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Objectivists vs. Subjectivists, one more time

Fitzcaraldo215

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#1
Once again, our like-minded soul mate, Archimago, has really nailed the eternal "objectivist" vs. "subjectivist" debate in an excellent essay I personally find very fair, honest and compelling:

http://archimago.blogspot.com/2018/04/musings-on-joy-of-numbers-yet-more-on.html#more

Yes, we have an active thread on objectivists already. But, for those who do not frequent Archimago's outstanding blog, I thought I should create this thread to alert the attention of those here to this very worthwhile piece. It's a bit long, but an excellent read. Enjoy!
 

Gabs

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#3
Edit : I have not read it yet.
I sometimes publish videos on youtube as a "journal of a newbie audiophile".
The last ones, when I was trying to compare a Grado headphone and an Oppo headphone, I came to the conclusion that it seems to be a confusion (or debate ?) between neutrality and transparency. I stated that neutrality tends to respect the work of the music producer (recording and mix) whereas transparency tends to respect the instruments and voice. It's like transparency would bypass the wanted neutrality of the recording/mixing process.
I heard a lot of hi-fi sellers that said that a good hi-fi system has to be transparent. On the other side I do not understand such enthousiasm on tubes, vinyl and warmth (distorsion). I hear also the word "taste" or "signature", but in regard to achieve transparency, in my opinion it is a nonsense.
At the moment I prefer the pro-audio goal of reaching neutrality, because there is no trick, a flat response is a flat response. There is no signature, nor taste. There is just neutrality. But the problem with that is that the recording/mix as to be the best possible. And for the great majority...it's not in this territory. And I do not want to listen only to sacd/binaural/mqa/etc. because it's rarely garage/math/ prog rock, because it's not rap, video game music, pop, etc, the music I listen to everyday.

What I find more confusing is that the Hi-Fi world, at least what I understood, wants transparency for the speakers...but neutrality for the headphones ! A "good speaker" is on the transparency side...but a "good headphone" is on neutrality side ! I don't understand...
 

Wayne

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#5
Actually, it appears I was not very clear... sometimes I shoot from the hip and miss the target. In the below quoted article there is a YouTube from Floyd Toole referenced. I considered what Floyd said to be an important part of the article. I should have asked your response concerning the accuracy/relevance of Floyd's lecture. He in part discusses recording issues and its effects (circular). Do you concur/disagree with his evaluation of recording issues, speaker evaluation (to the extent it addresses sound reproduction) and also his way of explaining objective/subject on his (if memory serves) first slide and his next to the last slide. See below:

Just looking for general impressions/opinions... not a too detailed response.
Thanks again
 

Blumlein 88

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#6
Actually, it appears I was not very clear... sometimes I shoot from the hip and miss the target. In the below quoted article there is a YouTube from Floyd Toole referenced. I considered what Floyd said to be an important part of the article. I should have asked your response concerning the accuracy/relevance of Floyd's lecture. He in part discusses recording issues and its effects (circular). Do you concur/disagree with his evaluation of recording issues, speaker evaluation (to the extent it addresses sound reproduction) and also his way of explaining objective/subject on his (if memory serves) first slide and his next to the last slide. See below:



Just looking for general impressions/opinions... not a too detailed response.
Thanks again
I've seen the video before, but didn't view it completely just now. I did look at the first few minutes and slides and those at the other end.

In best circumstances I agree the reproduction is an attempt to reproduce what was originally played. Yet there are so many factors involved in making a recording that such an idea is ignoring or leaving out lots of other factors. However, it makes sense to take the approach he does. Any chain of recording and reproduction that works well to reproduce the original event also works as well as it possibly can for any less pure music you are going to listen to.

I assume you mean near the end where he compares the objective performance of speakers from $200/pr up to $24k/pr. And how you have the circle of confusion. Where you need accurate monitor speakers for the recording people. In order to get accurately mastered recordings for someone at home to get the full benefit of accurate home speakers. Otherwise a skewed studio monitor might result in music that sounds best over an oppositely skewed home speaker. The circle of confusion. Yes I largely agree with that idea. It seems when I've recorded I can make better judgments on any changes to make when I do that over accurate monitors. I also agree with the broad conclusions Dr. Toole has come to about how to measure and what interpretations to make of those measurements in regards to what is a good loudspeaker. My experience recording reinforces the same ideas.
 

Gabs

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#7
Edit : I have not read it yet.
I sometimes publish videos on youtube as a "journal of a newbie audiophile".
The last ones, when I was trying to compare a Grado headphone and an Oppo headphone, I came to the conclusion that it seems to be a confusion (or debate ?) between neutrality and transparency. I stated that neutrality tends to respect the work of the music producer (recording and mix) whereas transparency tends to respect the instruments and voice. It's like transparency would bypass the wanted neutrality of the recording/mixing process.
I heard a lot of hi-fi sellers that said that a good hi-fi system has to be transparent. On the other side I do not understand such enthousiasm on tubes, vinyl and warmth (distorsion). I hear also the word "taste" or "signature", but in regard to achieve transparency, in my opinion it is a nonsense.
At the moment I prefer the pro-audio goal of reaching neutrality, because there is no trick, a flat response is a flat response. There is no signature, nor taste. There is just neutrality. But the problem with that is that the recording/mix as to be the best possible. And for the great majority...it's not in this territory. And I do not want to listen only to sacd/binaural/mqa/etc. because it's rarely garage/math/ prog rock, because it's not rap, video game music, pop, etc, the music I listen to everyday.

What I find more confusing is that the Hi-Fi world, at least what I understood, wants transparency for the speakers...but neutrality for the headphones ! A "good speaker" is on the transparency side...but a "good headphone" is on neutrality side ! I don't understand...
Could you please just tell me if I'm in the right direction or not ? I'm eager to learn :)
 
OP
F

Fitzcaraldo215

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Thread Starter #8
Could you please just tell me if I'm in the right direction or not ? I'm eager to learn :)
Semantics and inexactitude in the meaning of words complicate the world of audio. Yes, there is a slightly different meaning between "transparency" and "neutrality". Neutrality in audio is usually descriptive of just flatness in frequency response, though some use it to imply more than that. Transparency is a somewhat vaguer subjective description of many more qualities than perceptually flat frequency response, but one that normally also assumes flatness of frequency response.

There is always the analogy to a pane of glass. It may be non-uniform and tinted, i.e., not neutral, but it still can be largely transparent. But, too much non-uniformity or color tint will diminish its transparency.

There is really no huge debate over those two words. They are related. In other words, don't overthink the difference, which appears to be what you are doing.
 

Theo

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#9
I agree that neutral would mean flat response. Could we say that transparency is somehow refering to distorsion?
 

svart-hvitt

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#10
My hunch is «neutral» is more often used than «transparent» by professionals, i.e. engineers, designers and researchers.

However, it never harms to be as clear as possible when using a term. Do not hesitate to write what you specifically mean by a term.
 

Gabs

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#11
They are related. In other words, don't overthink the difference, which appears to be what you are doing.
Yes it's exactly what I feared. Thank your your help.
And what I understand of your really interresting metaphore is that transparency and neutralty are realated only if the music production is "good", or I caould say "faithful to reality". Reality may be a subjective thing...

Just another thought/explicitness :
What I understand of neutrality, is that the recording does not necesseraly reproduce the "reality" of instruments. It can be just a flat choice of mixing the instruments so that none are proeminent, except maybe the voice. It can also be something totally different depending of artistic choices in the music production. ... and a lot of effect are put on a lots of recording to "sell" the product more (overuse of autotune as an example). And then the neutrality of a system tends to reproduce these choices, whether they are good or not. Electronic music is not "real" so inevitably on the neutral side too.

Transparency. I would not refer to distorsion. Maybe the relation to reality.
A violin can be sibilant (I know the word is not right here but I just empasize the idea.). A mandolin can be harsh sounding sometimes. The singer could sing too loud or too"behind" the scene. Etc.
And for other things that are alright.. We (almost) never really listen to a band for real in a studio.
As you say Fitzcaraldo215 it's vastly subjective. I would define transparency as an "organic" thing. As if could even smell the wood of the instruments.
Uhm...maybe it's listening to a music that is not recorded, but as heard in real time.

In my video comparing the Oppo PM3 and the Grado SR80e, I say that the Oppo is on the neutrality side and the Grado on the transparency side. The response curve of the Grado is ugly, but still, to my hears it sound really good.
Neutrality would be represented by the B&K 1974 optimum Hi-Fi curve.
Transparency maybe by the Harman target response.
Am I wrong ?
 

Jakob1863

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#12
Transparency as a descriptor for audio _quality_ means usually that you can´t perceive a difference whether a device is processing the audio signal or not. So it is related to the human perception.

As the other posters already pointed out there are no clear definition of these terms wrt certain technical virtues.
"neutrality" might be well related to human perception although it is sometimes used as a synonym for perfect linearity.

It is important to use both with care as devices could produce some deviations (although not being audible) that might summ up over the whole chain.
Two (or more) transparent devices used together might well lead to noticable differences .....
 

Jakob1863

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#13
As said in the other thread, if Reichert defines the "troll objectivsts" the way he does, he can´t be wrong with his further criticism, but does he really include all objectivists?
I don´t think so, but of course archimago is correct in noting that Reichert is "off the base" in asserting that every reviewer is an objectivist in the true sense. (as difficult as a correct definition of an objectivist is)
 

Gabs

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#14
IMO objectivism is just "being aware of bias". And this is important ! The rest...
 

Sal1950

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#15
Transparency as a descriptor for audio _quality_ means usually that you can´t perceive a difference whether a device is processing the audio signal or not. So it is related to the human perception.
No, not in my definition.
Transparency would refer to a device such as an amplifiers ability to be simply a straight wire with gain. Anything that makes an audible change to the input signal in the process of accomplishing it's mission would subtract from it's transparency. That would include freq response changes, various harmonic distortions, phase errors, timing, etc etc. Whether a device is transparent, or deviates in some way, we would all hear the same.

The term neutrality IMO mainly refers to a adherence, or deviation from, a flat frequency response.
 

Gabs

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#16
No, not in my definition.
Transparency would refer to a device such as an amplifiers ability to be simply a straight wire with gain. Anything that makes an audible change to the input signal in the process of accomplishing it's mission would subtract from it's transparency. That would include freq response changes, various harmonic distortions, phase errors, timing, etc etc. Whether a device is transparent, or deviates in some way, we would all hear the same.

The term neutrality IMO mainly refers to a adherence, or deviation from, a flat frequency response.
I'm confused.
Transparency regarding the recording or transparency regarding reality ?
 

Blumlein 88

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#17
To me transparency and neutrality are variations on a similar idea.

A transparent component adds no color or audible sound signature to the signal passing thru it. Pretty much the same for a neutral component. Lots of metaphors have been used, and probably neutrality is generally applied to frequency response. Still straight wire with gain or a device that adds nothing of its own to the sound you'll hear. Both are in regards to what a component does to the signal passing thru it.

Presumably the highest quality recordings are those coming close to transparency with reality. Yet deficiencies in various aspects of recording will not permit full transparency to actual reality.
 

svart-hvitt

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#19
You could argue that «transparency» is the ideal (of the whole), while «neutrality» is describing degree of deviation from this ideal (across different parameters).

Still, no true definitions exist.
 
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SIY

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#20
If you keep nailing, you'll get that Jello mounted on the wall. :D

Next up: what is "tube sound"?
 
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