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Are you a Subjectivist or an Objectivist?

How would you classify yourself?

  • Ultra Objectivist (ONLY care about measurements and what has been double-blind tested.)

    Votes: 21 5.2%
  • Hard Objectivist (Measurements are almost always the full story. Skeptical of most subjective claim)

    Votes: 111 27.7%
  • Objectivist (Measurements are very important but not everything.)

    Votes: 175 43.6%
  • Neutral/Equal

    Votes: 37 9.2%
  • Unsure

    Votes: 7 1.7%
  • Subjectivist (There's much measurements don't show. My hearing impressions are very important.)

    Votes: 22 5.5%
  • Hard Subjectivist (Might only use measurements on occasion but don't pay attention to them usually.)

    Votes: 5 1.2%
  • Ultra Subjectivist (Measurements are WORTHLESS, what I hear is all that matters.)

    Votes: 3 0.7%
  • Other (Please explain!)

    Votes: 20 5.0%

  • Total voters
    401

Longshan

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Elaborate? I might just be communicating poorly, wouldn't be the first time.
If you can find the "objective measurements that describe that subjective preference," then it follows that measurements can indeed tell you if something sounds good.
 

DanielT

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Oh, I know, there is a 40-40-20 rule as well:
  • 40% of your budget on speakers
  • 40% on amplification
  • 20% on the source
Elsewhere, this has evolved into the the 50-30-20 rule. On some sites they say that systems < 5K are 'hi-fi' and that you need to spend over 5K to achieve 'hi-end'. No wonder consumers are disillusioned and confused.
Last year, my friend and I tested comparing three different amplifiers. It was not a serious evaluation in itself, mostly a little fun when we met and drank some beer. He has amplifiers in the $ 800 class. I had brought an old amplifier, used for $ 70, a Technics SU V45 A. No hell we could hear such big differences. If even any differences at all. Then we also do not know if we imagined, if we heard any difference. Source streamed plus CD player.


His speakers:

The cabinets aren't all that large by the standards of $ 6000 / pair floorstanders, but they's solidly braced and beautifully made.


(Hans bought his Vienna used, much cheaper than $ 6000, but still).

Edit:
Possibly, if we had been completely sober, carried out the comparison more systematically and increased the volume and tested with the most dynamic music (high crest factor), we would have heard differences more clearly. Maybe... maybe not. :)
We plugged in a flea market subwoffer he had bought did not immediately facilitate the whole "test" (not his in the attached picture, that model). With beer in the body, we got a terribly bad match sub-vienna as well.Never mind, we had fun. That was the most important thing.:D
 

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dadregga

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If you can find the "objective measurements that describe that subjective preference," then it follows that measurements can indeed tell you if something sounds good.
Right - sounds good to you.

Not sounds good to everybody - because there is no constant, universal definition of sounds good.

Listening is inherently subjective, like all forms of experience.

That's the point I was trying to lay out - objective measurements can be useful for describing subjective, localized, non-universal preferences and experiences. They're a communication tool for subjective experience - much like language itself.
 

markus

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Right - sounds good to you.

Not sounds good to everybody - because there is no constant, universal definition of sounds good.
Didn't Harman's preference testing research find the opposite to be true?
 

dadregga

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Didn't Harman's preference testing research find the opposite to be true?
I don't think Harman or any statistician would claim that their research found a universal, constant, objective definition of "sounds good".

They found that some nontrivial percentage of humans seem to share roughly overlapping subjective definitions of "sounds good", and described that subjective definition with objective measurements.
 

markus

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I don't think Harman or any statistician would claim that their research found a universal, constant, objective definition of "sounds good".
That's definitely how it's "sold".
 

Newman

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I don't think Harman or any statistician would claim that their research found a universal, constant, objective definition of "sounds good".

They found that some nontrivial percentage of humans seem to share roughly overlapping subjective definitions of "sounds good", and described that subjective definition with objective measurements.
You have so misrepresented the research, including who did it, that your grasp is close to zero. Welcome to ASR. If you have come with good intentions ie to learn, and you care enough about this topic to post on it, I commend to you to purchase and read, not skim, Sound Reproduction by Dr Floyd Toole, either the first or third edition.

There is a baseline for quality of audio from reproduction gear: the natural sound of a live voice, guitar, piano, etc. Almost nobody with good hearing listens to these natural sounds and thinks, “Sounds bad. If only I could hand them a microphone connected to my favourite amp and speaker that I know sounds good.” The research shows that there seems to be a universal preference for sounding uncoloured compared to natural sounds. Which should be no surprise, when we give it some thought.
 

Stereolab42

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I'm a hard objectivist for everything except for transducers, and a hard subjectivist when it comes to transducers. I've found that measurements of headphones specifically and the listening and EQ recommendations for such by self-proclaimed objectivists have absolutely zero correlation with my preferences.
 

dadregga

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You have so misrepresented the research, including who did it, that your grasp is close to zero. Welcome to ASR. If you have come with good intentions ie to learn, and you care enough about this topic to post on it, I commend to you to purchase and read, not skim, Sound Reproduction by Dr Floyd Toole, either the first or third edition.

There is a baseline for quality of audio from reproduction gear: the natural sound of a live voice, guitar, piano, etc. Almost nobody with good hearing listens to these natural sounds and thinks, “Sounds bad. If only I could hand them a microphone connected to my favourite amp and speaker that I know sounds good.” The research shows that there seems to be a universal preference for sounding uncoloured compared to natural sounds. Which should be no surprise, when we give it some thought.
The research shows that there seems to be a universal preference for sounding uncoloured compared to natural sounds.

So the Harman studies found that 100% of all participants preferred the Harman curve?

If they did, then I stand corrected.

If they did not, then the Harman studies are

1. Categorizing subjective preferences in the population
2. Picking the largest category (i.e. the best target to hit if you want to sell speakers to the broadest demographic possible)
3. Assigning verifiable objective metrics to those subjective preference categories which describe those subjective preference categories in a way that makes them implementable consistently in equipment.

Which is incredibly useful (I happen to fall into the percentage of the population that has a subjective preference for the Harman curve as well, and want to know, objectively, whether audio equipment I might want to buy aligns with the Harman curve, and therefore my subjective preferences!).

But that's not the same thing as as "objectively good sound" - that's "objectively likely to be popular sound" or "objectively likely to be a sound I will subjectively prefer".

There is no definition of "objectively good sound" - much like there can be no definition of "objectively best colors" or "objectively best smells" in a global sense.

The most we can say (and the most any of the Harman studies say, because they're no stranger to scientific studies, and are not idiots) is that "we have observed that most people in our sample group tend to prefer this set of measurements" - which is correct, and true, and useful - but does not give you an objective yardstick for "sounds good" in a global sense. It gives you a useful target to hit that, statistically speaking, most people (not all) will subjectively prefer.

It gives us a way to categorize and measure our subjective preferences, which is useful for helping all of us communicate our shared subjective preferences, to the degree we have them.
 

Longshan

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Right - sounds good to you.

Not sounds good to everybody - because there is no constant, universal definition of sounds good.

Listening is inherently subjective, like all forms of experience.

That's the point I was trying to lay out - objective measurements can be useful for describing subjective, localized, non-universal preferences and experiences. They're a communication tool for subjective experience - much like language itself.
That's right. Objective measurements can tell you if you will think it sounds good.
 
OP
BoredErica

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Are we conflating Harman Target (for headphones/IEMs) vs for loudspeaker measurements? For headphones for example, the Harman Target works for over half the population, but there were some who wanted more bass and some who wanted less bass, more treble. Most correlated with age and gender. For speakers, the boost in bass or tilt in in room response differed, with trained listeners preferred less low bass.

But if we're talking about whether frequency response should be like a speaker which would be flat in an anechoic chamber, or the fact that resonances are bad, or directivity should be good, these are universal.
 

gsp1971

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So the Harman studies found that 100% of all participants preferred the Harman curve?

If they did, then I stand corrected.

If they did not, then the Harman studies are

1. Categorizing subjective preferences in the population
2. Picking the largest category (i.e. the best target to hit if you want to sell speakers to the broadest demographic possible)
3. Assigning verifiable objective metrics to those subjective preference categories which describe those subjective preference categories in a way that makes them implementable consistently in equipment.

Which is incredibly useful (I happen to fall into the percentage of the population that has a subjective preference for the Harman curve as well, and want to know, objectively, whether audio equipment I might want to buy aligns with the Harman curve, and therefore my subjective preferences!).

But that's not the same thing as as "objectively good sound" - that's "objectively likely to be popular sound" or "objectively likely to be a sound I will subjectively prefer".

There is no definition of "objectively good sound" - much like there can be no definition of "objectively best colors" or "objectively best smells" in a global sense.

The most we can say (and the most any of the Harman studies say, because they're no stranger to scientific studies, and are not idiots) is that "we have observed that most people in our sample group tend to prefer this set of measurements" - which is correct, and true, and useful - but does not give you an objective yardstick for "sounds good" in a global sense. It gives you a useful target to hit that, statistically speaking, most people (not all) will subjectively prefer.

It gives us a way to categorize and measure our subjective preferences, which is useful for helping all of us communicate our shared subjective preferences, to the degree we have them.
Please, read the literature first, understand what the conclusions are regarding how the estimated in-room response correlates with listener preference (80% correlation by the way, this is statistically significant), understand the potential limitations of the study, and then let's argue about it.

I do not understand the negativity and the dismissal of the research, without having read it.

By the way, your claim that There is no definition of "objectively good sound" is not true.

Objectively good sound exists and it is defined as 'the sound that is produced by the speaker which alters the input signal as little as possible - nothing added, nothing taken away". That, of course, implies a perfectly flat frequency response which we know does not exist, but some speakers are dangerously close to it (read review of Genelec 8361A or Dutch & Dutch 8c, for example).

This is objectively good sound. If you subjectively do not like that sound, that does not mean that the sound is not objectively good, but it simply means that you prefer sound that is 'colored' in some way or another. That's fine, as long as you are aware of it and have made a conscious choice towards colored sound. Most people in this forum strive to achieve sound which is as neutral and un-colored as possible.

Fast forward to the research by Harman which claims that even if the on-axis response is not ruler flat, the sum of on-axis response + the listening window + the early reflections results in an estimated in-room response, which has been correlated to listener preference with 80% accuracy.

I hope you don't have some other agenda.

Welcome to ASR.
 
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markus

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Please, read the literature first, understand what the conclusions are regarding how the estimated in-room response correlates with listener preference (80% correlation by the way, this is statistically significant), understand the potential limitations of the study, and then let's argue about it.

I do not understand the negativity and the dismissal of the research, without having read it.

By the way, your claim that There is no definition of "objectively good sound" is not true.

Objectively good sound exists and it is defined as 'the sound that is produced by the speaker which alters the input signal as little as possible - nothing added, nothing taken away". That, of course, implies a perfectly flat response which we know does not exist, but some speakers are dangerously close to it. Fast forward to the research by Harman which claims that even if the on-axis response is not ruler flat, the sum of on-axis response + the listening window + the early reflections results in an estimated in-room response, which has been correlated to listener preference with 80% accuracy.

I hope you don't have some other agenda.

Welcome to ASR.
@dadregga might not be familiar with the specific Harman preference test but he's absolutely correct in his assessment of the limitations in objective preference testing.

Don't want to open a can of worms here but "good sound" is a perceptual description. You probably meant "accurate reproduction"?
 

Newman

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No he means subjectively preferred. And he is right.
 

gsp1971

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@dadregga might not be familiar with the specific Harman preference test but he's absolutely correct in his assessment of the limitations in objective preference testing.
I have already mentioned it: "... understand the potential limitations of the study..." Did not claim study is perfect. It's a model, and as all models it has its limitations.
Don't want to open a can of worms here but "good sound" is a perceptual description. You probably meant "accurate reproduction"?
Doesn't "accurate reproduction" result in "good sound"?
 

Chr1

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@dadregga might not be familiar with the specific Harman preference test but he's absolutely correct in his assessment of the limitations in objective preference testing.

Don't want to open a can of worms here but "good sound" is a perceptual description. You probably meant "accurate reproduction"?
I reckon that this misunderstanding is the biggest cause of debate/arguments here unfortunately. WTF. Merry Christmas to all objectivists, subjectivists... and everyone in between!

... Whether you choose your version of "good sound" or aim purely for "accurate reproduction". Or both.
Enjoy the music!
 

gsp1971

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I reckon that this misunderstanding is the biggest cause of debate/arguments here unfortunately. WTF. Merry Christmas to all objectivists, subjectivist and everyone in between!

... Whether you choose your version of "good sound" or aim purely for "accurate reproduction". Or both.
Enjoy the music!
I totally agree Chr1!! Merry Xmas!!

It's just gets on my nerves when people come to ASR, fire on all cylinders, dismiss everything as useless, without having opened a book in their life.
 

markus

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I have already mentioned it: "... understand the potential limitations of the study..." Did not claim study is perfect. It's a model, and as all models it has its limitations.
...and user dadregga showed what the limitations are.
Doesn't "accurate reproduction" result in "good sound"?
Not necessarily. There are more variables at play. Room. Recording. And the inevitable elephant in the room, http://seanolive.blogspot.com/2009/10/audios-circle-of-confusion.html
In short, currently we can't objectively define "accurate reproduction" when it comes to speakers and rooms. We can do objective preference testing though, warts and all. Merry Xmas :)
 
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