• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

Message to golden-eared audiophiles posting at ASR for the first time...

steve59

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 18, 2019
Messages
420
Likes
247
take your word for it
 

richard12511

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
4,241
Likes
6,226
OTOH, if it's true you support what we jokingly call pink prose, I can't subscribe to that. I think it is a con, it's cheating and fooling people and it's not what I approve of.

"Con" is going too far imo, at least for a lot of them. "Con" to me implies knowledge of one's deceit. It requires intentional dishonesty. While some of them may be cons, I think a lot of them genuinely believe that "pink prose" they write. Many times, I think it's an honest attempt to describe what they "hear". The problem is, and what they don't understand, is that we hear with our brains, and not our ears. They wrongly attribute differences in what they hear to differences in sound waves entering their ear, when no such differences exist.

Don't get me wrong, they are duping people, and that's unfortunate. Based on the review, people go out and (for example) buy an expensive tube amp expecting to hear a night and day difference above their solid state amp, but the truth is that the difference is smaller than the difference between their left and right speaker. But, and it's an important "but", I think (most) of these reviewers are being honest. They themselves are being duped, so I can't fault them too much. Besides, most of the people buying said tubes very likely will hear "night and day" differences, as their brains are subject to the same biases as the reviewers. So, are they really being duped? :p

I'd love to see more research about what % of what we hear is due to psychology. The input to the ears is a small part of the overall picture, concentration, what one is thinking at the time, biases(cost, brand, etc.) all play a part. Even with something like comparing two good speakers, I wouldn't be surprised if the psychological component makes up more than 50% of what the brain "hears". For electronic comparisons, it's almost certainly close to 100%. Even tube vs SS comparisons are probably 90-95+% mental. Some of the studies cited in Toole's book speak to this, but I'd love to see if fleshed out more.
 

richard12511

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
4,241
Likes
6,226
Reviews are just entertainment, nothing more or less. On the odd case where one has built up years of reading reviews by a journalist and you have some shared experience of the devices they review its possible to build up an understanding of how they use language, and thusly their meaning and intent. All based on them not being a schill for hire or a rabid fantasist of course.

Mostly it's just flowery writing meant to stimulate your 'want' glands.

Agreed. Pretty much exactly why I read them. It's usually either to stimulate my "want" glands, or stimulate my "satisfaction" glands. Latter being when I read reviews of speakers I already own.
 

Galliardist

Active Member
Joined
Jun 26, 2021
Messages
200
Likes
192
Location
Sydney. NSW, Australia
The biggest shortcoming of subjective review is how adjectives describing tonal quality lacks any usable "degree". Let's take food reviews as an example because these are always purely subjective without measurements. When I say a food is "spicy, sweet, salty or too hot", the reader has zero context. What if I love spicy food and when something is "too spicy" for me that may also mean that if I think it's "just right" it could be too spicy for you. Alternatively, I cannot stand eating food that is a touch too sweet so when I complain that a drink is "too sweet", I know for certain my daughter would respond "no, it's perfect!" and so forth. Now on to sound - my wife and son cannot stand the sound of metal knives and forks scratching the surface of a ceramic dish as it literally sends shivers up their spines whereas I can hear it but am not bothered by it at all. So you see where I'm going here - the problem of subjective reviews is twofold:

(1) A "review" by its nature suggests that their subjective impressions are somehow universally applicable when in fact it's merely stating the reviewer's personal eccentricities, tastes preferences or biases, and even if the subjective impressions are a useful guide, the very words used to describe the subjectivity lacks any standard of measure; when a reviewer says there's an annoying bit of sibilance, we have no context of whether he's hyper sensitive to sibilance or not, and maybe 20 years ago he was hypersensitive but today he can no longer notice it unless it's punched up by 6dB! Many reviewers have been in this game for 20 years - have their hearing changed at all over the years? Absolutely - age, experience, injury - life happens.

(2) What if the reviewer chooses the wrong music and does not catch issues in the speaker simply because his musical selection does not bring out those flaws? We have Stereophile reviews where subjective speaker reviews are followed by JA's measurements and the two are not consistent - in this most recent Stereophile review of the Alumine Three, Herb Reichert's glowing love for this speaker is at odds with John Atkinson's measurements (audible resonance near 1kHz):

HR: "the almost fullrange Alumine Threes made this type of music play bigger, more distinctly, more open, easier to follow, and more interesting than it did with my Falcons or DeVores…delivered a bigger "sound" fueled by more undistorted volume, more unrestrained dynamics, more absolute clarity, and of course, more and deeper and less distorted bass...I never imagined how much previously undelivered recorded information the Stenheim Alumine Threes would bring into my room. Or how powerful and compelling this newly discovered information would be."

JA: I was puzzled by the resonant peak in the port's output and by the small peak/dip just above 1kHz, but to be fair, any audible consequences of these resonances will depend on the music being played. [emphasis added]


And so ultimately, subjective reviews are limited to the reviewer not knowing what music to play in order to bring out the best or worst in a speaker and if you the prospective consumer happen to play the wrong music, well, , don't blame the reviewer because he didn't catch it with his selection of esoteric audiophile review music.
Before assuming any contradiction here, you might want to consider the capabilities of tbe Devore and LS3/5a speakers. That part of the subjective review at least is bang in line with what would be predicted from measurements of each speaker.
 

Spocko

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Sep 27, 2019
Messages
1,002
Likes
1,835
Location
Southern California
Before assuming any contradiction here, you might want to consider the capabilities of tbe Devore and LS3/5a speakers. That part of the subjective review at least is bang in line with what would be predicted from measurements of each speaker.
You are correct, not exactly a "contradiction", but my original point was that the subjective review lacked any shortcomings at all, completely glossing over measured resonances that are arguably audible with the right music selection - this was simply my point: a subjective review can never hope to uncover flaws when the reviewer does not know where to look.
 

killdozzer

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Aug 2, 2020
Messages
566
Likes
532
"Con" is going too far imo, at least for a lot of them. "Con" to me implies knowledge of one's deceit. It requires intentional dishonesty. While some of them may be cons, I think a lot of them genuinely believe that "pink prose" they write. Many times, I think it's an honest attempt to describe what they "hear". The problem is, and what they don't understand, is that we hear with our brains, and not our ears. They wrongly attribute differences in what they hear to differences in sound waves entering their ear, when no such differences exist.

Don't get me wrong, they are duping people, and that's unfortunate. Based on the review, people go out and (for example) buy an expensive tube amp expecting to hear a night and day difference above their solid state amp, but the truth is that the difference is smaller than the difference between their left and right speaker. But, and it's an important "but", I think (most) of these reviewers are being honest. They themselves are being duped, so I can't fault them too much. Besides, most of the people buying said tubes very likely will hear "night and day" differences, as their brains are subject to the same biases as the reviewers. So, are they really being duped? :p

I'd love to see more research about what % of what we hear is due to psychology. The input to the ears is a small part of the overall picture, concentration, what one is thinking at the time, biases(cost, brand, etc.) all play a part. Even with something like comparing two good speakers, I wouldn't be surprised if the psychological component makes up more than 50% of what the brain "hears". For electronic comparisons, it's almost certainly close to 100%. Even tube vs SS comparisons are probably 90-95+% mental. Some of the studies cited in Toole's book speak to this, but I'd love to see if fleshed out more.
Why do you have so many speakers?
 

richard12511

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
4,241
Likes
6,226
Why do you have so many speakers?

I enjoy collecting and comparing many different speakers. I'm also staring to favor certain dispersion patterns(wide/medium/narrow) differently for different types of content. If anything, owning many great speakers has taught me that well designed speakers aren't all that different from each other. Music on the JBL 308p(for example $150 paid) is incredibly satisfying. I think that much of what we tend to debate on this forum is based around optimizing that last 10% :D.
 

MattHooper

Major Contributor
Joined
Jan 27, 2019
Messages
2,145
Likes
3,296
I enjoy collecting and comparing many different speakers.

Same here. I quite enjoy what different speakers bring to the table. I could have the most colored, or most neutral speaker in the world, but I'd still get the itch to hear something different...because different is out there, and there will be some aspects I might like more in one speaker vs another.
 

TLEDDY

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Aug 4, 2019
Messages
458
Likes
498
Location
Central Florida
As an ex-auto racer, a quotation: "The only substitute for cubic inches ia cubic money!"

Any one from motor racing knows that the last five percent of added horsepower cost 50 to 100 times more than the first additional five percent.

Happily, I do not think that ratio of goodness (flat response, no distortion, great ability to play softly or loud etc.) in speakers is that costly.

True, one can pay approaching seven figures for speakers but not get any measured improvements over some very cost effective ones.

Comments and enlightening arguments welcome!

Disclaimer: I currently own KEF R3s, Harbeth 40.2, Stacked modified Quad 57s and Quad 63s with various subwoofers
 

Killingbeans

Major Contributor
Joined
Oct 23, 2018
Messages
1,548
Likes
2,654
Location
Bjerringbro, Denmark.
Any one from motor racing knows that the last five percent of added horsepower cost 50 to 100 times more than the first additional five percent.

Happily, I do not think that ratio of goodness (flat response, no distortion, great ability to play softly or loud etc.) in speakers is that costly.

More important question people should ask themselves: What race are you winning by gaining the last five percent? :D
 

Anthony T

Member
Joined
Jun 9, 2020
Messages
16
Likes
31
Location
London, UK
I changed one old (but good?) power amp for another similar the other day and the 'difference on the day' was huge - all my lost 'sibilance and presence' came back and I was thrilled but totally stumped as to how two basically good amps of similar power levels could be that different! A few days later, I ran this system again and it sounded just like it did with the previous power amp (well, maybe very slightly livelier and I believe for measurable reasons). Knowing how my ears are these days (acute Rhinitis and ear infections in my pre-Diabetic days have taken their toll nd they vary hugely), I suspect it was on a good-ear day I changed the amps over (my next speakers will have to be slightly assertive in the lower kHz region and with smooth dispersion too at these frequencies rather than recessed I feel, as my current boxes are).

I visited my dealer friend to help with some turntable work a couple of weeks back and once again had the pleasure of being in the company of some current Luxman amps. Even the cheap one (a mere £3800 or so) has a fit, class and 'feel' that is so luxurious it gladdens this enthusiast heart that's still there inside somewhere. He has an ancient Accuphase 202 integrated nearby and that feels like a tractor in comparison (switches engage with a precise clickety clack). The experience reminded me of the Yamaha 400/600/800/1000 amps we sold in the mid 70's (I owned a CA1000Mk2 for a while) where the tab switches had a glorious silky delicate feel lost in the replacement 410, 610 and so on models with less elegant and chunkier looking switchgear. I kind of went the opposite after owning a perfectly reasonable if very expensive ARC preamp (one of the FET ones) and going to something half the price and just as good (in my system then). Looking back three decades on, I do miss the 'luxury look and feel' of high end gear, but as I'll never be in a position to own such stuff now unless it's old, maybe outclassed and potentially unreliable (old stuff still costs as much to service as new versions), it's a moot point.

I think today that the gear-loving part of this industry and hobby deals with ALL our senses working together. It's just that subjectivists may not realise this perhaps and put it all down to their hearing acuity alone and that I think is where the issues may lie.
So it was initially a big improvement then the same but a little better for a measurable difference you didn’t measure and don’t expand on but was likely a good ear day. Well I’m glad you cleared that up.
 

DSJR

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Jan 27, 2020
Messages
950
Likes
1,128
Location
Suffolk Coastal, UK
My clumsy words were trying to explain the futility of subjective only comparisons with no known good references, as so many external factors come in when decisions like this are made and also, I should repeat how utterly important level matching needs to be, as any confusion in levels can totally alter perceptions.
 

Cbdb2

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Sep 8, 2019
Messages
507
Likes
374
Location
Vancouver
Sometimes, with gear that hasn't been touched for a long time swapping gear (or cables) cleans the connections and makes an audible difference. (cable snakeoil manufactures hope for this to happen) Swap them back to check.
 

ajawamnet

Active Member
Joined
Aug 9, 2019
Messages
275
Likes
387
Same here. I quite enjoy what different speakers bring to the table. I could have the most colored, or most neutral speaker in the world, but I'd still get the itch to hear something different...because different is out there, and there will be some aspects I might like more in one speaker vs another.
As an audio engineer I love hearing our mixes on different systems. Just amazing how different they can sound. I recall having a mix I was testing at the local Best Buy. I had some friends that worked there and on weekday afternoons I could stop by and have a go at different systems. I recall one day back when they still sold CD's I was playing an artist's rough mix and was approached by a couple that asked. "Who is that?"

I told them and they moved on. So a few minutes later another couple stops by with the same question. I tell them. About five minutes later both couples are back with some manager lady and her inventory gun, stating that shoe couldn't find that artist in their system. Funny as all hell. I gave them the roughs then left.

So it's really nice to get to hear your stuff on as many systems as possible. I have six systems that I can go to; four of them I can instantly switch to. And some days it just adds to the confusion of what the hell I'm hearing.

So yea as the OP's original post mentions, the ear is not the most reliable thing. As a professor at MIT mentions in his lectures, humans are a visual species (even tho we have a fairly low Flicker Fusion Threshold). We have 30,000 auditory nerve fibers as compared to over a million optic nerve fibers. About 3,500 inner hair cells and 12,000 outer hair cells per cochlea. And in every human they are wired and are physically slightly different.

So how can one human even begin to think that what he may think he hears is the "correct" interpretation of anything?


 

rdenney

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Dec 30, 2020
Messages
1,147
Likes
1,785
Yes everyone hears differently. But they are all (or should be) hearing the same thing in their different ways.

Everyone sees red differently, but we can still standardize what we call “red” with considerable precision. If a person perceives red differently than another person, nobody thinks it’s their job to deviate from the standard to correct for that, even if they could quantify it. We might change the color to something we prefer, but nobody is confused that it is more representative of the standard red than the standard red.

That’s why I don’t “target” a downward spectral tilt based on the observation that “people like bass”. If I did, however, that’s what tone controls are for. I want the equipment to give me flat, making me responsible for my own preferences.

If we color sound to fit someone else’s set of auditory nerves, it will sound wrong to me (maybe) because I’m used to hearing music (including live music) with the ears I have, however unique they are. Standardize it and let me adjust from that. Separate capture, correction, and targeting.

Rick “noting that photographers, post-cataract-surgery, talk of the removal of a #2 Wratten (yellow) filter—so should I have filtered everything blue pre-surgery just for them?” Denney
 

MattHooper

Major Contributor
Joined
Jan 27, 2019
Messages
2,145
Likes
3,296
If we color sound to fit someone else’s set of auditory nerves, it will sound wrong to me (maybe) because I’m used to hearing music (including live music) with the ears I have, however unique they are. Standardize it and let me adjust from that. Separate capture, correction, and targeting.

Yes this is what I struggle with in terms of the science of subjective preferences. It's clearly useful and valuable, especially for a company that wants to create a sound that they can bank on a majority of people liking.

But unless I'm part of the tested cohort - and I don't have my own speaker double blind testing facilities - I can never really know for sure what I personally would prefer in the blind testing. (And then there is how much to even personally weight that when it comes to choosing speakers I'd be listening to in sighted conditions, where bias may indeed alter my perception of the sound).

I'm damned finicky about the sound I enjoy - I've spent a long time building my own criteria and biases - so while knowing (somewhat) the science behind speaker design goals and studied preferences is educational, in the end I'm left to my own devices and enjoy what I enjoy.
 

Newman

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Jan 6, 2017
Messages
936
Likes
1,048
But unless I'm part of the tested cohort - and I don't have my own speaker double blind testing facilities - I can never really know for sure what I personally would prefer in the blind testing.
Sure, sure, anyone can say that. I can say that.

You are completely overlooking the biggest point from the scientific testing of preferences, which is that the effectively-universal-among-those-with-not-seriously-damaged-hearing preferred sound is the one that measures most accurately in terms of FR and hence tonality. So it is the one that most effectively preserves the tonality of live instruments and voices.

To say "hey, I'm the exception man (and oh my doesn't everyone secretly think that they are The Special One?)" is filled with the unfortunate corollary that it implies that you don't actually like the original sound of music and voice in the air. That you wish the person talking to you, the busker in the mall, all didn't sound like they do and you wish they sounded more like Speaker X.

And that is why the odds that the science doesn't apply to you are so small that you shouldn't base your position on it. Unless your job or bad luck has quite severely damaged your hearing.
 

Newman

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Jan 6, 2017
Messages
936
Likes
1,048
So yea as the OP's original post mentions, the ear is not the most reliable thing. As a professor at MIT mentions in his lectures, humans are a visual species (even tho we have a fairly low Flicker Fusion Threshold). We have 30,000 auditory nerve fibers as compared to over a million optic nerve fibers. About 3,500 inner hair cells and 12,000 outer hair cells per cochlea. And in every human they are wired and are physically slightly different.

So how can one human even begin to think that what he may think he hears is the "correct" interpretation of anything?
And when even the optical system is so easily fooled.... ;)

Since even the overwhelmingly most favoured of the five senses is nowhere near to 'perceiving truth', it's not about having enough nerve fibres to avoid error or misinterpretation, it is actually about how hard-wired we are to 'sense what we think we are about to sense', and attribute that to the raw senses. That is, prior knowledge will taint what we see and hear etc, but we will be unaware of the taint.

cheers
 

MattHooper

Major Contributor
Joined
Jan 27, 2019
Messages
2,145
Likes
3,296
Sure, sure, anyone can say that. I can say that.

You are completely overlooking the biggest point from the scientific testing of preferences, which is that the effectively-universal-among-those-with-not-seriously-damaged-hearing preferred sound is the one that measures most accurately in terms of FR and hence tonality. So it is the one that most effectively preserves the tonality of live instruments and voices.

To say "hey, I'm the exception man (and oh my doesn't everyone secretly think that they are The Special One?)" is filled with the unfortunate corollary that it implies that you don't actually like the original sound of music and voice in the air. That you wish the person talking to you, the busker in the mall, all didn't sound like they do and you wish they sounded more like Speaker X.

And that is why the odds that the science doesn't apply to you are so small that you shouldn't base your position on it. Unless your job or bad luck has quite severely damaged your hearing.

I'm aware of the general preference for neutral speakers - even sighted that generally seems to be my preference vs wildly colored speakers - and I've said here numerous times that as a matter of probability I should expect I would pick more neutral over seriously colored speakers in blind speaker tests.

It still doesn't tell me exactly which speakers I would prefer.

Also, as I've said before, while we know of the type of discrepancies that occur in testing sighted and blinded for speakers, the specific blind listening tests don't seem to directly translate in to choices in sighted listening tests, nor in to predicting long term owner satisfaction (at least I'm unaware of any such studies showing this). It's certainly true that when you control all other variables, on sound alone you can get a high level of predictability as to what most people will like under the specific conditions of the tests in question. And that's powerful information. But since sighted conditions can actually influence our perception, I don't find it unreasonable for me to allow such factors in my decisions.

So, for instance, I auditioned a few Revel speakers at length (in set ups where they were well set up and didn't suffer any obvious deficiences from room interaction), and found they were quite competent sounding, but I just wasn't that thrilled by them. Whereas I found myself riveted from the get go playing my tracks through Joseph Audio speakers. Did I actually only like the sound of the JA speakers better or was some bias or other effects I wasn't aware of contributing? Certainly bias effects were quite possible. But in my case I chose to spend my hard earned cash on the speakers that I knew thrilled me under the conditions in which I'd actually use them, vs buying the ones that didn't thrill me but "I may likely have chosen under blind conditions." And I've been thrilled with my choice to say the least.

I can understand someone else making a different choice for different reasons, of course. But this is part of what I mean by the science only taking me personally so far in my choices of audio gear.

BTW, while neutrality was generally preferred among speakers, where listener selection is limited to the speakers presented, I'd be more cautious about your leap from those tests to the claim it is effectively universal that people align on neutral sound "because it will produce the most natural vocal/instrumental production."

Once listeners were allowed to start with neutral sound and then adjust sound to their preference, Olive apparently found variations in preferences:


"There were significant variations in the preferred bass and treble levels due to differences in individual taste and listener training."

So, again: nuance, and caution are a good thing when talking science.
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom