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Audiophile hobby is a scam?

Sokel

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Yes I have often compared it to a cargo cult :)

Its quite bad almost all information in the hobby is incorrect. Pick any magazine or forum and the test are subjective without controlls IE they are not even wrong , it can not be considered information about the DUT .

And all the mythology ( cargo cults ) that resulted from this approach , cable risers etc
What's worst is what comes within.
I have absolutely no problem paying for a nice casework (if it combines this with helping thermals even better) .
The same for nice,genuine components inside.

And I can cope with the fact that it may have 90db SINAD as far as noise is low.

BUT.
If someone put a scientific curtain above all this (ok,not thermals,that's basic) I will feel bad for him trying to justify what he's not obliged to do.
He can just say "hey!It looks nice!" and that would be ok for me.
As an example take this video (I don't link straight to it,I don't want to offer them free hits) :


The person there can't help saying that he's a physicist,engineer,whatever only to dismiss it at the next sentence so to say "I like listening,I don't care how it measures" .
Fine,but why the (unused) credentials before that?

Honesty to ourselves is the best way to go.
 
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So what is the catch here? If we want the best fidelity, we just need a clean amp, a clean dac, and a headphone that has Harman Tuning, and that is it, there's no possibility of getting better science based sound quality? Or my hearing might just gravitate toward the Harman Tuning?
Most of today's (non esoteric) DACs and amps are clean. That part of things is solved.

With headphones frequency response is most likely everything, but it's complicated.
There is the fact that people have different HRTFs (head-related transfer functions), i.e. that the shape and size of our head and ears affect what sound arrives at the ear drum. The closer a headphone comes to this the more natural it sounds. The Harman Curve is a good approximation of what most people find good, no more. Ideally, you add EQ that fits you specifically. Without that it's a bit of trial error to find something that gets close for you. (The only way to get really close is using in-ear measurements and DSP, see e.g. the Symth Realizer.)
I also suspect that fine-grained features of the frequency response play a role in perceived detail, but have nothing concrete to base that on. I expect that channel matching plays a large role in precision of imaging (i.e. how precisely instruments are placed in the stereo soundstage).

I am often surprised at how well the AKG K371 performs for me when I come back to using it after a while. I certainly consider it to be a detailed headphone. But whatever the reason, both the Sennheiser HD800 and Dan Clark Audio E3 outperform it, again for me. The former is more enjoyable, though not really more natural, while the latter adds quite a bit of realism. I'm sure the why is somewhere in the measurements, but I don't believe we know how to interpret it yet.
 

markus

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What's worst is what comes within.
I have absolutely no problem paying for a nice casework (if it combines this with helping thermals even better) .
The same for nice,genuine components inside.

And I can cope with the fact that it may have 90db SINAD as far as noise is low.

BUT.
If someone put a scientific curtain above all this (ok,not thermals,that's basic) I will feel bad for him trying to justify what he's not obliged to do.
He can just say "hey!It looks nice!" and that would be ok for me.
As an example take this video (I don't link straight to it,I don't want to offer them free hits) :


The person there can't help saying that he's a physicist,engineer,whatever only to dismiss it at the next sentence so to say "I like listening,I don't care how it measures" .
Fine,but why the (unused) credentials before that?

Honesty to ourselves is the best way to go.
You just don't get it :) It's for people fascinated by science – "science" like in "science fiction". They don't want to actually "learn science", it would take away the "magic".
 

Mnyb

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Wonder how close to the reality they must clinge ?

You obviously get away with science fiction advertising that you use silver binding post on your speakers for best sound or cryo treated wires ?

But if we take the science fiction to the limit can i claim warp cores in my DAC :) if you can’t find them I can use a russels teapot argument and claim that they are very small ?
 

Sokel

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You just don't get it :) It's for people fascinated by science – "science" like in "science fiction". They don't want to actually "learn science", it would take away the "magic".
I've met a lot of scientists in this hobby,some related to the subject as well.
What we do up-close is having fun,none of them tries to justify any purchases scientifically,when talking about measurements usually is what our installers tell us about the room (the ones who treated them) ,etc and even that not in depth.
And that's fine.Like any other hobby.

But it would be even funnier if someone come and tell us that he got the 50 kilos,class A amp cause it measures better.
We all know better than that.

(that would be true for a nice Halcro Eclipse though)
 

mike7877

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I've met a lot of scientists in this hobby,some related to the subject as well.
What we do up-close is having fun,none of them tries to justify any purchases scientifically,when talking about measurements usually is what our installers tell us about the room (the ones who treated them) ,etc and even that not in depth.
And that's fine.Like any other hobby.

But it would be even funnier if someone come and tell us that he got the 50 kilos,class A amp cause it measures better.
We all know better than that.

(that would be true for a nice Halcro Eclipse though)

lol a 50kg Class A amp. I have one of those! - broken at the moment :(
it's actually more like 30kg, but that's because its transformer is better (a toroid!)

Worst part about the situation is, I was re-capping it - just the power supply (four big honkers 33,000uf 70V + 4x 8,300?uf'ers) on a 1kVA toroid. I thought it was unplugged when I went to solder, using my T12 solder station. Hit the positive, and fried a bunch of transistors :'(

It's definitely not the best measuring amp in the world
Kinfig8.jpg

8 ohms, 4 ohms, 2 ohms (bottom to top)

Subjectively it's a smooth sounding amp which feels limitless in its power output. It seems to lack a bit of detail, but it's very dynamic, never any compression.

I wish it wasn't broken so I could bi-amp my speakers with it - use it for the woofers, and my Topping LA90 Discrete for the tweets. I broke it too horribly to fix myself, and the guy fixing it is taking foreverrrrrrrr
 

johny_2000

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AKG K371 is my most enjoyable over-ear too.
Yes, in terms of sound fidelity, without equalizers. But the build quality, the internal dimensions of the earcups, the niceness of the materials, the comfort of fit - they are far from leaders. Plus a very short soundstage, which annoyed me after 15 minutes of listening, after years of getting used to the open-back Sennheiser.
 

Weeb Labs

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I am quite comfortable in saying that most of the audiophile hobby is a scam.
 

Purité Audio

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Pretty much, but the ‘high-end’ audio manufacturers suggest in their marketing that the higher price equates to better performance, which of course it doesn’t.
Watch makers accept that they are just selling adornment.
Keith
 

JiiPee

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Isn't it same for all the high-end hobbies, like mechanical watch? :D
As a long time watch collector, I think there are crucial differences:
- Watch manufacturers do not claim that their products have any mystic, unknown to science, properties.
- Buyers of luxury watches do not expect them to be any better at measuring time than cheap quartz watches.
- There are different motivations behind luxury watch buying decisions, but quite often the watch is seen as a fashion item, an object d'art, a collectable piece gaining value in time i.e. an investment etc... Nobody's trying too fool anybody. Both the sellers and buyers know that they are dealing with luxury items and consequently, the pricing is not based on utility value.
 

Purité Audio

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(just food for thought)
Hmm... your reply really prompts me to think what is "performance".

For watch, accuracy? or how good it acts as "adornment"

1. For accuracy, may be:

View attachment 366111
2. For "adornment" performance, may be:

View attachment 366112

In the audiophiles' world, what would be the "performance"?

1. The DAC with the best SINAD as measured?

View attachment 366116

or

2. How good it re-produces the best "natural sounding" music (based on your own preference) from the same digitized source?

View attachment 366117
Chord Qutest was suggested by "Copilot" as one of the "best natural sounding DAC". Of course, most of us may have different opinions.

View attachment 366118

or

3. Something else?
Think of Peter Walkers ideal amplifier ‘A straight wire with gain’, that is what you are looking for from electronic components, the signal goes in, is converted or amplified and nothing else is added.
The other question is audibilty one component may have slightly better measurements but will that§ be audible.
Keith
Keith
 

Purité Audio

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Think of subjective reviews as no different to fairy stories, the three bears , princess and the pea.
Keith
 

Jim Taylor

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Hmm... your reply really prompts me to think what is "performance".
2. How good it re-produces the best "natural sounding" music (based on your own preference) from the same digitized source?
Some would consider it is a Hi Fi component to help their Hi Fi to make good sounding music.

Keith (@Purité Audio) has the correct answer. What we know as "audio equipment" is a collection of electronic circuits designed to take a body of information (signals embodied in tape, vinyl or digital form) and extract them, amplify them and send them to some sort of transducer (headphones or speakers) so we can hear them.

The original artists wanted us to enjoy their performances. They had their ideas, and those ideas were fairly specific. Sharon Isbin never intended that her recordings sound like Segovia's, even though she studied under Segovia. Ry Cooder never wanted to sound like Keith Richards, even though they played together long ago. Bruno Walter definitely wanted his recordings of the Pastoral Symphony to sound different from Otto Klemperer"s.

There's a great deal in recordings that give them their inherent characteristics. You may call it "sound", or you may call it "nuance" or in some cases you may call it "acoustic space". Regardless of the differentiation, the idea is that the person producing the music had a damn good idea what they wanted on the recording, and thus what they wanted you to hear.

But you may not like it. You may want it to sound different. You may want it to sound "better", so that you can enjoy it more. THAT IS LEGITIMATE! There is no accounting for taste, even if it means that you are second-guessing the original artist. (Some people love von Karajan, and some people hate him.)

But you personal idea of what "sounds good" is a slippery slope. If you get hi-fi equipment that makes one recording "sound good" to you, it can make another recording sound awful. And because the equipment modifies the recording the same way every time, you never get a chance to hear that second recording in such a way that would allow you to love it; your perception is restricted by the non-neutral characteristics of your hi-fi system.

THERE IS NO SYSTEM THAT MAKES EVERY RECORDING SOUND "GOOD" EVERY TIME. IT DOESN'T EXIST ... AND THAT INCLUDES A NON-NEUTRAL SYSTEM.

IMO, it's better that you have a neutral system. The whole idea behind a neutral system is that the listener has the maturity and insight to appreciate recordings and performances that are magnificent, and also the ones that are less desirable (in their personal opinion) than others.

If you feel that you absolutely have to modify the sound of your system, use DSP. You can modify it on the run, increase the effects that it has and then drop it altogether. It has premiere versatility, whereas a collection of affected hi-fi equipment does not. (I'm not mentioning DSP for its use as remedy for room acoustics; that's a separate issue. I'm mentioning it for its ability to modify recordings, so that you find them more pleasant, or "good-sounding".)

Hope this helps. :)

Jim
 

WillBrink

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Hi Guys!

Please help me understand, because I do not know If I am missing something, or the whole audiophile hobby is a scam.

I have several headphones with different frequency responses (namely: AKG K712 PRO, Grado SR225i, Sennheiser HD559, Sennheiser HD560S, Audio-Technica AD700X, AKG K371). Running them from the OG Atom Stack.

Out of all these, the most natural sounding is the K371 (without EQ). I can notice the difference when it comes to "soundstage", the open backs have bigger soundstage, but outside of that...we could say they have more "detail", but to me "detail" really seem like a buzzword, and in reality we are talking about quirky frequency responses, which create the illusion of "detail".

Any time I pick up the K712PRO for example, I can hear more "detail" from the music, but it sounds off...the 560S has more "detail" than the K371, but it sounds off (timbre is particularly bad with the 560S imho). I can sometimes enjoy these headphones, but they can get fatiguing, and anytime I pick up my K371, they just sound natural to me, and never fatiguing, regardless of genre of music.

So what is the catch here? If we want the best fidelity, we just need a clean amp, a clean dac, and a headphone that has Harman Tuning, and that is it, there's no possibility of getting better science based sound quality? Or my hearing might just gravitate toward the Harman Tuning?

Thank you for your responses in advance!
Name a hobby that's not a scam/has scamming components involved. Knives, watches, cameras, guns, etc, etc etc. There's a diminishing return in audio, a lot of scams, and bold + budget, and that's good baseline. I'm not a big headphone guy myself, so when I decided to get some, I looked through the reviews here, one from Hifiman got a good review (with EQ) and fit my budget, and I got that. They sound great for the $, but I didn't compare them to other brands subjectively. I got them as GF goes to bed early, I wanted to listen to my music and cant play main system. I also have the Sony WH-1000XM5 which are for traveling and I like them a lot for that purpose.
 

JiiPee

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Cool, I am a long time watch collector too (>25 years).

For watch, IMHO, I do see a lot "fooling around". For example, did you see any marketing materials saying that tourbillon improves the accuracy of a watch? It is even "worse" than HiFi market IMHO as there is no "SINAD" for watch. Even if you may consider "watch accuracy" as their "SINAD", they would say their watche are not for accuracy.....

Some of watch makers do emphasize on technolgies / science (e.g. rolex_syloxi_hairspring_english_2021.pdf, Patek Philippe | Savoir-Faire | Advanced Research) Are they fooling around? Hmm...

Similarly, for Hi-FI, IMHO, I would consider Hi-End Hi-Fi products are similar to hi-end luxury items. Did anyone of these Hi-End makers state that they have the best SINAD or SNR measurements? Probably not.

For these Hi-End products, people are not buying their SINAD or SNR. They are buying "natural sounding", "richness", "more analog like" (from a very subjective, personally view point)

Hi-End Hi-Fi makers usually sell their products with descriptions like "more analogy", "more natural", .. something that is not really measurable (like what you get from Hi-End luxury watch)

Some people would consider DAC is an digital to audio signal instrument (in the "lab" sense?). Some would consider it is a Hi Fi component to help their Hi Fi to make good sounding music (from their own experiences / feelings)
I see Your point, but I still think there is a world of difference.

Regarding Tourbillons... There is a solid scientific proof, that it does improve accuracy of a mechanical watch, although the improvement is in practice of such small quantity, that it is irrelevant, and it still does not make a mechanical watch as accurate as a digital watch. Anyway, imho, the crucial thing is that tourbillon watches are not bought because of their performance. I know two happy owners of tourbillons. They both stated they they bought those watches because the mechanism looks beautiful and "cool", and they just wanted to buy something nice for themselves to commemorate some event in their lives. I have never heard of a tube amplifier aficionado to say that he bought his amp just for the looks and he does not care how it sounds. Afaik, he would always mention that it is the (subjectively perceived) special sound that made him choose it.

If we take SINAD and frequency response as the basic standard measurements for objective performance in audio, I think we could say that rate deviation and beat error are their equivalents in horology. The big difference is how enthusiasts react to these measurements. To objectivist audio enthusiasts they really matter quite a lot. To subjectivist audio enthusiasts they don't matter at all. To horology enthusiasts they mainly matter just in checking if their watch requires adjustment/service.

Sure there are also high end audio stuff that can be seen as luxury items, but their sales arguments are still based on perceived performance - subjective, or objective.
 

Purité Audio

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Sun jam all the electronics ( if you choose decent measuring equipment) are blameless, transparent , that leaves you to choose loudspeakers which actually really do sound different from each other not from imagination but from their measurements.
A listener can choose to use electronics which add audible distortion if they choose.
Thats if electronics don’t have personalities or feelings they are just electrical components.
If something sounds different it will be evident in the measurements.
Keith
 

markanini

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Imagine if one said this:
"The audiophile market is driven by FOMO and Shiny object syndrome. This can only be enabled by the consumer."
I can already sense some people getting upset. But is this a warranted response, given that is merely descriptive, not prescriptive?

The only thing what could make a difference would be:
1. A non-free market , or
2. Consumers would be held responsible for their choices somehow, beyond having an empty wallet

I hate audio fads personally. But I would rather that my point of view remains a choice, just like believing in audiophile delusions is a choice. Given that the alterative sounds rather totalitarian.
 

Hammeredklavier

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Sun jam all the electronics ( if you choose decent measuring equipment) are blameless, transparent , that leaves you to choose loudspeakers which actually really do sound different from each other not from imagination but from their measurements.
I don't know if things have changed in recent years but there used to be considerable pushback against that. There was no shortage of people who insisted that there were readily audible differences between pieces of audio electronics even though nothing was apparent in the measurements!

To the earlier question about the sonic character of transducers, I think we have to admit of the fact that a neutral presentation might not be what some people want, and manufacturers know it. In A/B auditioning especially, some listeners might be seduced by a smiley frequency response for e.g. Although that shouldn't matter quite so much, now that people seem to be getting over their aversion to tone controls and equalisers
 

Jim Taylor

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It is a belief IMHO rather than a fact. With my background, I could say I know measurement and its limitations (e.g. Engineering tolerance) well enough and I would consider all the measurements are for reference only.

This is the same thing that Flat Earthers say.

This technique is called "deflection". You water-down the effect of something by calling it a "belief' rather than a principle, a given or a known. That way, you bring it down to your own terms, like inviting someone to wrestle a pig in a mud pit.

Yet you don't reject cell phone use as "belief".
You don't reject x-rays as "belief".
You don't reject air travel as "belief".
You don't reject the pictures from the Mars Rovers as "belief".
You don't reject the Moon Landing as "belief", and suggest that it was all staged ... or do you?

We all know engineering tolerances and their limitations, but we still drive cars, wear eyeglasses and measure drug doses.

Some things occupy our lives as facts. If you step in front of a speeding train, you're going to get hurt. That's a fact. Don't try to denigrate that by calling it a "belief".

Jim
 

Jim Taylor

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Hmm.... I hope you don't mind to answer a very simple question:

if two pens are measured as having the same length (e.g. 7.0 cm) by an instrument, would you consider the two pens have the same length?

Answer A: Yes, they have the same length
Answer B: No, they don't have the same length
Answer C: Both A and B are not the correct answer.


Feel free not to answer.

Answer D: It depends on the accuracy of the instrument used to measure and the tolerances required to formulate an answer. :)

Jim
 
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