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How we could finally pin down flowery audiophile subjective descriptions

MattHooper

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In a nutshell: I'm not arguing subjective impressions, and our attempt to communicate about them are perfectly reliable. They obviously aren't. I'm just arguing that we can certainly acknowledge problems, without exaggerating those problems to the point where communicating what we perceive becomes some worthless, useless crap shoot.
 

Curvature

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In a nutshell: I'm not arguing subjective impressions, and our attempt to communicate about them are perfectly reliable. They obviously aren't. I'm just arguing that we can certainly acknowledge problems, without exaggerating those problems to the point where communicating what we perceive becomes some worthless, useless crap shoot.
In the absence of measurements I can't see individual descriptions meaning much. They need an anchor, which is reliable performance data, specs.
 

Curvature

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In the absence of measurements I can't see individual descriptions meaning much. They need an anchor, which is reliable performance data, specs.
I'll expand.

With no measurements, all impressions are unreliable to a high degree.

With measurements, you can start sorting through them and get a good idea of what people are reporting and why.
 

Axo1989

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When discussions like this come up we see the common divide between more literate vs more numerate people. And it isn't surprising that there are passions involved. I work with numbers and have to be competent, but I don't love them. Quite a few people really do love them, and I sometimes envy that. What am I doing here? Well, the literate/numerate binary is an oversimplification of course. We can also be spatial, tactile, auditory or kinesthetic. And usually, some combination. I love words, but perhaps more so I love shapes and spaces. Visualisations of data are fabulous. Behaviour of sound in physical space is fascinating. To me.

Among the issues that highly numerate people often have with text/verbal language are fuzzy logic and ambiguity. The same word refers to a different thing an a different context. Audiophile language is obviously rife with this: "air" can refer to clarity (eg a sound with "space and air around it") or it can refer to the highest octave. The former may come from lack of higher order harmonic distortion, low noise floor and/or some combination of other factors (including room reflections) the latter may simply be a flat (or raised) frequency response above ~14 kHz. Rinse and repeat for a variety of terms. And people using them may be sh*t with numbers and not that great with words either. How do we know what the f*ck people are talking about?

Usually, from context. If as @MattHooper often describes, we work with people, we get to know what they perceive and how they express themselves. In an audiophile context we may become familiar with certain reviewers—music they listen to, room and equipment they use, comparative perceptions of gear we may have/heard etc. We also know that language is fuzzy, not linear-deterministic. We know that words have multiple meanings. We know that words mean different things when grouped with other words, and so on. And we function with it. Some more, some less. Those who cope less with those aspects of language are often attracted to STEM disciplines, for obvious and perfectly good reasons.
 
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Axo1989

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"Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent." Until we figure out what we are talking about, that is.

Yes, it's useful to consider Wittgenstein here. He helps explain common misconceptions many have when they are confounded by audiophile terminology.

Firstly, he didn't say one cannot speak. Consider s.2 of Tractatus: he certainly didn't say one cannot speak of space, colour, tone or touch (see 2.0131). He did say "every statement about complexes can be analysed into a statement about their constituent parts, and into those propositions which completely describe the complexes." (2.0201)" and "it is clear that however different from the real one an imagined world may be, it must have something—a form—in common with the real world." (2.022)

This is what @kemmler3D is suggesting: that we may well be able to make useful commonalities between the imagined world of audiophile narratives and the real world of sonic phenomena.

Secondly, the use of verbal/textuaI symbols noted above (eg "air") is often misunderstood syntactically. At s.3 Wittgenstein continues "in order to recognize the symbol in the sign we must consider the significant use" (3.326) and "the sign determines a logical form only together with its logical syntactic application" (3.327). Complaining that "air" is meaningless because it may correspond to one thing (a particular frequency range) in one context and different thing (a particular clarity*) in another is conflating a sign with a proposition.

Wittgenstein then invokes Occam's razor: some of the language symbols used are unnecessary and therefore meaningless. However—and obviously—it doesn't follow that they all are.

*we would break down clarity further, but I'll leave that for now.
 
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Galliardist

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The problem is not just the language, but the question of what is supposedly being described
Most often, we come into contact with this language in a comparison situation (often implied) - a component is inserted into an audio system, or a change is made to it. The language is used in a description attached to the sound of the component, or how the sound has been affected by the change.

The description is more often than not useless, because although it describes the listener's response to "the component" or "the change", there is a very high chance that the sound does not arise from "the component" or "the change" in the way we are invited to believe: or the person describing the change is somehow describing an internal response to something else about the system under review, that they perceive as a change in the sound.

So not only do we not know what the words mean, but we don't even know what they may be describing, how that relates to what they are seeking to describe, or even if what they are trying to describe is actually present.

And even if we are presented with say, a measurement of the component under review, we don't know the whole context to judge the described sound, since we don't know how the component is reacting with the rest of the system. Is placing a component in a system and listening guaranteed to give a good opportunity to understand what the component is doing in context?

If the words are effectively devoid or known context, what is the point in even trying to understand what the writer believes themselves to be reporting?
 

Ricardus

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No, Ricardus simply asked us to accept a conclusion based on some outrageous broad claims.

Here...



"Subjectivity can not be agreed upon?"

Except...that we do this all day long and it forms the basis of human experience, communication and coordinating our efforts!
All our experience is subjective, and we communicate information by correlating our subjective impressions!
Except you don't. Which is why this thread exists.

Your entire set of replies to me was just a giant straw man.

There is subjectivity and objectivity. Look them up.

You wanna believe in magic? Fine. But I have bad news for you. You're on the wrong site.

The OP asked for universally accepted descriptions, and ASR does it... EVERY TIME Amir shows test results. Specs are universally accepted descriptors for what the amp is doing (ergo what we're hearing) and good specs the definition of high fidelity. FULL STOP.

The rest is just audiophool nonsense. No one will hear what the OP hears because we don't have his brain/bias, his ears, his system, or his room. There is no point is trying to standardize subjectivity simply because it can't be done. If you need a link to those definition please ask.
 

Jim Shaw

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A Glossary and Definitions of Audio Terms?

Years ago, I approached several YT pundits with a suggestion that we (readers, listeners, viewers) need a listing of terms and definitions.
Essentially, a dictionary of audio terms.

The response was remarkably consistent:

"I don't want to, I don't have to, I won't, and you can't make me. And if one is made, I won't read it."

Chaos enjoys chaos, revels in chaos, creates more chaos, and money can be made from chaos.
 
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kemmler3D

kemmler3D

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The description is more often than not useless, because although it describes the listener's response to "the component" or "the change", there is a very high chance that the sound does not arise from "the component" or "the change" in the way we are invited to believe: or the person describing the change is somehow describing an internal response to something else about the system under review, that they perceive as a change in the sound.
Yes, I would limit this to descriptions of speakers, to at least avoid measuring known-zero differences...

The OP asked for universally accepted descriptions, and ASR does it... EVERY TIME Amir shows test results.
You're not quite addressing the point of what I've proposed here. The whole idea is to do this precisely because descriptions are not used universally, but we could identify relationships between objective measurements and TRENDS in how they are used out in the world. This would have some uses, and I just think it would be interesting.
 

MattHooper

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Your entire set of replies to me was just a giant straw man.

Except, you don't explain why. You can make mere assertions, or actually reply to arguments. It's up to you.

As to strawmen, see the following:

There is subjectivity and objectivity. Look them up.

You wanna believe in magic? Fine. But I have bad news for you. You're on the wrong site.

Of course there isn't one single thing in what I've written that suggests I "believe in magic." (In fact I have done plenty of blind testing over the years
of my equipment, and even posted results on the forum. How about you?)

You can either interact honestly with what someone writes..or not. Again..up to you.


The OP asked for universally accepted descriptions, and ASR does it... EVERY TIME Amir shows test results. Specs are universally accepted descriptors for what the amp is doing (ergo what we're hearing) and good specs the definition of high fidelity. FULL STOP.

I was addressing what you wrote, not the OP. You were making poorly constructed arguments.

The rest is just audiophool nonsense. No one will hear what the OP hears because we don't have his brain/bias, his ears, his system, or his room.

When producing a TV series the creatives "don't have the brain/ears/system/room" of every viewer. Does that entail that human perception is so chaotically variable that they may as well give up writing dialogue, music and making sound effects because "who KNOWS what people will hear?"

If you don't think that question is pertinent to what you wrote...think about it again. Or...please explain why it isn't.

There is no point is trying to standardize subjectivity simply because it can't be done. If you need a link to those definition please ask.

Have you ever heard of musical notation? (Ever read a musical score? See any measurements in there?)

In any case, it's a red herring, I was addressing the fact your arguments rely on an indefensible level of hyperbole.
 
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MattHooper

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How do we know what the f*ck people are talking about?

Usually, from context. If as @MattHooper often describes, we work with people, we get to know what they perceive and how they express themselves. In an audiophile context we may become familiar with certain reviewers—music they listen to, room and equipment they use, comparative perceptions of gear we may have/heard etc. We also know that language is fuzzy, not linear-deterministic. We know that words have multiple meanings. We know that words mean different things when grouped with other words, and so on. And we function with it. Some more, some less. Those who cope less with those aspects of language are often attracted to STEM disciplines, for obvious and perfectly good reasons.

(Emphasis mine)

Yes!

This is a point that is continually missed by people demanding glossaries. It's not that glossaries for subjective terms can't or don't exist, or aren't used between groups of people. But there is a deeper issue inherent in all of this. Glossaries in of themselves are not "necessary." Helpful? Yes. Necessary for any communication of our perceptual impressions? No. We are talking about the basics of human communication. We don't have "glossaries" for every single thing we communicate about all day, but we do our best to describe things to each other, and often do this successfully.

Just like if we see something cool and we do our best to put it in to language to communicate with other people, if we hear something we can try to describe what we hear. Audiophiles are often just trying to put in to language what they hear. Whether a glossary exists or not (and there are some common terms), that is a totally legitimate project - we all do it all the time! And we communicate by adding context, or elaboration. (And in all this I am referring to audible differences!)

So for instance, if I hear two different speakers and I say one sounds "darker" than the other, my audiophile pals will tend to know what I'm getting at. But someone might not be familiar with the term and say "darker? what does that mean? How does it make sense sound could be 'dark? That language must be nonsense!"

That's not what you do when you are trying to communicate or understand a term. If you are actually trying to understand, rather than simply dismiss, you ask: "what do you MEAN by describing speaker A as "darker?" Then I can give more context and elaboration.

So for instance: It's using light as an analogy. Take two different TV displays and dial down the brightness/contrast controls on one of them. The high frequencies - bright areas - will be less vivid, the overall picture somewhat darker, and especially as mixed content comes on screen (e.g. night scenes) there will be a sense of less obvious detail in the darker image. This is what I mean to describe in sonic terms about the difference between two speakers, where one has stronger, more vivid high frequency energy, which "brightens" up the sonic 'image,' especially the high end "highlights" like cymbals etc having more pop, and tends to make detail a bit more vivid and discernible, just like brightening up the high frequencies on a TV set.

Now, some audiophiles will have experienced just such impressions with speakers that vary in high frequency character and "get" what I mean. Someone may not have had a similar experience, but say "Ok, but I see what you are trying to get across." And someone else...perhaps someone just too uncomfortable with imprecision...may say "Nope, sorry, don't get it. Put it in numbers please!"

So at one point it becomes a "you can lead a horse to water...." scenario. Some people will not understand, or will refuse to really try to understand, what one is trying to put in to language. Wuddyagonnado? Ok, you reject the language...fair enough I won't direct it at you, I'll just communicate with others who understand it, or who want to understand.

I don't see any problem if, regarding audio, an individual wants to reject imprecise language for his own use, and look to quantified information. The issue comes when such folks use their own rejection as some blanket condemnation, as if it's of no use to ANYONE (and, often, use this to disparage those who accept the use of subjective description even in time when measurements are not given).

As I've pointed out many times, if some people on this site were truly consistent with their allergy to and rejection of imprecise subjective descriptions, we in my business literally could not work with such people. Thanfully, people are not really consistent with this rejection: they actually use and comprehend subjective, imprecise language every day. We don't always need measurements or glossaries to put together words in different ways, use analogies, build impressions in someone else's mind to communicate. I mean it's possible some here actually try to read fiction books and find it impossible to understand what the author is depicting, but I suspect that's generally not the case ;-)
 
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tuga

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Would anyone (even the initiated) come to the same sound description as Amir based on the plots above ?

Was his description based on the plots above?

Or the results of a listening assessment?
 

gavagai

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I'm sorry. I'm taking the risk of inducing lengthy post but it's to irresistible for me.

The high frequencies - bright areas -

Nope. Frequencies are related to colors, not brightness.
So I don't really understand in what way your analogy is an analogy.
Maybe you have an subjective conception of optics, and an subjective conception of the meaning of the word "analogy ?".
If it's true, how many subjective conceptions must pilled up before one is authorized to say : there's no attempt of communication here. Just a shamanic agitation ?
 

solderdude

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Was his description based on the plots above?

Or the results of a listening assessment?

the results of a listening assessment.

In the end that's what the vast majority of people care about.
 

MattHooper

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I'm sorry. I'm taking the risk of inducing lengthy post but it's to irresistible for me.



Nope. Frequencies are related to colors, not brightness.

You are right, I wrote too fast there, thinking of the brighter white areas (equal proportion of color frequencies). Referring to frequencies would be confusing. Thanks.

Just substitute "brightness" or "luminance." You know what it looks like when a display image is brighter vs darker, or what it looks like when you adjust a TV image brighter vs darker (presumably).


So I don't really understand in what way your analogy is an analogy.
Maybe you have an subjective conception of optics, and an subjective conception of the meaning of the word "analogy ?".
If it's true, how many subjective conceptions must pilled up before one is authorized to say : there's no attempt of communication here. Just a shamanic agitation ?

See above, hope that clarifies.

(And I hope my response wasn't too long :))
 
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kemmler3D

kemmler3D

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I'm sorry. I'm taking the risk of inducing lengthy post but it's to irresistible for me.



Nope. Frequencies are related to colors, not brightness.
So I don't really understand in what way your analogy is an analogy.
Maybe you have an subjective conception of optics, and an subjective conception of the meaning of the word "analogy ?".
If it's true, how many subjective conceptions must pilled up before one is authorized to say : there's no attempt of communication here. Just a shamanic agitation ?

So you're saying you don't or can't understand what someone means when they say "this speaker is too bright"? Or you're saying that this usage is too annoying for you to acknowledge? Or what?

It's still an analogy, by the way, even if wavelength is mapped to intensity when you make the basic mistake of taking the analogy completely literally.

If I say "It's like trying to explain math to spiders" about this thread, will you object because you have 2 legs and not 8?
 

Jim Shaw

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Where would civilization be today if dictionaries were never written, never trusted, never consulted, or outlawed?
Better off?
Further ahead?
Less famine and disease?
Able to communicate across different languages and dialects?

Audiophiles could go to an audio show and just point, gesture, mumble, and grunt.
"Me like this."
"grunt"
[babble]
[rub belly and point to ass...]
[headshake]

Instead of
"This box with holes has a hint of lettuce and old goat milk with a gooey feel and a kick drum aftertaste..."
:)
 

Curvature

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Firstly, he didn't say one cannot speak.
"7. Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen."

Literal.

We should defer to measurements when performance assessment is the goal. A lot can be done outside of that to speak better, to be more informative, but the object of description is phantasmagorical. It asks for precision and study. It resists casualness.
 

MattHooper

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(Putting aside the implied strawman...I clearly wasn't arguing against glossaries, much less all word definitions, but pointing out we don't *necessarily* need to have specialized glossaries ALREADY in place for everything we want to describe, since we can put together words we already understand to describe something, or we can introduce NEW terms and explain what we mean by the term.)

Where would civilization be today if dictionaries were never written, never trusted, never consulted, or outlawed?

Curious: How do you think words get in to dictionaries in the first place?

There is some phenomenon, and we attempt to put that phenomenon in to words, right? Like: "Here's something we can perceive, we have to use language to describe it, and I'm using this term to refer to that thing. And here are the reasons why this term makes sense."

Exactly what I was attempting when explaining the use of "dark" for an audio description, right? We can make up new words, or we can re-purpose existing terms, or use them in analogies, for our use.

And does some level of imprecision render words useless?

"smooth" "sharp" "dull" "sweet" "bitter" and on and on?

Would you plead ignorance if anyone used such terms...or any of countless such examples...because those words are not measurements, or don't come with measurements, and un-quantified language represents such a subjective morass it's just useless?

How many measurements do you see in dictionary definitions?
 
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