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Audiophilia: hobby or disease?
Hobby 17%  17%  [ 10 ]
Disease 31%  31%  [ 18 ]
could go either way 39%  39%  [ 23 ]
Your mom goes to college 3%  3%  [ 2 ]
We shewt people who use dem big purty words 'round here 10%  10%  [ 6 ]
Total votes : 59
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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 12:28 pm 
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BobDog wrote:
Edward Ng wrote:
But still, I like my sound, and I like it to be very good; I won't lie, my sound system cost me around $4-6K, but you know what? I'm totally satisfied with it, and see no reason to spend any more on it.
Then do not spend a dollar more :D ! You have already reached that zen point we are all seeking, envy you. This is not the same as saying that better gear cannot be had--but your music and movies should fit into your lifestyle, not the other way around!


And I am still quite convinced that there are plenty of people (particularly included in this thread) that would be perfectly happy to loop myself in with the lunatics. I consider generalization to be just that, generalization. You either do it, or you don't. It's plenty clear to me who is.

Especially since not one of them has acknowledged my point.

-Ed

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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 12:53 pm 
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Edward Ng wrote:
And I am still quite convinced that there are plenty of people (particularly included in this thread) that would be perfectly happy to loop myself in with the lunatics. I consider generalization to be just that, generalization. You either do it, or you don't. It's plenty clear to me who is.

Especially since not one of them has acknowledged my point.

-Ed


I will acknowledge your point on one condition, and bear with me here b/c this is just the extremely anal-retentive side of me coming out. No one here is prejudiced against Audiophilia b/c we all have met those people (or are them)...prejudice implies judging before any judgement can be made, i.e. never met any of them and just making assumptions on hearsay. Bias or Discrimination, on the other hand, is the act of judging a single person based on the actions of other similar people, which is what this thread is possibly rampant with.

/grammatical rant

I also own $6k speakers, but I got 'em for free :D . You just have to know someone who likes to upgrade a lot. But hey, if it's your money, you can do whatever the heck you want with it. We all have something that we spend too much money on....as long as you're still putting food on the table do whatever you want (OTOH, I know many in one particular subdivision who bought such a big house and nice car that they can't put food on the table....tsk tsk tsk).

That being said, I would never spend $4k to lift my cables off the ground :twisted:


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 12:55 pm 
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The REALLY funny thing is:

(1) I have GIVEN UP on hi-end audio, I just don't think it's worth it any more for me--at this time at least, so
(2) I decided to give HTPC a try, for fun, and
(3) I found SPCR a great resourse for my NEW hobby, but
(4) I have spent all my time here defending/talking about hi-end audio :shock: !

wtf :?: :?: :?:

Maybe instead of flaming my audio posts (a topic on which, I am pretty sure, I know more than most on this thread), and look over my HTPC specs, detailed a few posts ago (a topic on which I know little and am a total nubee compared to everyone else here), and give me some advice? Most of the hardware is already bought, but I am so very, very open to suggestions anyway!


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 1:14 pm 
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Green Shoes wrote:
Bias or Discrimination, on the other hand, is the act of judging a single person based on the actions of other similar people, which is what this thread is possibly rampant with.


Possibly? Possibly?!? Where's your doubt coming from?!?

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Last edited by Edward Ng on Tue May 10, 2005 5:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 3:43 pm 
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Do people make irrational buying decisions to make them feel better about themselves? And if the things they buy do make them feel better, is it an irrational decision?

Whether it is a huge house, fancy automobile, big power boat, extensive wardrobe, hundreds of pairs of shoes, bleeding edge computer parts, or high-end audio equipment, don’t many people buy more than they need or use?

The guy driving the huge truck feels powerful and manly driving it – it makes him feel good about himself. He may never go off-road with it, and may never haul anything heavier than a few bags of groceries, but that truck makes him feel good.

My wife probably will never wear the hundreds of pairs of shoes she owns, but they make her feel good. She loved buying them, and I think she feels a sense of power or accomplishment just having them. Those shoes, in a way, give her a sense of worth in the competitive world of womanhood.

Audiophiles and computer enthusiasts both revel in their technical expertise. Computer over-clockers will labor hours to get that last 100 MHz out of their CPU’s, and audiophiles will invest countless hours to get the very best audio equipment. While these activities may seem irrational to most, these technical achievements make the participants feel good about themselves and prove their worth and elite ‘ness in this world.

Perhaps it comes down to people with low self-esteem buy these things to compensate. If I don’t feel important, maybe I can buy elite equipment/whatever and I will feel equal to the truly elite. Of course, buying things does not really improve self-esteem, and for some, when the temporary “feel-good” of buying a high-end item wears off, they have to buy an even higher-end item for that “elite” feeling.

Are audiophiles especially susceptible to this phenomenon? I don’t know, perhaps they are. The audiophile world seems to be very rich in expensive products with wild but dubious performance claims. These products exist in the market because people buy them, people who are willing to suspend disbelief to get products that make their audio systems better than what others have.

There are many very fine audiophile products, and there are many audiophiles that appreciate them. However, the audio equipment market seems to be unique in the number of products that appear to be nothing more than “scams” fostered on a segment that is susceptible to being taken.

So, what are you really buying… ? and if it makes you feel good about yourself, isn't that good enough?


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 4:30 pm 
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rbrodka wrote:
Perhaps it comes down to people with low self-esteem buy these things to compensate.


Some might say it is more than self-esteem :P I wouldn't (well, not most of the time, anyway) but I think it's important to evaluate your reasons for upgrading to bigger and better. If it's because your setup doesn't give you much bass, that's fine. If it's because you think it will improve your listening experience somehow, (the "if it costs more it must be better" mentality that some people have,) you haven't spent enough time listening to what you've already got, or you need to reconsider why you're doing it in the first place.

For the former it's as much a hobby as silencing for most of us. But with the latter, I consider it a fever - and the only cure is more cowbell. Er, I mean, concerts, and I expect they will have more 'bang for the buck' than $64,000 speakers. It's much better to listen to music how it's meant to be heard!
(Unfortunately cowbells don't feature in classical music - they should've replaced the viola, who needs that, anyway...)

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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 6:20 pm 
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Edward Ng wrote:
Green Shoes wrote:
Bias or Discrimination, on the other hand, is the act of judging a single person based on the actions of other similar people, which is what this thread is possibly rampant with.


Possibly? Possibly?!? Where's your doubt coming from?!?


Aw, c'mon, I'm just messin' with ya. :wink: I agreed, didn't I?

rbrodka wrote:
Do people make irrational buying decisions to make them feel better about themselves? And if the things they buy do make them feel better, is it an irrational decision?


I used to work as a valet parker at a major hotel. One time in the break room one of the front desk workers picked up the Best Buy circular included with that day's paper and said, to himself more than anyone else, "What am I going to buy this weekend to feel good about myself?" After everyone in the room turned and looked at him he added a little chuckle to make us think he was kidding (I guess)....but I think it reveals a basic truth about how we think we can make ourselves happy.

@ Starfish Chris... check this out.


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 7:03 pm 
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BobDog wrote:
mathias wrote:
I think your post demonstrates the reasons for hostility towards high end audio very well. Especially since you claim to be of the relatively sane type of audiophile.


Why exactly has my post "demonstrat[ed] the reasons for hostility towards high end audio"?


What it demmonstrates is how obsessive a lot of audiophiles can get. You even edmited that you noticed that you were becoming completely fanatical.


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 7:24 pm 
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mathias wrote:

Bobdog wrote:
mathias wrote:
I think your post demonstrates the reasons for hostility towards high end audio very well. Especially since you claim to be of the relatively sane type of audiophile.



Why exactly has my post "demonstrat[ed] the reasons for hostility towards high end audio"?



What it demmonstrates is how obsessive a lot of audiophiles can get. You even edmited that you noticed that you were becoming completely fanatical.


Yea, it was getting way out of whack, I admit that. But how you get from there to the there is no difference in audio gear conclusion is not clear to me, indeed what I was obsessing about as the massive amount of detail that better audio gear laid bare (but which, ultimately detracted from the enjoyment of the listening experience—for ME). Further, say an audiophile just loves, loves to buy better gear just for the sake of doing so, why that would make you hostile is also confusing. Why would you care?


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 7:25 pm 
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i personally couldn't care less what people spend their money on - if they want to drape their walls in quarter-inch lead, pour distilled penguin blubber into their car's gas tank every day or mount their pc inside a 24 karat gold pyramid, more power to them.

now if someone starts claiming there are real demonstrable improvements from doing all that and expects me to follow along uncritically, problems start occurring. where's the proof? why haven't i been able to find any oscilloscope comparisons between plain-jane carpet-ran cables and elevated ones? it's the first thing i'd think of doing but it just hasn't seemed to have happened yet..

then we have abx results like these that spell it out - no differences were perceived with speaker cables ($2.50 cable did as well as $990 stuff), interconnects, polarity, modern cd players, and many other parts that are logically interchangeable. we see differences when products are more likely to have individual noise profiles, like tape decks, amplifiers, speakers, etc. which are dependent on design choices and tradeoffs.

bottom line - if someone thinks their setup sounds better thanks to an upgrade of any kind, good on them. they'll be happier, have a little less money, and get to enjoy whatever they were listening to a bit more. if they start saying the upgrade is objectively better instead of subjectively, i want to see proof. that is all. it's the same with all facets of my life - if something is supposed to be better than something else, i seek out proof of that. numbers, measurements, real hard data. i'm the same with fan noise, car mileage, vodkas, optimizing c compilers, compression algorithms, organic produce... with almost everything i interact with, the first thing that enters my mind is "where's the beef!"


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 7:49 pm 
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I said I wouldn't reply to yeha anymore, but I cannot resist. This is exactly the sort of stupid-, oops, I mean "pseudo-" science I was talking about before.

http://www.pcavtech.com/abx/abx_wire.htm wrote:
PSACS ABX Test Results

PSACS ABX Test Results

Interconnects and Wires
Interconnects and Speaker Wires Result Correct p less than Listeners
$2.50 cable vs. PSACS Best NO DIFFERENCE 70 / 139 = 50% - 7
$418 Type "T1" vs. Zip Cord NO DIFFERENCE 4 / 10 = 40% - 1
Type "Z Cable vs. Zip Cord NO DIFFERENCE 70 / 139 = 50% - 7
$990 "T2" Cable vs. Zip Cord NO DIFFERENCE 16 / 32 = 50% - 2

In the first test, five specialty interconnects from AudioQuest, MIT, Monster Cable, H.E.A.R., plus Belden cable with Vampire connectors were compared to a $2.50 blister pack RCA phono interconnect. Listeners used Etymotic Research ER4 in-ear phones driven by the headphone jack of a Bryston 2B power amplifier.
The next three tests are the data from Tom Nousaine's "Wired Wisdom: The Great Chicago Cable Caper", listed on the ABX periodicals page.
The Type "T1" cables were compared on a system including an Sumo Andromeda power amp and JS Engineering Infinite Slope speakers, by the system's owner. He chose his own program material and had no time limit.
The Type "Z" cables were tested on the system of a high end audio shop employee including: Snell type B-Minor speakers; Forte Model 6 Power Amp; and an outboard DAC. He used his own program material selected to show the differneces he expected.
The Type "T2" cables were compared on a system including a Denon DCD-1290 CD player, and Accuphase P-300 power amplifier, and Snell KII speakers.
.


Here is a set of data from the link suggested by yeha, this looks very scientific and conclusive. It is about cables (the most controversial topic here), and it consistently shows that a group of listeners cannot tell the difference between hi-end cables and Brand-X cables. Wow, quite a finding, no?


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 8:10 pm 
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i don't understand.. are you saying abx testing is stupid pseudo-science? or that you agree with the test results which say cable is completely irrelevant to audio fidelity? the first would be mind-blowing to say the least, the second would seem to counter what you've been saying..

ah well, back to my luddite low-end-equipment existence.


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 8:15 pm 
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yeha wrote:
ah well, back to my luddite low-end-equipment existence.


I wouldn't call it that; if you're happy with what you've got, there's nothing wrong with it whatsoever. You're better off for it, really.

-Ed

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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 8:16 pm 
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BobDog,

I am a hardcore skeptic about a lot of things. I tend to trust results like PC ABX because I know I'm one of the people who can't hear s***. Whenever I sit down and try to hear differences, I get carried away with how the drummer's snare sounds or how clever a bass line was played, or how tight the band was. This is why I don't mind storing my music in a lossy format.

I'm dying to test a self-professed audiophile on things that I would generally consider to be indistinguishable (especially when I'd consider them virtually indistinguishable from a semi-scientific viewpoint). I've even gone so far as to generate P-val tables for the probability of a guess based on trials. I am wondering if the ultra-mega-high-end has any value to it, or if it is the same as dowsing or homeopathy. This is an area where the regular skeptics sources are barely touching. James Randi has extended his million dollar challenge to the Shakti stones, but I don't think he'll go so far as to extend the challenge to other areas of audiophilia.

(BTW, I have very seriously considered in the past to fake a supernatural claim and test Randi myself. Yes, I am even skeptical of skeptics)

I don't know where I'm going with this post now, so I'll end here so that I can justify spending the time writing it.

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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 8:20 pm 
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sthayashi wrote:
I get carried away with how the drummer's snare sounds or how clever a bass line was played, or how tight the band was.


Nothing wrong with that at all, bro.

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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 8:26 pm 
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StarfishChris wrote:
For the former it's as much a hobby as silencing for most of us. But with the latter, I consider it a fever - and the only cure is more cowbell. Er, I mean, concerts, and I expect they will have more 'bang for the buck' than $64,000 speakers. It's much better to listen to music how it's meant to be heard!
(Unfortunately cowbells don't feature in classical music - they should've replaced the viola, who needs that, anyway...)


LoL StarfishChris Image

For the few who might not be in-the-know about the cowbell reference, here is a temporary link to the hilarious SNL sketch that lives in infamy (58MB mpeg).
Image

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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 8:37 pm 
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Bobdog wrote:
I said I wouldn't reply to yeha anymore, but I cannot resist. This is exactly the sort of stupid-, oops, I mean "pseudo-" science I was talking about before.

http://www.pcavtech.com/abx/abx_wire.htm wrote:
PSACS ABX Test Results

PSACS ABX Test Results

Interconnects and Wires
Interconnects and Speaker Wires Result Correct p less than Listeners
$2.50 cable vs. PSACS Best NO DIFFERENCE 70 / 139 = 50% - 7
$418 Type "T1" vs. Zip Cord NO DIFFERENCE 4 / 10 = 40% - 1
Type "Z Cable vs. Zip Cord NO DIFFERENCE 70 / 139 = 50% - 7
$990 "T2" Cable vs. Zip Cord NO DIFFERENCE 16 / 32 = 50% - 2

In the first test, five specialty interconnects from AudioQuest, MIT, Monster Cable, H.E.A.R., plus Belden cable with Vampire connectors were compared to a $2.50 blister pack RCA phono interconnect. Listeners used Etymotic Research ER4 in-ear phones driven by the headphone jack of a Bryston 2B power amplifier.
The next three tests are the data from Tom Nousaine's "Wired Wisdom: The Great Chicago Cable Caper", listed on the ABX periodicals page.
The Type "T1" cables were compared on a system including an Sumo Andromeda power amp and JS Engineering Infinite Slope speakers, by the system's owner. He chose his own program material and had no time limit.
The Type "Z" cables were tested on the system of a high end audio shop employee including: Snell type B-Minor speakers; Forte Model 6 Power Amp; and an outboard DAC. He used his own program material selected to show the differneces he expected.
The Type "T2" cables were compared on a system including a Denon DCD-1290 CD player, and Accuphase P-300 power amplifier, and Snell KII speakers.
.


Here is a set of data from the link suggested by yeha, this looks very scientific and conclusive. It is about cables (the most controversial topic here), and it consistently shows that a group of listeners cannot tell the difference between hi-end cables and Brand-X cables. Wow, quite a finding, no?



Oops, clicked submit before I meant to...

... I continue. Let’s look at these data. The p-value is the percent chance that results leading us to reject the null hypothesis (the cables are not audibly different) are due to random chance (e.g. sampling error), smaller is better. Although they give a “-“ for the p vale, there is some value there, it is just very large—meaning we cannot reject the null with any level of statistical significance. This is where the problems begin.

First of all, ABX massively and incorrectly inflates their “n” (number of listeners) in “$2.50 cable vs. PSACS Best” test by aggregating all of their test results (note there are only 7 listeners but 139 “tests” (at first I thought this was just a type-o until I figured up what they were up to—I was thinking “how do you get 139 observations from 7 people???)). You can, of course, add up observations and test for significance, but ONLY if the observations are independent. By using the same 7 testers in each test, they have clearly violated independence. They really have several tests with 7 observations in each.

Well, you ask, what does this matter. Well, as I am sure Mr. Science, yeha, would tell you, significance depends upon the number of individuals tested. This is easy to see when we note that the standard error (SE) is computed as (1/n*sigma(x i – x bar)^2)^-2| x bar = the sample mean; and that the p value is a function of the SE: for a normal distribution p. = 0.1 is about 2SE (of course for n = 7 we must use the slightly more restrictive T-distribution, not the normal distribution). But note that SE decreases in n, so for a very large n statistical significance is easy to find, but for a very small n, significance is very difficult to obtain. As we generally consider n >/= 30 to be “large” (where the law of large numbers begins to operate), significance at n = 7 is almost incomprehensibly difficult (though not impossible) to achieve.

Given that anything we observe in an n = 7 observe is due to sampling variation, and significance is pretty much unachievable, it is almost laughable that yeha holds up these tests as scientific! Of course we cannot use them to show that cables DO make a difference, but we really cannot tell ANYTHING from these data. (Intuitively, say you only tested seven people and one was deaf. Since one in seven people in the population is not deaf, that one individual would badly skew the results—against hi-quality cable.)

But it gets worse. N = 7 is the LARGEST n used here! One test, “$418 Type "T1" vs. Zip Cord” has n = 1, that’s right, ONE, listener. Scientific? Hahahahaha. This violates everything statistical. Namely, n must be greater than k (the number of variables tested) in order to get ANY results. Yet we have a case here of n = 1, k = 1. Throw this test out.

Finally, we do not know if these individuals were randomly sampled. Given the embarrassingly amateur nature of the rest of the test, I doubt it. If randomness in selection is not observed, then, again, we can have no confidence in our results because we may have a skewed sample-draw from the population.

I am not against double blind testing, but do it competently, for goodness sake. And yeha, stop posting goofy things like this, it only makes you look foolish… which I am sure you are not, really.

Let’s get n > 30 randomly selected people in a suitable room, do our tests in an actual scientific manor. those are results I would be interested in seeing.

Again, I came to SPCR to talk computers and I end up talking audio (my OLD hobby) and statistics (one of the main subjects in my PoliSci Ph.D.). Oh well, maybe some one will actually learn something from this.


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 8:41 pm 
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sthayashi wrote:
This is an area where the regular skeptics sources are barely touching. James Randi has extended his million dollar challenge to the Shakti stones, but I don't think he'll go so far as to extend the challenge to other areas of audiophilia.

I bought a bunch of Shakti stones and could not hear a difference. I bought a bunch of VPI Magic bricks also and DID hear a difference... they made my system sound worse.

Unlike many here, I am open to trying new stuff--it's FUN. Sometimes it works far beyond my expectations (cable elevators), sometimes it does nothing (Shakti stones) and sometimes it makes things worse (Magic Bricks). That's why I try and LISTEN!


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 8:43 pm 
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BobDog wrote:
Oh well, maybe some one will actually learn something from this.


That would be me Image

And Bob, could I direct you to a quick read of my subwoofer ordeal. Maybe you can offer some insight.

Btw, Bob in case nobody has already said this to you:
Welcome to SPCR!!!

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Last edited by Wedge on Tue May 10, 2005 8:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 8:46 pm 
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Damn, this thread got real long real fast.

Here's the million dollar question(or whatever the phrase is), "Would the benefits of all this fancy equipment be cancelled out by me singing allong?"

And the last option in the poll is very narrow minded, who says there aren't rednecks who are very concerned about the accoustics of their double barrel shotguns? Someone must be buying those louderners.


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 9:23 pm 
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I forgot to mention degrees of freedom in the PSACS ABX Test Results post but... oh, you get the idea.


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 9:53 pm 
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the number of people sampled is low for population testing, but the people involved were presumably high-end audio enthusiasts, and none of them could tell the difference. having 7 involved people all fail to find a difference is more convincing than having no people at all ever bother to do blind tests, which is my problem with extreme-audiophilia. so much talk about better performance, absolutely *NO* empirical evidence! all i want is a test! a single credible test! an oscilloscope, self-noise recording, anything! and the community has no tests whatsoever they can offer as evidence!

as for tests that shoot down cable performance, here's one:

"We tested the cables dynamically with white noise and square waves feeding identical signals into one Kimber Kable and one Radio Shack cable and then setting the scope to invert and sum the two signals. If there was no difference at the output between the cables' ability to transmit an audio frequency signal, it should show up as a straight line on the scope. Any difference would generate an observable difference signal. We could not observe any difference signal on any of the interconnect cables within the resolution limits of our scope and within the band width limits of our square wave generator at any frequency close to audio. We did observe a slight high frequency roll-off on very high frequency (100 KHz and above) square waves on all the cables and that the roll-off was slightly less with the premium Kimber Kables. We saw no overshoot or ringing with any of the cables." .... "We tested the cables dynamically as we had the interconnects, driving them from two channels of a Fet-Valve 500 amplifier carefully checked for identical channel performance (which all our amps have). We matched a Kimber Kable with a Radio Shack cable into an 8 ohm load and measured the difference signal at the load. Again, neither on white noise nor on square waves could we detect any difference between the cables."

here's some blind testing of power cables, which also unsurprisingly found that there's no difference whatsoever. I found references to some trials held by a tom nousaine chap but haven't found hard results, just summaries (the summaries said there was no difference found between cables). in fact i can't find a single test at all that documents people able to distinguish between cables in blind tests. nada. not one.

of course all the tests i've found are amateur at best compared to those held over at hydrogenaudio for lossy audio compression comparisons, i still find it amazing that such little effort has been put into the area. perhaps i'll join a local linux user group and see if i can talk them into it, my regular circle of friends wouldn't be up for such a nerdly activity.


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 10:47 pm 
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Why do I keep doing this?

yeha wrote:
but the people involved were presumably high-end audio enthusiasts, and none of them could tell the difference.
(A) We cannot presume to know who these people are, we are not told.
(B) According to the "tests" they correctly identified the cable 50% of the time... note that this is not necessarily the same as random chance 50% because the "scientists" at ABX crammed the most interesting test results together. Who knows, maybe the MIT was correctly identified 100% of the time but the Monster (which is heavy gauge zip cord anyway) was missed 100% of the time... unlikely, but who knows given their reporting. At a minimum, some of them DID tell the difference some of the time (whether by chance or not, we cannot know) so, again, you misspeak.

yeha wrote:
as for tests that shoot down cable performance, here's one:
As I have said several times, testing is only a beginning—if something measures bad it is almost surely bad, if it measures well then more investigation must be undertaken because our testing techniques are not at the same level of our ears… yet. I know you think I am against measurements, but nothing could be further from the truth, I just do not think they are the be-all-end-all you do. You sound so much like the perfect-sound-forever crowd in the 1980s (who were so thoroughly discredited by the 1990s), it is not even funny... hey, you didn't used to work for Julian Hersch did you?

It is nice to see that they test the cables into an actual load, which is a good idea, but that brings up another point: because ALL cables have different inductance and capacitance (something they do not mention or even test, it seems), they will interact differently with different electronics and speakers. I promise you will hear this. You should like this argument, actually: it says that there are no “better” cables, just cables that happen to work with some electronics and not others—expensive cables are just hype when connected to the wrong gear. An easy example of this is Linn: their cables (speaker and interconnect work like magic with their stuff—and they are DIRT CHEAP—Linn gives their interconnects away with their electronics).

If you accept this argument however, you *win* because you can say that better cables are just illusion and hype, but if you do, then you also *lose* because then you have to admit that different cables do, in fact, sound... different, depending on the associated system. Much like testing, I take a balanced approach (unlike you) wherein I must admit that some cable sounds best with certain gear (Linn, again, being a good example, my dedicated Spectron speaker cables being another), but I have also seen other cable that just sound better period (though I would not bet against your ability to find gear that would bring out their worst).
yeha wrote:
i still find it amazing that such little effort has been put into the area. perhaps i'll join a local linux user group and see if i can talk them into it, my regular circle of friends wouldn't be up for such a nerdly activity.
As I said before, I think this is a good idea too. Too bad you let your own (and curiously vehement) bias shine through so clearly. You know, there are SOME out there who consider tooling away on computers all day as the REALLY nerdy activity....

Please stop posting. I am tired of replying but everything you say is so…so… poorly thought through (as I try to be diplomatic in a way you apparently are not), I feel that it just begs for someone with a little sense (and an absence of a sense of vendetta against ANY ONE) to respond.


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 11:17 pm 
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Yeha, I'm not saying don't post any more, at all. That's not my place to say... and I wouldn't say it even if it was. I am just saying that you should stop posting on things you know nothing about... like audio, dielectric constants, statistics, testing techniques (audio or otherwise)... it just pains me to have to read these.

I value your opinion on anything computer related (as far as I know...), please post on.


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 11:22 pm 
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Ok, just because I feel like being argumentative, I think I'll wade into this (excellent) discussion.

I think everyone here has agreed that a good audio system should reproduce the original as closely as possible. Most of the disagreement has been around the extent to which expensive audio equipment actually does this and/or how much a measureable improvement actually translates into an audible one.

My question is this: What is the original? If the goal is to reproduce a recording, the rationalists should win this discussion hands down. However, if you're trying to reproduce a piece of music or a sound as accurately as possible, it's not so simple. While there are very scientifically acceptible ways of measuring how well a particular setup reproduces a recording, reproducing music is a much more subtle task. Keep in mind that a recording is itself a reproduction of an original performance. If the goal of high end audio equipment is to reproduce the original performance, not the recording, there's a lot of flex room for equipment that "inaccurately" reproduces the original recording but may (on average) come closer to the original performance.

I suppose that the ideal reproduction of a performance would have these attributes:

-Recording would be done with two (and only two) mics positioned as close as possible to the relative position of the eventual listener's ears.

-The pickup pattern of microphones would perfectly emulate the frequency response of the listener's ear.

-No mixing or mastering would take place before or after the recording is imprinted onto whatever medium is used to store it.

-All transmission of the recording data, and the recording medium itself, would be completely lossless.

-The recording would be listened to on headphones (ideally the in-ear kind) that reproduce exactly the recording they have been given.

Only the last two points have been covered in this debate, which the general consensus (I think) that it is possible to meet these goals within the limits of human perception, and that this is possible without going overboard on the amount of money spent.

There has been discussion about the importance of room acoustics, and I think this holds the key to the point I am about to make. I specified that headphones should be used in order to eliminate the variance of room acoustics, but this variable will affect every evaluation of an audio system's quality, subjective or objective. No matter how much "objective" testing is done, there is always a subjective element that creeps in regarding how the measurement is done.

Our standards of objective measurement are nothing more than conventions that imitate our subjective impressions. When evaluating how well a recording is reproduced, scientific method requires that it be "captured" with an instrument of some kind. How this instrument is used is defined conventionally according to what best reproduces our subjective impressions.

The most obvious conventional variable is the position of the instrument. Different setups are likely to have different "sweet spots" where they reproduce the recording most accurately. These will vary based on the specific components in the system, and the room in which they are tested. As was mentioned, the quality (which I take to mean accuracy) of an audio system varies considerably from room to room. Since it's unfeasible to test every system in its most optimal conditions, scientific testing must set a conventional standard of measurement that takes into account both how the system is intended to be used and how it is actually going to be used. This conventional standard is going to be subjective; there's no way around it. Determining what standard will produce the most subjectively "accurate" objective results is itself an art, not a science.

A scientifically feasible standard of measurement will necessarily favour some systems over others according to the distance of the instrument of measurement, the acoustics in which it is tested and a host of other factors.

So much for our ability to objectively measure a system's accuracy of reproduction. However, the conventions inherent in trying to measure a sound are doubly crucial when trying to record it. I think I'm correct in saying that the purpose of a recording is to reproduce a performance as accurately as possible. This purpose is similar the purpose of measuring the accuracy of a playback system: In both cases the idea is to reproduce a source as "accurately" as possible in a different medium. In the case of making a scientific measurement, the source noise is the output of the speakers (and any background noise) at a particular point in space, and the new medium is the data output by the instrument of measurement (typically, another recording which can be compared — bit by bit — against the original). When recording a performance, the source is the performance, and the new medium is the final recording (technically, I think it's the mode of representation, but that's irrelevant for my point). In both cases, the original source is "correct" by definition, and the end result is judged according to how well we feel the recording matches the source. This judgement is subjective, even in scientific analysis. In the case of a recording, a "good" recording is one that reproduces our original subjective impression of the performance (assuming a perfect playback system); for an objective measurement, a "good" system of measurement is one that produces results that we feel (subjectively) represents the original source.

You still with me? Good. Now, here's my real point:

I will assume that a musical recording is recorded in a manner that is designed to bring the recording as close as possible. As someone mentioned, in pop music, the recording process is often just as much a part of the final product as the performance, in which case my critique needs revising. For the moment however, I will assume that the recording process is intended to be as transparent as possible.

I mentioned at the beginning of my post that an ideal recording system would position the mics at the position of the final listener's ears, and would use microphones that perfectly imitate what the listener hears. However, virtually no recordings of quality are made in this way. Microphones do not emulate the human ear perfectly, so compromises are made in the name of subjectively improving the final recording. Instead of the dual mic setup I suggested, each instrument/voice is routinely recorded separately from the others and mixed together afterwards in a way that better imitates what the mixer originally heard (or, more likely, what he/she wants to hear. In this respect, recording engineers are like the scorned audiophiles who distort the source because it sounds "better". However, this rejects the assumption that the goal of a recording is an accurate reproduction of an original).

Again assuming that accurate reproduction is the goal of a recording, the unrealistic practices of mixing and studio mic-ing are necessary because microphone technology is not the same as the human ear. There may be a bit of cross-contamination going on — microphones are designed for specific purposes, such as studio recording — but when it comes down to it, the most subjectively "accurate" recordings are achieved in setups that are completely untrue to how the performance is actually heard.

This brings up another source of subjectivity in recording: In order to determine what the recording should emulate, a particular listening position must be selected. Since there is rarely an objective basis for preferring one position over another, the recording engineer simply picks the one that sounds "best". In other words, a recording is mixed according to how the engineer imagines it should sound. In most cases, this is probably whatever gives him the most pleasure to listen to (since I presume this is the goal of music).

Now, its quite obvious that there are imperfections in the "accuracy" of most musical recordings when compared to a live performance. These imperfections creep into the music in both the recording and the playback. However, when most people listen to music, the only part of the experience they have control over is the playback system. So, it seems perfectly natural to me that a playback system that can "correct" some common flaws in the recording system might well be more true to the original performance than the recording it is playing back. And, if this is true, I can understand why people are willing to pay enormous amounts for "inaccurate" audio systems and even why they claim it plays back the audio more accurately when objective measurement says otherwise. Likewise, I can understand why people feel vinyl has higher fidelity than digial audio.

Obviously, all recordings are not made in the same way, so an audio system that sounds fantastic for some recordings may sound terrible for others, but this is true of even low-fi systems. The trick is to find some average that sounds reasonably good no matter what is played on it. Obviously, you can "tune" a system towards a particular genre of music (or "recording style"), but this introduces a further subjective element: The intended use of the system. There are few touchstones for attaining this average. A system that is perfectly faithful to the source recording (not the original performance) may be one of these. Sound clarity may be another. (Incidentally, is there a scientifically acceptible way of measuring clarity? It doesn't seem that either frequency or amplitude reproduction fully captures it. Measuring timing is probably part of it, but I'm not sure this captures it either.)

I think it's not implausible that there might be other attributes of audio gear that might compensate for recording errors while reducing their ability to accurately reproduce a recording. My headphone amp has a "sound enhancer" feature that introduces a small amount of crosstalk and delay between the stereo channels. There's no doubt that this distorts the source recording. There's also no doubt in my mind that it does "enhance" the sound; it adds a sense of "presence" that is often lacking. Ostensibly, the feature is to simulate the crosstalk that naturally occurs between our right and left ears when listening to loudspeakers (which is missing in headphones). In this case, the goal is to bring the listening experience more in line with the original "performance" (or at least, the way the music was intended to be heard, since most music is mixed for loudspeakers) at the expense of accurate reproduction of the recording. I believe there is some precedent using this technique during the recording process to add "presence" to an otherwise flat recording. In this case, the recording itself is modified to make it more "faithful" to the original performance.

Ultimately, I'm not sure I buy the rationalistic argument that the most "accurate" reproduction of a recording (or even a performance) is best. No matter how many objective results proving the transparency of a particular audio system are thrown in my face, I have to ask what does the system "objectively" reproduce? Music is subjective to begin with; it's purpose (most of the time) is to give us pleasure. Pleasure is a sublimely subjective experience. Unless it's possible to somehow "objectively" reproduce a subjective experience, I have difficulty understanding why I should care whether my stereo system can accurately reproduce a recording.

As I mentioned above, I think this ability is a good guideline for finding a system that will produce decent sound over a wide sample of recordings, and short of listening to every song I own on a given system, it may well be the criterion I use to buy an audio system, but I don't see how this refutes the "long term" subjective impressions that I have of a system. Ultimately, my judge of a sound system's quality will be how much pleasure it gives me from the music I listen to.


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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 12:36 am 
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there isn't really much else for me to say - if my scientific arguments were wrong the best thing to do would be correct them, instead of passing them off as misguided. i'm really trying hard to understand where you're coming from, it's not matching up with any physics i'm familiar with, but i'm not getting any pointers as to where i'm going wrong.

as for the abx testing, the psacs grouped results are questionable but the others are objection-proof - if you guess right as often as you guess wrong the only possibilities are perceptual equality or deliberately throwing the test. abx testing is nothing new to me.

as for cables, the idea that the human ear can notice differences in a transmitted signal that an oscilloscope misses hits me like a punch in the stomach. yes different cables can sound different (obviously with different gauges), my whole tirade has been against companies selling measureably identical to bog-standard cable for high prices and people saying it sounds better. it doesn't. it's just copper. if it's experimentally identical, it sounds identical, there's nothing else to it.

i'd love to be shut up, heck i love being proved wrong because it means i'm about to learn something, but it's going to take some concrete test data, scientific explanations or actual measurements. none of those seem to be forthcoming, and none of my searches have turned up anything close. every test i've found has shown expensive cable to be nothing but snake oil, the same goes for many other components. i need more than the extreme-audiophile community has to offer it seems.

i don't mind being called misguided, wrong, self-humiliating or just plain dumb, but i need actual corrections to change opinions.


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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 3:44 am 
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A good point was made about 'how is it supposed to sound?' Like the real instruments of course. But how do real instruments sound? I play drums which is a good test for bass, mid and high trebble, and that is pretty tough to reproduce with my smallish speakers.

Other non amplified instruments like jazz music or most classical instruments have their 'real' sound. With most music however we cannot say how it is supposed to sound because the instruments use amplification and a speaker just before they start making a sound! Synthersizers are often used and how on earth how their 'instruments' supposed to sound? They are artificial to start with.

Even 'real' instruments sound different from model to model. Saying that your system plays 'true to life' is IMO something you can never be sure of. All you can say is that it comes 'fairly close' to the real thing, as there are too many variables to go any further than that.

Therefore I see it as a totally pointless thing to spend time and money on freezing my CD's, demagnetizing them, putting my wires on stands, putting dampers under my amp.. These things don't do anything. Cables are actually in the 'system' but their effect has often been proven to be 0 or near 0. What about the long lines of 'poor quality signal' in the circuit boards in the amp and cd player? Coils in the speaker filter are many meters worth of normal copper. What can I possibly achieve by changing a 2 meter cable between bog standard circuit boards and coils?


So, IMO you can't realistically try to get 'true sound' in your living room. For me it is a combination of speaker placement and room accoustics, until I end up with a 'believable' sound that doesn't obviously distort or sounds harsh. The point being: What on earth should I listen for when I get new components other than speakers? How can I say it got more true to life? Perhaps I like the sound a bit more, but chances are that the changes in sound only help 50% of my albums and hurt the other half. So I get 'decent' stuff, position it decently in a decent room, and enjoy the music.

BTW
I made this comparison between 192kbit mp3 and original a while ago. This is a VERY much zoomed in bit of less than 15ms (0.015sec) which imo explains why I can't hear any differences as they aren't really there :)

http://members.home.nl/taselaar/niels/wavvsmp3.gif

http://members.home.nl/taselaar/niels/wavvsmp3merged.gif


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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 4:47 am 
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Green Shoes: nice link ;) But regardind the ideal reproduction of a performance, 90% of performances will be in some kind of reverberating room/space, so there is more detail than the microphones can capture. Sounds behind you are muffled by your ears, for example, and I don't think there is an easy way of replicating that without affecting the rest of the sound. (Maybe if you constructed a model head it might work a little better. Hard to say.)



Going back a bit:
mathias wrote:
And I would laugh my ass of if I ever saw someone wrecking their low floored supercar on a speed bump.
I was walking home an hour ago and saw one particular supercar - 'lowered' VW Golf - driving off a driveway, except it going over one of the steeper parts adjacent to the road. I heard the scrape of its twin exhausts(!) first, followed by the rest of the car ruining the pavement :roll: At least nobody looks at the paintwork underneath...

_________________
It's coming back


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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 6:36 am 
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@ Devonavar (well, the first half of your post, I'm not going to quote it all here). You make a good point but the recording industry has been having this argument for years. If you truly wanted people to have the most accurate reproduction possible, you would mix on only one pair of speakers, a set of headphones. You would also record all noise sources in the "binaural" technique, a set of omni-directional mics positioned to be about an ear's length apart form each other. However, this isn't good enough, so what you really need is a foam binaural head, which can more accurately represent the sound dampening that your head does to one ear or the other, as well as the incredibly complex filtering that the rook and folds of your ear perform (you think MP4 encoding is complicated, you should see what your ear does). Recordings that are made using this technique sound astounding on headphones (you actually get a 3-D soundstage; if someone moves the soundsource behind the dummy's head, it moves behind yours to), but sound like crap from any other pair of speakers. The soundstage has no depth and nothing sparkles at all, it's just a muddy mix. It's for this reason that everything is (typically) recorded in either an XY or blumlein stereo technique, and them mixed on a variety of speakers to obtain the best sound possible no matter where people listen to it (cars have notoriously unbalanced systems, for example). These techniques sound much better over a speaker system, but they lose much of the original presence of the recording in the process.

As far as the recording space goes, 98% of music released today is recorded in a basically dead space. Orchestral stuff (say the strings that they mix down so far in the background all you can hear is the first violin :evil: ) will maybe be recorded in a room with a quarter-second decay rate (how long it takes a sine wave pulse to drop 60dB in volume). It's all done so that the producer has the most flexibility when actually mixing down the project. It is for this reason that I think you have to judge music on the basis of the recording, not the original performance.

Classical music, on the other hand, doesn't sound right in anything less than a 2-sec hall (and every 2-second hall sounds different, that's the beauty of it). I've heard Barber's Adagio performed in a medium-size studio room by some players practicing....it sounds great but it won't bring a tear to your eye. I know several audiophiles who actually have two entirely different setups, one for classical/some jazz and the other for everything else. This makes a fair bit of sense to me, as classical has a huge dynamic range (70dB or more sometimes) and needs to try to recreate a huge space, whereas modern music has maybe a 6dB range and is meant to sound good on a 2.5-inch Sanyo speaker. However, I think they'd get their money's worth more if they spent the time to adjust or even rebuild their listening room.

I admit, it's fun in theory to talk about accurately reproducing a recording, but in reality there are just too many variables for it to ever happen. Take the ubiquitous car stereo; new decks are coming out with BBE, an algorithm designed to replace some of the incredible noise cancellation that occurs when you have two in-phase speakers pointed directly at each other :shock: . The algorithm actually takes one speaker and puts most of the information that is panned equally between the two 180 degrees out of phase (it's more complex than that, but you get the idea).

But with your long point, that you should just buy whatever sounds best to you, I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, I don't think anyone in this discussion would disagree. It's the people who think that x speaker sounds better than y simply because it costs twice as much that I question :wink: . Just as the right wine for the meal is whichever one tastes the best to you, so goes audio equipment.


Wedge, thanks for the link. I was trying to explain it to my wife but she was giving me funny looks; this'll be much easier :D


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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 6:38 am 
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StarfishChris wrote:
Green Shoes: nice link ;) But regardind the ideal reproduction of a performance, 90% of performances will be in some kind of reverberating room/space, so there is more detail than the microphones can capture. Sounds behind you are muffled by your ears, for example, and I don't think there is an easy way of replicating that without affecting the rest of the sound. (Maybe if you constructed a model head it might work a little better. Hard to say.


Sorry, I missed this with my previous post. See above, under "binaural recording technique". It would blow your mind away if you ever get to test it....one of the most surreal experiences I've ever had.


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