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How we could finally pin down flowery audiophile subjective descriptions

soundcheck

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Many of us throw up our hands when equipment is described as "fast", "slow", "crisp", "warm", etc. It seems impossible to relate these terms to measurable characteristics.

You nailed it.

First of...
People need to accept that there are characteristics in sound that are not properly described through
the commonly used measurements. And "people" includes Amir!

Audio Precision openly stated that their measurement gear won't cover the full audible "signature" (spectrum).
It would require more and different measurements to explain what we hear.
Their AP devices are best to be used for quality assurance in production processes. That's what I recall was said.

Note:
I had discussions with manufacturers in the past. We agreed that measurable improvements - all in the "inaudible" arena - ,
which usually require numerous product design enhancements, also can have indirect impact on the sound signature of a product.
All kind of parts get changed. Software gets changed, asf. asf. What's really the root cause of an audible change on the final device
usually remains unknown. If the device sells great for that very reason - a perceived better sound. Who cares what's causing it!

Now. Fact is.

There are audible differences, even if standard measurements are suggesting to some people there are none.
It's been proven a million times. Not just by the "audiophile golden ears" out there.
Manufactures, professional reviewers, reviewers, audio professionals, more or less experienced users, ... they can all hear it.
Everybody can - even via poorly recorded Youtube videos you can tell fuse A from fuse B, cable A from cable B, asf. asf.... apart.

Now. For all the "scientists" over here.

Empirical evidence is fully accepted in science. So. Yes. Listening experiences can prove a certain matter. That's not the issue.

The problem starts with people trying to explain it or being forced to explain it. That usually turns out to be very "objective"
and the terminology used gets adventurous.

Whatsoever. As a "real" scientist you'd listen to all these people.
You start looking for the subject until you see it yourself. Simply ignoring the facts is the worst thing a scientist can do.

To quote sciencealert.com :

The issue is that when it comes to facts, people think more like lawyers than scientists, which means they 'cherry pick' the facts and studies that back up what they already believe to be true.

So if someone doesn't think humans are causing climate change, they will ignore the hundreds of studies that support that conclusion, but latch onto the one study they can find that casts doubt on this view. This is also known as confirmation bias, a type of cognitive bias.

Yep. Cognitive bias. That's what we find in the audio realm a lot over here and elsewhere.
And I'd extent above sciencelalert quote "...they already believe to be true..." by "...and/or they want others to believe to be true..."

Now. It has even been proven numerous times by measurements, that there are differences, beyond the standard measurements.
One approach was to compare a real music sample with its loop-back recording. Not just a test-tone!
It was done by DAC and ADC looping. No ears involved! The tool being used was AudioDiffmaker .
You can find several gear tests results over at gearspace.com

Each of these tests did show differences for a different device on the recorded sample file. And here we talk about the audible part!
And we talk several dB in difference.

The key parameter over at gearspace is named "correlated 0 depth". It shows how close the recording gets to the source.

This approach also works on transport optimizations. We used it over at slim devices forum more than 10 years ago to show that my
Squeezebox Touch Toolbox (Linux optimizations) was impacting the sound signature. Result: It did clearly impact the sound signature btw!

AudioDiffmaker is (was?) just one approach. It to me simply shows, if you start looking for evidence, you'll find it.

Amir could take that tool and run some tests with it. It might turn out to be a very useful step ahead. It might turn out to be useless. Who knows.

The better we know what we're talking about the better we can describe it.
Until then the language around it remains flowery. Which is not that bad. Many people understand what's "crisp" when you hear it.
You simply need to learn a new language. ;)

Enjoy.
 

Axo1989

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"7. Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen."

Literal.

I'm not following: are you saying you can't see difference between "one cannot speak" and "whereof one cannot speak"?

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.

I agree performance assessment is one goal of a review. But we also want to know "what does it sound like" and other things.

Are you using a translation app or is English your second language? No offence intended obviously but your syntax is unusual. When you say the object of the description is phantasmagorical do you mean that the reviewer's objective is to produce a dreamlike/unreal/fantastic/illusory text? Or are you referring to description generally? Or do you mean something else?
 
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Galliardist

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There are audible differences, even if standard measurements are suggesting to some people there are none.
It's been proven a million times. Not just by the "audiophile golden ears" out there.
Manufactures, professional reviewers, reviewers, audio professionals, more or less experienced users, ... they can all hear it.
Everybody can - even via poorly recorded Youtube videos you can tell fuse A from fuse B, cable A from cable B, asf. asf.... apart.
The problem is this. If you eliminate difference by level matching, between devices where no audible difference is predicted by measurements, and test blind, the result is that no audible difference is heard. It's kind of "by definition" but it's strong evidence that we don't have to allow for anything else.

If you can produce a repeatable, properly done DBT where that hypothesis breaks down and a difference is heard, bring it here and we can talk. Youtube videos and discussions of sighted subjective tests with no rigour or control, we have no proper evidence that the sound waves in the room have changed.

If it's been proven - properly proven - a "million times" you and any other subjectivist should be able to bring that proper proof here. I haven't seen it and nor have the genuine experts here. The evidence always seems to be anecdotal, though, doesn't it?
 

solderdude

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I had made an attempt to correlate some of the most used words into a technical explanation here.
Of course I could add some other flowery ones as well but would have to 'understand' what is meant by the words.
 

Jim Shaw

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

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?
Etymologists use resources to standardize the meaning of words, so others can use those words with some level of consistent meaning.

A subjective morass is by most standards useless, though it may be entertaining. As an example, I love limericks. But they have little place in describing music.

There once was a troll from Audiometry
Who never could figure music symmetry.
He spoke with disdain
Of all who explain
With the slightest amount of civility.


It would be absurd to use a language that doesn't allow some imprecision. (You may be trying too hard to find something wrong with definitions.)

Measurements are comparisons of information with relatively stable standards. Dictionaries (every entry) are full of such measurements. Have you not noticed this?
;)
 

Ricardus

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The idea is to measure how often people (in general, large groups of people, not individuals) use subjective terms in relation to specific objective measurements, so that when someone can't or won't refer to measurements, (which is very often, as you know) we could still make a probabilistic / educated guess as to what they actually heard.

What's the problem with that?
Because it's a fantasy. Our ears suck. Don't trust them. Our brains lie to us. Don't trust it.

It's a gigantic waste of time. Trust meaurements. Buy reasonably priced gear that measures well. Then sit at home and write all the flowery love poems to your gear that you want, but please don't share them.
 
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kemmler3D

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Because it's a fantasy. Our ears suck. Don't trust them. Our brains lie to us. Don't trust it.

It's a gigantic waste of time. Trust meaurements. Buy reasonably priced gear that measures well. Then sit at home and write all the flowery love poems to your gear that you want, but please don't share them.
So the Harman preference curve is a total fantasy too? Just a collective delusion of the entire industry?

They're very similar ideas at the end of the day, quantifying trends in subjective experiences via statistics. Maybe you are too fixated on the term 'flowery'?

Your preferred approach is to ignore subjective language entirely... feel free, this thread must be very boring for you.
 
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MattHooper

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Etymologists use resources to standardize the meaning of words, so others can use those words with some level of consistent meaning.

That seems to teeter in to the debate of descriptivism vs prescriptivism regarding dictionaries...but no reason to go there, since I can't see the relevance of that comment. The point is language can convey information, including information from our senses, even if it's imprecise and unaccompanied by measurements.
Imprecision does not equal "subjective morass."

If you are looking for a knife in my drawer to cut some meat and I say "the one with the red handle is dull, the one with the black handle is very sharp" that isn't precise - I'm not giving you exact measurements, but if you are a normal English speaker you get the gist, and it suggests the knife with the black handle would be the better choice. I have a friend who is a Knife Geek and frankly none of the knives in my drawer would be "sharp" by his criteria...yet he'd still understand what I was saying.

Likewise, if I describe a speaker as "very bright sounding" or "very dark sounding" my audio pals will understand the gist of what that means, generally that the high frequencies of one are likely more prominant than the other. Whether they themselves find the speaker "too bright" or whatever, doesn't negate that they know what I mean. (And as it turns out, we almost always agree on what we are hearing, and communicate this way).



A subjective morass is by most standards useless, though it may be entertaining. As an example, I love limericks. But they have little place in describing music.

There once was a troll from Audiometry
Who never could figure music symmetry.
He spoke with disdain
Of all who explain
With the slightest amount of civility.


It would be absurd to use a language that doesn't allow some imprecision. (You may be trying too hard to find something wrong with definitions.)

I really have no idea how you are drawing the inference that I'm trying to find something wrong with definitions.

You keep alluding to this subjective morass yet as I keep pointing out this fails to explain how people nonetheless convey information all the time without the need of measurements, and given some imprecision in words, and even when there isn't a particular glossary to fall back on. We just did a playback of an episode for an upcoming Netflix series I'm working on, the room full of creatives, mixers, sound editors etc, and, while the mixers and I may share some glossary-like short hand terms when communicating, many of the creatives do not in terms of sound, and we all had to communicate our impressions of the sound to one another nonetheless. Not a single measurement was made or alluded to. And...as usual...we did this successfully, altering the sound mix based on our mutual descriptions of the sound until everyone was happy.

There is no magic dividing line between the work I do in sound and, in lieu of measurements, using language - even if not as precise - to successfully communicate about the characteristics of sound of audio gear like speakers or whatnot. Not as precise, but worthless or some hopeless subjective morass? That is just flat out wrong.

Measurements are comparisons of information with relatively stable standards. Dictionaries (every entry) are full of such measurements. Have you not noticed this?
;)

Ok, I see the smiley, but to be explicit: You are playing word games. I've clearly been using the term "measurements" in the relevant way they are used on this site and these discussions: quantification.

So, no, you do not see dictionaries rife with measurements.
 
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kemmler3D

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Not as precise, but worthless or some hopeless subjective morass? That is just flat out wrong.
QFT. If we say "turn it down, it's too loud", only the most snotty pedant would reply "Sorry, you're going to have to specify how many decibels, "loud" is a subjective term".
 

MattHooper

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Because it's a fantasy. Our ears suck. Don't trust them. Our brains lie to us. Don't trust it.

It's a gigantic waste of time. Trust meaurements. Buy reasonably priced gear that measures well. Then sit at home and write all the flowery love poems to your gear that you want, but please don't share them.

What's interesting is that you could make a perfectly good argument for relying on measurements, but you will never get there by basing it on clearly incorrect hyperbole. (To the point of incoherence).

If our senses suck that bad and our brains lie, I can't trust that you wrote what you seem to have wrote and can dismiss it as illusion. Right?

Or...do you actually want to be persuasive and dial down the hyperbole to make a more precise argument?

And you might begin by asking yourself: If our ears/brain suck so badly that it will distort any perception of the actual sound...why care about how something measures again...? After all, our sucky ears won't hear it correctly anyway...right?
 

fpitas

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QFT. If we say "turn it down, it's too loud", only the most snotty pedant would reply "Sorry, you're going to have to specify how many decibels, "loud" is a subjective term".
I haven't ever said that. But I will now.
 

Ricardus

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So the Harman preference curve is a total fantasy too? Just a collective delusion of the entire industry?
That's EQ. EQ actually does something. I'm a recording engineer. Why would I deny that EQ changes things? I use EQ every day.

What does the fact that EQ exists and can create a curve have to do with anything here?
 

MattHooper

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QFT. If we say "turn it down, it's too loud", only the most snotty pedant would reply "Sorry, you're going to have to specify how many decibels, "loud" is a subjective term".

Indeed.

This is why I see some folks "reasoning in a bubble" which happens a lot...in every day life and certainly on enthusiast forums. That is, taking a stance that seems reasonable in the current context to them, but if you trace out the implications of the argument to try to make it coherent with the rest of life, it doesn't hold up.

There's no problem whatsoever in making an argument for why anyone might prefer to seek objective, quantifiable information about audio gear, and eschew subjective reports. The problem is when this becomes a sort of scorched-earth policy against communicating our subjective impressions, as if such modes are "worthless" unless accompanied by measurements - a throwing the baby out with the bathwater that just becomes incoherent given this same person will step outside this forum and use JUST that type of imprecise communication succesfully all through the day.
 

MattHooper

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That's EQ. EQ actually does something. I'm a recording engineer. Why would I deny that EQ changes things? I use EQ every day.

What does the fact that EQ exists and can create a curve have to do with anything here?

You are missing his point.

You claimed we can't rely on our ears suck and our brains lie.

The research cited by Toole et al, and the Harman Kardon research that led to refining speaker design, relied on USING THE SUBJECTS EARS to detect differences and report preferences. And the fact they found such a high, reliable correlation between certain measurements and the bulk of the subject reports SHOWS THAT OUR EARS DON'T JUST LIE. The results show people's perception can be pretty reliable.

Which shouldn't be a surprise: you are ASSUMING people's perception is reliable enough to read what you are writing.

If you dial down the hyperbole from "our perception is TOTALLY UNRELIABLE" to "our senses CAN be unreliable" then you'll find your way to a more coherent argument.
 

Inner Space

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I'm a recording engineer.
Me too, and I have been for 45 years. This is why I find it hard to follow the thrust of your argument. You must hear "flowery audiophile subjective descriptions" (or their first cousins) a dozen times a day.

For instance, literally yesterday, I was in a sound design meeting for a streaming season, and was asked by the director to make a three-line dialog exposition "kind of cold ... almost sinister, you know ... so we get a chill when we hear it." Immediately I "translated" that in my head to all the things I would need to do ... FR mods, reverbs with a particular FR profile, etc, etc. It's part of the job, and always has been - thereby proving that in any professional bubble there tends to be a consensus whereby certain words come to mean certain things, with reasonable precision, all by mutual habit and experience. I don't see why the same can't apply in a hobby context, and I don't see why you don't grasp that, given your experience.

Can you explain that? Have all your clients by an astonishing coincidence talked only technically? Does a bass player say to me, "I want that, like, fatter, man," but to you, "Can you raise the 75Hz - 150Hz octave by a dB with a broad Q?"
 

spartaman64

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i guess Dr Sean Olive was being a heretical subjectivist when he said that bass is the most variable part of the harman curve. 25% of people prefer less bass and 25% of people prefer more bass.

also lets not forget this review by amir https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...mark-levinson-no-5909-headphone-review.35292/
"It pains me to not recommend a headphone that hits the magical tonality curve but here we are. I want the headphone experience to do things that even good speakers can't. And we simply are not there with Mark Levinson No 5909 headphone."

Measurements are very important but unfortunately not the only consideration for headphones.
 
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gavagai

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

In fact maybe too short because you totally miss the point. "Brightness" or "luminance", whatever (although I never heard an audiophile saying "this speaker has too much luminance"). My point is that your analogy is not an analogy.

And the reason for this is that "dark" and "bright" have a totally different relation in your "analogy" when applied to speaker and TV.
"Too dark" or "too bright" is related to the structure of the phenomenon produced by the speaker (the sound) : to much highs, not enough bass, or some combination of the two. There's unwanted differences inside the phenomenon compared to correct reproduction.

When you darken (in a reasonable fashion) your tv with your remote, there's no modification inside the phenomenon. The relation beetween the different portions of the image remains the same and as long the reproduction of the image was correct before the use of your remote, it remains like it after.

A correct analogy would have been build around the modification of the gamma curve of the image (hence with brightness or luminance, whatever). But there's two problems for you :
  1. The differences in gamma curves are not usually described as "brightness" and "darkness".
  2. The concept of gamma curve is not common sense concept as "brightness" and "darkness".
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?

I say that "a speaker is to bright" is a sentence that is not based on an analogy : it's a shortcuts for "this speaker has a problem with his frequency response. Maybe too much highs, not enough bass, of the combination of the two. When I will find out after an investigation, I will use the exact sentence for describing this problem (too much highs for instance).
Using "bright" in another sense (and what sense ?) is for me shamanic agitation, not meaning.

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?

No because it's not an analogy, only a comparison disguised in an analogy. Compare:
  1. It's like trying to explain math to a meatball.
  2. It's like trying to teach to walk to an earthworm.
The sentence 1) work perfectly, because the number of leg is not relevant here. The number of leg doesn't implies a relation. Hence this sentence is simply a comparison, not an analogy : you compare some human with something that is not human.
The sentence 2) is an analogy and the number of leg is here clearly relevant. It points toward a relation.
you make the basic mistake of taking the analogy completely literally.

As you can see in my profile, I'm an french litterature teacher. So convince people that word often have to be taken not literally is literally my everyday job.
 

Jim Shaw

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That seems to teeter in to the debate of descriptivism vs prescriptivism regarding dictionaries...but no reason to go there, since I can't see the relevance of that comment. The point is language can convey information, including information from our senses, even if it's imprecise and unaccompanied by measurements.
Imprecision does not equal "subjective morass."

If you are looking for a knife in my drawer to cut some meat and I say "the one with the red handle is dull, the one with the black handle is very sharp" that isn't precise - I'm not giving you exact measurements, but if you are a normal English speaker you get the gist, and it suggests the knife with the black handle would be the better choice. I have a friend who is a Knife Geek and frankly none of the knives in my drawer would be "sharp" by his criteria...yet he'd still understand what I was saying.

Likewise, if I describe a speaker as "very bright sounding" or "very dark sounding" my audio pals will understand the gist of what that means, generally that the high frequencies of one are likely more prominant than the other. Whether they themselves find the speaker "too bright" or whatever, doesn't negate that they know what I mean. (And as it turns out, we almost always agree on what we are hearing, and communicate this way).





I really have no idea how you are drawing the inference that I'm trying to find something wrong with definitions.

You keep alluding to this subjective morass yet as I keep pointing out this fails to explain how people nonetheless convey information all the time without the need of measurements, and given some imprecision in words, and even when there isn't a particular glossary to fall back on. We just did a playback of an episode for an upcoming Netflix series I'm working on, the room full of creatives, mixers, sound editors etc, and, while the mixers and I may share some glossary-like short hand terms when communicating, many of the creatives do not in terms of sound, and we all had to communicate our impressions of the sound to one another nonetheless. Not a single measurement was made or alluded to. And...as usual...we did this successfully, altering the sound mix based on our mutual descriptions of the sound until everyone was happy.

There is no magic dividing line between the work I do in sound and, in lieu of measurements, using language - even if not as precise - to successfully communicate about the characteristics of sound of audio gear like speakers or whatnot. Not as precise, but worthless or some hopeless subjective morass? That is just flat out wrong.



Ok, I see the smiley, but to be explicit: You are playing word games. I've clearly been using the term "measurements" in the relevant way they are used on this site and these discussions: quantification.

So, no, you do not see dictionaries rife with measurements.
The patient presents symptoms abjectly absurd. The diagnosis is Gottaberightis narcissus, the dry ulcerous variety. Often endemic to grade school playgrounds. The treatment: daily doses of growoutofit.
[gesture of finger pointing to foot.] :)
 
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