, they sound great.

In the end if your not tapping your toe to the music the system is not doing its job, time to try something else.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 1:49 am 
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MoJo wrote:
That's the ridiculous. Subjectivity has nothing to do with it, either a certain human being can perceive a difference or they cannot


Subjective means specific to one particular subject (i.e. one listener), as opposed to something which is true for all subjects. Whether there is a definite fact about what the subject perceives is irrelevant — it's the "certain human being" part that makes it subjective, not that subject's certainty about the content of his own experience (that should never be in question). That said, you address this in your next point...

MoJo wrote:
That's why ABX tests are always done by more than one person. It's a basic scientific principal - results from any experiment must be repeatable.

If five people with undamaged hearing and good knowledge of how to listen to high-end audio can't differentiate two sources in an ABX test, you can be 99.9% sure that no-one can.


I will quibble and say that a sample size of five isn't enough to draw the margin of error you desire, but I think we basically agree. I see no reason why the ABX process necessarily requires multiple samples, which is why I have been arguing against it, but, yes, in principle ABXing could be used to draw (somewhat) objective conclusions if it was used as part of a large scale study. But, note that the objectivity comes from the sample size, not the ABX test in itself. You could obtain similar results without ABXing if a certain percentage of your test subjects were able to identify a similar difference between two sources (you would need to take steps to avoid samples "contaminating" each other with the power of suggestion).

MoJo wrote:
I was suggesting that it would be worth doing an ABX test to determine if there is any difference between pure bit-perfect TrueHD and down-sampled TrueHD from a Radeon 4800. To be honest that is probably beyond the scope of an SPCR review... It's more like something AV Forums should do, but probably won't.


Yes, well beyond, since this is essentially a test of whether people can hear the difference between 48 and 96 kHz audio. SPCR definitely doesn't have the resources to run a large scale survey like this. I don't see how AVS forum could either, since there's no practical way to standardize a playback system (and space) over the internet.

That said, I think the point is already proven. I've seen / read about enough recording engineers who can point out differences between the two to believe that there is an audible difference, at least in a studio setting. (In other words, I have seen a big enough sample size to draw at least a minimally objective conclusion.) However, I wouldn't generalize this outside of the studio — studio quality playback systems (including room acoustics) are simply too rare in the rest of the world. I believe that most people could be trained to distinguish 48 vs. 96 kHz audio in a studio, but I know that outside of these tightly controlled conditions, the difference disappears quickly.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 10:45 am 
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Like most discussions of ABX testing, particularly the ones where it it is reified and turned in to the holy grail of science, a very important point about using science to make statements about the nature of reality is missed. This is the tension between reaching conclusions through naturalistic observation vs. laboratory experimentation. The natural observer is able to view the phenomenon in relatively unadulterated form, but has no control over the circumstances involved. This leads to conclusions that pertain directly to a real-life phenomenon, but are hard to generalize beyond that one observation as there is no control over the variables being assessed, and potential confounds abound.

So the solution is to take it to the lab, right? Where the situation can be completely controlled?

Not so fast. This brings in a whole new set of pitfalls. It is an entirely synthetic setting. By eliminating potential confounds, it also eliminates a whole host of other factors that are always present when the thing under study takes place in the wild. It is almost impossible to measure something without changing it, let alone manipulate it in an experimental design. So in this case, the threat to generalization beyond the lab, and hence a fuller understanding of what you are studying, is the lack of similarity to real life.

So what does this navel-gazing about the scientific method have to do with ABX testing? Simple. It simply has no relevance to how people actually listen to music. At least I hope it doesn't. Therefore its results can provide information, but are hardly the last word on how a component presents itself for its intended purpose, which is not being a part of a lab experiment.

So I don't believe ABX or any other type of lab experimentation should be abandoned, but it has limited applicability to truly understanding the complex psychoacoustic experience of enjoying music. Both objective and subjective perceptions have their place. But there appears to be a difference in how they are discussed. Subjectivists almost always give some version of YMMV. ABXers say that if they can't hear it, neither can you.

Other thoughts:

One reason it would have been nice to see some discussion in this review about how well the Xonar bitstreams the hi-res codecs is that it is currently the only PC component that can do so. Decoding them is quite possibly tantamount to unpacking a RAR file, but there is not yet a consensus on this.

Finally, Devonvar, I can't let your conclusions about vinyl pass without comment. To wit
Quote:
In fact, I would argue that one of the reasons vinyl remains so popular is because it blurs the audio in a way that hides flaws in the mix and mastering process.


This has simply not been my experience with any turntable Rega-entry-level or better. Aside from surface noise, the main difference I have observed between good vinyl and good digital is that vinyl conveys the timbres and textures of instruments more realistically. It doesn't blur anything, which can be unfortunate in the case of bad recordings.

MikeC, IIRC you have some experience with high-end turntables. Care to weigh in?

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