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How we could finally pin down flowery audiophile subjective descriptions

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 Taylor

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certain words come to mean certain things, with reasonable precision, all by mutual habit and experience

Is that not a reference?

also 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.

I don't see that as Dr. Olive being a subjectivist. I don't see that as Dr. Olive being an objectivist, either. I see that as Dr. Olive simply noting what other people preferred. Did he invest himself into the statistics?

I "translated" that in my head ,,,,
I don't see why the same can't apply in a hobby context ....

Because what you translate in your head may not be .... not at all ..... what a hobbyist translates in their head.

This discussion of "flowery" descriptions between professionals in a professional setting with professional equipment, where choices can be checked almost in real-time, has no relation to the use of "flowery" descriptions by hobbyists and amateurs in forums or in videos, where choices cannot be checked either quickly, or easily, or perhaps not even checked at all.

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?

I've heard it both ways, many times. It depends who the bass player (or horn player or vocalist) is, and who they're talking to.

Jim
 

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.] :)
 

Spkrdctr

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Is that not a reference?



I don't see that as Dr. Olive being a subjectivist. I don't see that as Dr. Olive being an objectivist, either. I see that as Dr. Olive simply noting what other people preferred. Did he invest himself into the statistics?




Because what you translate in your head may not be .... not at all ..... what a hobbyist translates in their head.

This discussion of "flowery" descriptions between professionals in a professional setting with professional equipment, where choices can be checked almost in real-time, has no relation to the use of "flowery" descriptions by hobbyists and amateurs in forums or in videos, where choices cannot be checked either quickly, or easily, or perhaps not even checked at all.



I've heard it both ways, many times. It depends who the bass player (or horn player or vocalist) is, and who they're talking to.

Jim
Good post Jim. I have stayed out of this rambling on again off again cat fight. Plus I get tired of people taking someone to task when they make a general statement. Because they know that it is only 98% true but not 100% true. If I could, I would fist punch those people through my computer screen. Little nerdy smart alecks. Your post said what needed to be said. Thank you!
 
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MattHooper

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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").

That right there signals a literalism that will be an underlying problem in this discussion.

You know analogies are by definition not equating A and B as identical, right?

My point is that your analogy is not an analogy.

Of course it is.

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.

That that objection makes no sense, and seems straining to miss the point. Not to mention, incorrect.

First of all, I referenced adjusting contrast/brightness controls. Traditionally (e.g. in CRT sets, and emissive displays) the brightness control adjusted black levels, the contrast control adjusted the proportional luminance of white. This clearly changes the relation of the different portions of the image!

Of course things will depend on the type of display/brightness control - some displays (e.g. LCDs) will, using just the brightness control, raise the luminance in proportion across the board for a brighter image. However contrast will raise the luminance limit being put out by the display, though will not raise all the ranges proportionally! (That's why it typically takes making separate adjustments of "Brightness" and "Contrast" controls to maximize contrast). (And note also, that depending on the setting, even raising the brightness control on an LCD will - due to the way our sight works - alter the PERCEIVED detail and balance of the image).

So, even your description just seems wrong.

But, again, we don't have to get in to such pedantry which misses the point.

What I care about is perception: The analogy is between the two phenomena as we perceive it!

Adjusting the brightness control WILL make an image appear "brighter" and will, all things being equal, make some detail more obvious or visible (e.g. detail that was too dark to notice). Adjusting contrast WILL increase the vividness of the image, and increasing contrast "too much" CAN make highlights POP out more - even to the point of producing an unnatural emphasis in those regions.

Frequency response in speakers may not in a strict technical sense change in exactly the same way - obviously sound is different from light - but the PERCEPTION is a reasonable analogy: The way frequency variations in a speaker can make detail "lit up" or more apparent, and in which high frequency emphasis can make upper frequency sounds "pop out" more, even to the point of an unnaturally vivid emphasis in those regions.

Seriously...you seem to be saying you really don't understand what someone could mean by describing one speaker as "brighter" than the other. (And hence by corollary what they could mean by the other speaker being "darker")

Really?


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".

I'm afraid that is pedantism in service of missing the point.

(And not to mention, per above, my reference to the effects of brightness/contrast controls were indeed relevant)
 
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MattHooper

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Because what you translate in your head may not be .... not at all ..... what a hobbyist translates in their head.

And yet again...somehow humans manage to communicate all day long. Weird huh? It's almost as if our senses and language allow us, despite imperfections, to still converge enough to allow us to communicate.

This discussion of "flowery" descriptions between professionals in a professional setting with professional equipment, where choices can be checked almost in real-time, has no relation to the use of "flowery" descriptions by hobbyists and amateurs in forums or in videos, where choices cannot be checked either quickly, or easily, or perhaps not even checked at all.

No you are trying to make some artificial distinction.

If there is a frequency emphasis on a dialog track affecting the male voices - which we may describe as "too chesty" - it's either there and we've perceived and described the effect, or it's not.

The same goes for a frequency emphasis in a speaker that has the same perceptual effect.

The idea is whether you heard that dialogue today - or years from now - it will have that character.

Same goes for a speaker. If a reviewer describes model A as having a frequency emphasis leading to "overly chesty sounding male voices" it could be a review from 30 years ago - the speaker either has that character or it doesn't, and if you hear that speaker it will have that character.

The same goes for ANY description that communicates some characteristic. It doesn't matter if a client says to me in the mixing theater "I'd like that lightning strike to sound SHARPER" or whether I happen to read of Frankenstien director James Wale asking his mixer to make the lightning strikes sound "sharper." I get the gist of what they are communicating! Same for any audio reviewer using such a term about highs in a speaker, either today or decades in the past.

There really is no magic wall here between the usefulness of subjective description, whether it be creating sound or listening to sound!

And of course, no one is advocating that we simply communicate in some void where people's impressions are never "checked." Comparing our subjective impressions is part of communicating! "You hear this too? Great!"
 
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kemmler3D

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I just want to say for the moment that analogies are not necessarily analogues. Any time I say "X is like Y" in order to illustrate a point, it's an analogy, "this speaker is too bright" is therefore an implied analogy, but as @gavagai almost points out, it is not an analogue as there is no direct correspondence between optical brightness and frequency response.

Analogies don't need to rely on analogues to be useful, I am also not sure why this is a major point of discussion here.
 

Sokel

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It's been a long time that we know that when a social group,a technical or scientific sector feels threatened (in any way,mostly financial),one of the ways they use to protect themselves is some kind of "closed" language.
The less the outside people understand it,the better.
That even applies to stuff like philosophy,have a look for example at the special dictionary with terms created by Jean Paul Sartre in his "The Imaginary".
That debate must be over 50 years long.

Edit:Memory must be a bitch,I had a look at it after 20 or so years,and I was amazed of the way he interprets the term "analogon" giving a music example about the real perception and the complex over-sensory mechanism to process it (really simple description,there's no way for me to translate such a dense and complex script in English).
 
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Ricardus

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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."
And you gave them what you thought that meant and convinced them that was what it was.

You could have done something else and convinced them, also. It's the way the brain works.
 
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