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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 5.1%
  • Hard Objectivist (Measurements are almost always the full story. Skeptical of most subjective claim)

    Votes: 117 28.2%
  • Objectivist (Measurements are very important but not everything.)

    Votes: 180 43.4%
  • Neutral/Equal

    Votes: 38 9.2%
  • Unsure

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

    Votes: 24 5.8%
  • 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 4.8%

  • Total voters
    415

Killingbeans

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In my experience in any cable thread it is the objectivists who usually come on strongest and most single-mindedly with echoes of religious zealots, whereas the subjectivists are usually just saying “I like that cable, I heard a difference".

In my experience both parties of the debate are very passionate about their point of view. In any community you'll get strong reactions to opposition.

That being said, pointing out that the laws of physics can't be broken is not single-minded. Sometimes it might be beneficial to tolerate nonsense in the name of diplomacy, but it should never ever be respected.
 

Mart68

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That’s an interesting political analogy. I see it from the other pov though - it feels to me that it is the ultra-objectivists who are akin to the flaming passions and extreme positions of the Trump/Brexiteers/anti-vaxer believers. In my experience in any cable thread it is the objectivists who usually come on strongest and most single-mindedly with echoes of religious zealots, whereas the subjectivists are usually just saying “I like that cable, I heard a difference".
A) Refusing to accept that something that is highly unlikely or even physically impossible actually happened when there is no evidence that it did.

B) Insisting that something highly unlikely or even impossible actually happened despite there being no evidence that it did.

Which of these is the position a 'religious zealot' is most likely to adopt?
 

egellings

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Isn't there a laboratory dummy head with microphones in the 'ears' that can be used to verify headphone performance?
 

Spocko

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For me the objectivist assessment represents a heuristc for engineering diligence, best practices, etc. Rather than take the time to get to know the engineering team and their design objectives, I just look at the measurements as a starting point.
 

Robin L

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Isn't there a laboratory dummy head with microphones in the 'ears' that can be used to verify headphone performance?
There are test rigs, but they are not as reliable/predictable as speaker measurements, and Amir acknowledges that with every review he's made of headphones. On top of that, one would expect more person-to-person variation in subjectively evaluating headphones due to differences in the shape of ears. I would imagine this could result in some sort of adjustment akin to Dirac to compensate. But for the moment one needs to take headphone measurements with a few grains of salt.
 

FishInLA

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I've been thinking about this, and I think I am an objectivist because I am also a subjectivist. By which I mean, there are things that are inherently subjective in nature - is this a good song, is this a good mix, does this album successfully convey its intended emotional response, do I like this movie? And in order to fairly evaluate those subjective questions, I need to know that my playback equipment is fairly approximating the artist's intent.

I ticked Objectivist instead of the harder two options mostly because I think aesthetic questions about gear are fair game - there are elements that affect my opinion of a system that cannot be measured (messy design, ugly speakers, unfortunate fit & finish, even things like the marketing behind a brand). It's a sort of weird placebo effect in the open - I know it's expectation bias that the prettier speaker also sounds better to me, but, well, there it is.
 

WickedInsignia

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I know it's expectation bias that the prettier speaker also sounds better to me, but, well, there it is.
The psychological effect of a product is an important one that we tend to play down on ASR in favour of a purely objective analysis of enjoyment.
If you pay more for a piece of audio gear, and it’s aesthetically attractive and well-built, you may inevitably spend more time with it and use it more attentively. You want to get your money’s worth and soak in all the details.

I think that can lead to increased audio enjoyment, at least in the sense that you’re more “present” in the experience. An expensive pair of headphones aren’t something you will slap on at the gym and forget they are there. Similarly, you’re not going to sit down in your armchair with your cheap gym headphones and expect to drift away into audio bliss. The pricetag and beauty of a headphone encourages you to be more mentally involved. Even though they may not have anything special in terms of detail, tonality and soundstage, you are more willing to notice and appreciate what’s there.

This isn’t an argument for subjective attachment overriding objective quality, but it’s an interesting element of the market that certainly exists. The people enjoying headphones that measure badly are objectively enjoying them, regardless of whether they believe in the wonky graphs they produce.
 

kevinh

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Generally Very much objectivist, speakers especially given room acoustics are much harder to define by measurements. Although Room correction software allowing for greater room integration, starts to change that equation.
 

storing

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The psychological effect of a product is an important one that we tend to play down on ASR in favour of a purely objective analysis of enjoyment.
If you pay more for a piece of audio gear, and it’s aesthetically attractive and well-built, you may inevitably spend more time with it and use it more attentively. You want to get your money’s worth and soak in all the details
Completely agree that the psychological effect is important; not totally convinced this gets played down here - at least I don't perceive it as such on average and also it's a well-known scientifically proven effect, playing that down would be very un-ASR-y not to say a bit dumb..

But there's more to it then looks and price: it can also work like that with measurements. If you know something measures objectively really well, and you care about that, then it's not unlikely that comparing an ugly set which you know measures good vs an aesthetic wonder of which you know it measures less good, you're still going to prefer the former - even if there's not actually an audible difference. Could even be so that you're going to turn into considering the well measuring set more aesthetically pleasing purely because you realize it's objectively better.
 

Cote Dazur

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Very interesting thread, are we differently subjectivist or objectivist about our home sound reproduction choices than we are generally on daily life?
To me, if there is enough scientific evidence about a subject, I follow the science. Unfortunately this is a rare occasion for many more complex situations.
For the subject at stake here, better a science that shed some light than total obscurity and fumbling in the dark. Unfortunately, the science we have available at this point in time, cannot not tell us what should be done, it guides us in the right direction, but we must also rely on what we ear to complete to process of choice.
Science is the more logical choice, but Science when blindly followed is no better than a religion.
Probably over optimistic on my side, but I can imagine a state of this hobby where science can dictate how apparatus should work to be of the highest standard.
In the meanwhile, I will keep enjoying earing what I end up with in my listening room, while also keeping an eye on what the status of the state of the art is at.
 

Ml2316

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I think it's partly that it requires a lot of effort and time for any one person to learn how the objective measurements impact their subjective enjoyment of audio equipment. If I knew precisely how the measurements would predict my enjoyment, then of course i would be an objectivist, as would anyone.

The problem is that no one can accurately and precisely predict their enjoyment of equipment from looking at the measurements. At the end of the day objectivism and subjectivism are just two ends of the same spectrum.
 

duckworp

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A) Refusing to accept that something that is highly unlikely or even physically impossible actually happened when there is no evidence that it did.

B) Insisting that something highly unlikely or even impossible actually happened despite there being no evidence that it did.

Which of these is the position a 'religious zealot' is most likely to adopt?
But the evidence of something happening to the subjectivist is the evidence of their hearing. Put it this way: the subjectivist will use evidence (hearing) to support a view but won’t feel dogmatic. A pure objectivist, on the other hand, is defined by dogma. This is why in a cable thread on a non-partisan forum, the objectivists come over taking the more extreme positions which can give the impression of the aforementioned anti-vaxer, Brexiteers ‘religious zealot' etc. camps.
 

Mart68

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But the evidence of something happening to the subjectivist is the evidence of their hearing. Put it this way: the subjectivist will use evidence (hearing) to support a view but won’t feel dogmatic. A pure objectivist, on the other hand, is defined by dogma. This is why in a cable thread on a non-partisan forum, the objectivists come over taking the more extreme positions which can give the impression of the aforementioned anti-vaxer, Brexiteers ‘religious zealot' etc. camps.
'Hearing' can only be accepted as evidence if it truly was hearing alone and not a combination of other factors. Sighted comparisons don't constitute evidence. Just knowing what equipment you are using will alter your perception of the sound.

That's not dogma, it's fact. That's why unlikely subjective claims tend to be dismissed, they don't take that fact into account.

A dogmatic position is one that ignores facts and evidence that do not support it. Anti-vax is a good example of a dogmatic position. Based on the facts and evidence, It's clearly irrational

Brexit is not a good example of a dogmatic position, since there are facts and evidence that support the proposition that it is a good thing, and facts and evidence that support the proposition that it is a bad thing. Therefore it is not possible to adopt an irrational position with regards to it.
 
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duckworp

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Dogma: ’a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.’ Objectivists believe certain measurements define what a piece of audio kit will deliver in terms of sound. They believe that to be incontrovertibly true.
 

Mart68

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Dogma: ’a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.’ Objectivists believe certain measurements define what a piece of audio kit will deliver in terms of sound. They believe that to be incontrovertibly true.
Now you're constructing a straw-man argument.

An objective position is one based on facts and evidence. If new evidence comes to light the objective position will change. That does not happen with a dogmatic position which as you say, involves 'belief' - that is maintaining the position despite a lack of evidence and despite there being evidence to the contrary.

The problem (in relation to hi-fi) is that what subjectivists think is evidence is not actually evidence.
 

sergeauckland

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Dogma: ’a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.’ Objectivists believe certain measurements define what a piece of audio kit will deliver in terms of sound. They believe that to be incontrovertibly true.
That's not true for me, as a confirmed objectivist, and is therefore a false statement. Measurements define what a piece of audio kit does, not what it sounds like. 'Sounds like' is in the mind of the listener, and therefore has no objective reality, it's different for every listener.

That's why I am an objectivist, as I know that what I think I hear has nothing to do with the equipment, which ideally should be transparent, and for electronics is, but entirely made up in my mind.

S.
 

MattHooper

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But the evidence of something happening to the subjectivist is the evidence of their hearing. Put it this way: the subjectivist will use evidence (hearing) to support a view but won’t feel dogmatic. A pure objectivist, on the other hand, is defined by dogma. This is why in a cable thread on a non-partisan forum, the objectivists come over taking the more extreme positions which can give the impression of the aforementioned anti-vaxer, Brexiteers ‘religious zealot' etc. camps.

You have things completely backwards. (But then, so do most subjectivists in the usual debates).

We are talking about two epistemelogical positions.

The "Objectivist" position is that the most reliable route to knowledge about how audio equipment works is through engineering and scientific attitudes.

The position contains two inherent pillars that are by their very nature anti-dogmatic:

1. (Audio) Objectivism accepts the reality of human error as a linchpin. I may think I hear a difference between A and B...but I Could Be Wrong. The "I Could Be Wrong" aspect, the keeping an eye on our human fallibility, is what DRIVES the method in the first place, hence inherently anti-dogmatic. And on similar grounds the objectivist accepts that instruments can indeed surpass the ability, and reliability, of human hearing in vetting many claims.

2. It provided a METHOD for finding out that one is wrong. "I could be wrong that there is no audible difference between A and B...and HERE is how I can learn I am wrong" (or you can show me I'm wrong). E.g. If cable A can be shown to produce measurable differences in the audio signal, in the known audible range and/or blind tests controlling for human errors like biases can reliably replicate people identifying a sonic difference.

So the Audio Objectivist comes to these questions inherently admitting the unrealiability of his own subjective inferences AND with a method to find out he/she is correct...or incorrect.

IN CONTRAST:

The pure Audio Subjectivist - the Golden Ears - simply relies on his own subjective impression as THE final arbitor of reality. If he thinks he heard a difference, there WAS a real difference. If measurements, engineering theory, science or blind testing suggest otherwise...so much the worse for those methods. The subjectivist isn't wrong in What He Heard...those objective tests must be wrong.

This is why you see from subjectivists over and over "I don't give a damn about measurements or all that stuff (especially if they contradict my experience)...my senses are reliable, I go with what I hear, and I KNOW what I hear."

This is INHERENTLY a self-enclosing dogma that ON IT'S OWN TERMS does not contain a method of testing or disconfirmation. After all, if by precisely the same method someone else reports hearing no difference, the subjectivist can (and usually does) merely say "Well, too bad for you...must be your system or your ears can't resolve the difference. Mine can!" It ends in a "he said/she said" loop that can never be resolved.
And it is ALSO from this viewpoint that the rancor usually arises in cable threads and the like. Because the subjectivists rely on personal experience, they take challenges to their claims personally. And because they have no other way to demonstrate or vet their claims, they resort to ad hominem, inevitably blaming this on the objectivist! It's like clockwork...because it's inherent in that point of view.

I have been pointing this out on subjectivist forums for years. I have taken any number of debated subjects and said "I could be wrong, this is how I can find out I'm wrong." and If YOU, mr. Subjectivist, believe you heard a difference between those cables, HOW can you be shown to be wrong? What will show you are mistaken?

Not ONE has EVER been able to answer that question. Literally, not one. And a number have been explicit in answering: "Nothing." They have full confidence in their impressions. In fact they often even deride the objectivist for "not having the confidence in your own perception," as if acknowledging the possibility of error was a weakness!

You couldn't have a more pure expression of dogma.

Speaking of dogma: Some here may remember the infamous moment in the debate between remembers the infamous debate between science guy Bill Nye and creationist Ken Ham, when they were each asked what would change their mind. Ken Ham, the creationist, said "Nothing." Which is what someone says in a system were the strength of one's "faith" is a virtue. Bill Nye's answer was: "evidence."
 
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DonR

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Subjectively, the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West and the Earth is flat. Objectively, I know the Earth is an oblate spheroid that rotates on its axis and orbits the Sun but still I use terms like sunrise and sunset. Hard to shake these things.
 

MattHooper

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Subjectively, the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West and the Earth is flat. Objectively, I know the Earth is an oblate spheroid that rotates on its axis and orbits the Sun but still I use terms like sunrise and sunset. Hard to shake these things.

Though your point is well taken, you also don't have to be too sheepish about using the terms sunrise and sunset. They are accurate in a very relevant sense: the sun does rise and set at angles relative to the horizon.

It's like the term "solid." There is a sense in which it is "wrong" or "an illusion" - a wall gives the impression of being fully contiguous matter, but it is not so - much of it is "empty space" at the atomic level. Yet a wall certainly is "solid" with respect to the important every day sense. You can't see or walk through it, as you could air. And you certainly want to know if the lake water is in "solid" form (ice) before you go skating on it during winter.
 

DonR

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Though your point is well taken, you also don't have to be too sheepish about using the terms sunrise and sunset. They are accurate in a very relevant sense: the sun does rise and set at angles relative to the horizon.

It's like the term "solid." There is a sense in which it is "wrong" or "an illusion" - a wall gives the impression of being fully contiguous matter, but it is not so - much of it is "empty space" at the atomic level. Yet a wall certainly is "solid" with respect to the important every day sense. You can't see or walk through it, as you could air. And you certainly want to know if the lake water is in "solid" form (ice) before you go skating on it during winter.
Yes, that is true. Our senses lie to us about reality in order to be more useful to us.
 
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