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Human ears more sensitive than measuring instruments

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#1
I've heard this argument from audiophiles where they claim human ears are more sensitive to changes than measuring instruments. What are the thresholds for what can and can't be heard? Let's say regarding dB levels?

0.3 dB? How far down can measuring gear measure to? Amir? 0.03 dB? I'm not a measuring guru but input would be appreciated.
 

RayDunzl

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#3
0.3 dB? How far down can measuring gear measure to? Amir? 0.03 dB? I'm not a measuring guru but input would be appreciated.

Which 0.3dB?

They're all the same ratio, but not the same size...
 
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RayDunzl

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#4
What are clear examples of measurable phenomena that the ear has no hopes of hearing?

Too soft, too loud, too high (frequency), too low, and too close (masking) are a few that come to mind.

Phase, absolute polarity...
 
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Dogen

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#6
I do believe anything heard can be measured. I do wonder if we understand the physiological effects different distortion patterns have on our perception of sound.
 

solderdude

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#7
I don't think it has anything to do with thresholds or limits of human hearing.
I suspect audiophiles audiophools too know very well that measurement equipment in the electrical realm can measure far beyond what they can hear.
What I believe is that they feel measurements do not tell everything is either caused by their lack of understanding a suite of measurements and can't link measurements to sound.
I also believe (there is a lot of believing involved with audiophools as well) that not all aspects of acoustics are fully understood yet and that what is understood is under lab conditions and not necessarily 1:1 applicable to someones home conditions.
The biggest issue however is the lack of fully understanding how the brain handles all the input and processes it and how this varies from person to person.
 

Kal Rubinson

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#11
I do believe anything heard can be measured. I do wonder if we understand the physiological effects different distortion patterns have on our perception of sound.
I don't think it has anything to do with thresholds or limits of human hearing.
The biggest issue however is the lack of fully understanding how the brain handles all the input and processes it and how this varies from person to person.
All pearls. What the audiophile/listener says he hears is actually what he consciously perceives following several stages of neural processing (shaped by evolutionary pressures and personal experience) and not the actual signal in the physical world. It is related to the arguments over whether the microphone "hears" the same way as does the ear. Humans do not consciously perceive the raw input from the ear (except perhaps under severely restrictive laboratory conditions).
 

garbulky

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#12
I don’t think anybody can argue that measuring instruments are not more accurate for what they measure. The difference is that interpretation of the measurement. Our instruments can’t tell you exactly what it will sound like to you in regular use. For instance, I can say the Vocal singer sounded fuller and more alive and it was more locked in place than before. The measurement mIght show something that could be interpreted to correspond to my findings, perhaps a bump in treble or harmonic distortion but I can’t look at the measurement and say this is how that sing I will sound when I listen to it.
The measurements can also show ni Difference but you could hear it being different all day long. What ever caused you to hear a difference or think you heard a difference, the instrument would not be able to predict it if it measures identically. Perhaps you liked how the volume knob feels who knows. But that’s how it sounded to you when you listen to it in whatever circumstance it was.
 
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BillG

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#13
That's nonsense, as scientific analysis instruments are far more sensitive that our physical senses will ever be - Ex. we've instruments now that can determine the chemical composition of objects light years away from us, objects that we can't actually see with our eyes.
 

andymok

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#14
I'm sure machines can measure all things like textures and smells and tastes by breaking it down. They just cannot be translated back into one word in human's dictionary.
 

RayDunzl

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#15
How far down can measuring gear measure to?

The Audio Precision analyzer (as noted above) goes to -150dB or so (relative to the main tone), for e;lectrical measurements.

The Shoutometer™ gives a silly way to imagine what that means...
 

Killingbeans

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#16
I've heard this argument from audiophiles where they claim human ears are more sensitive to changes than measuring instruments.
Evolution has shaped our sensory organs to give us a reasonable chance of avoiding a premature demise. It doesn't take much, and therefore high resolution and/or precision hasn't been the top priority. There's a reason why 24 FPS is enough to give the illusion of fluid motion, and I don't believe the auditory system is any better in that regard.

The human ear is fantastic at taking coarse auditory clues and making lightning fast risk assessments based on them, but it's a horrible measuring instrument IMO.

I think the threshold depends greatly on training, stress, expectations, background noise and a ton of other factors, but even in the best conditions I bet it's pathetic compared to what most audiophiles would like it to be.

Or am I just being pessimistic? :D
 

Killingbeans

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#17
I'm sure machines can measure all things like textures and smells and tastes by breaking it down. They just cannot be translated back into one word in human's dictionary.
Why would they have to do that if they can tell you exactly what entered your nose and mouth?

A measurement doesn't give you an interpretation. It only tells you what stimulus will hit your sensory organs. And that's really all we need to know.

If a machine tells you that a strawberry is about to enter your mouth, will that change the way the stawberry tastes to you?

I honestly can't imagine that o_O
 
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garbulky

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#18
Why would they have to do that if they can tell you exactly what entered your nose and mouth?

A measurement doesn't give you an interpretation. It only tells you what stimulus will hit your sensory organs. And that's really all we need to know.

If a machine tells you that a stawberry is about to enter your mouth, will that change the way the stawberry tastes to you?

I honestly can't imagine that o_O
You have to know what it tastes like to you. One strawberry doesn't taste like the other. The senses are affected by each other as well as interpreted by the brain.

Our ears (and our brains, they aren't separate) aren't "coarse at auditory cues". They are pretty brilliant. We can be MOVED and be affected by music. Try moving an instrument. Our best instruments and interpretations fail at describing (exactly) what things will sound like or feel like to us. I've heard many people throw up their hand when I bring that up. "People are different and are affected by a variety of things in unpredictable ways. Only measurements matter as they can be reproduced unlike malleable people".

No if people are different and experience it differently - then that's what matters. And therefore our measurement devices are insufficient in portraying what really matters - people's experiences.

In terms of instrumental precision - our ears and brains aren't as precise. But that's also because they aren't instruments and weren't meant to be. But in terms of hearing and forming an interpretation of things our devices don't come even close to the capabilities of our senses and brain.
 

Killingbeans

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#19
You have to know what it tastes like to you. One strawberry doesn't taste like the other. The senses are affected by each other as well as interpreted by the brain.
Sure, but can we agree that the sound hitting your eardrum is identical to the one being measured?

If you take two hypothetically identical strawberries and do a chemical analysis on one of them, it will tell you what receptors on your tongue the other berry will activate, what growth conditions the strawberry plant had and how you can grow a new strawberry that tastes roughly the same.

I won't tell you what childhood memories it will recall or whether you are allergic to strawberries, but why should it?

Our ears (and our brains, they aren't separate) aren't "coarse at auditory cues".
I didn't say that they ARE that. I said that they are optimized for that. Not for being coarse, but for detecting coarse things.

No if people are different and experience it differently - then that's what matters. And therefore our measurement devices are insufficient in portraying what really matters - people's experiences.
Well, the goal of measurement is not to describe/replicate the experience, but instead to describe/replicate the conditions that give the experience.

Perception doesn't change reality.
 

KSTR

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#20
Phase, absolute polarity...
I beg to differ. While certainly being subtle changes, it's readily audible in controlled blind testing IME. With normal music program and with minimum phase speakers (no excess phase from crossover functions). Also, I found that with headphones the thresholds sometimes can be higher, not what one would excect.
 
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