• 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.

Of Audiophiles and Snake Oil - A story in the making

andreasmaaan

Major Contributor
Patreon Donor
Joined
Jun 19, 2018
Messages
2,628
Likes
1,719
#21
I would like to be corrected if I am wrong, but AFAIK tube amps do not change FR, but just add distortion at all frequencies but particularly at the lower ones? This means that if I run a 50Hz wave the resulting output would be either distorted at the same wave or/and its harmonics. This leads me to think a digital filter can give out a 'tubey' sound by fudging with waveform with either jitter or power?

Someone please educate me on tubes if my understanding is wrong.
I think I'd misunderstood your previous post. I thought you were suggesting that the main audible effect of added nonlinear distortion was on the frequency response, i.e. a linear effect. It's clear now that wasn't what you meant, so obviously I'd misread you. And yes, DSP can be used (and is used) to emulate the effects of various tube distortions.

To your other point about the distortion effects of tubes being more pronounced at lower frequencies, that depends. I'm no expert on tubes, and although it's not possible to generalise, I'm sure certain tube designs work like this.
 
Joined
Jul 20, 2018
Messages
26
Likes
28
Location
England
#22
I think you're largley preaching to the converted on here regarding dacs and amps.
I really want to know what you thought of the headphones. I'm never spending that much on a can, so am just curious in the opinion of a cynic on such matters.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Nov 7, 2018
Messages
91
Likes
39
#23
FWIW...On the scientific method: One needs to be very wary of the pitfalls.

«Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig; es ist nicht einmal falsch!»

It’s not right. It isn’t even wrong!

Background; https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_even_wrong

It’s a battle and takes great effort to practice «the scientific method». I make errors in thinking (logical errors) all the time. So I feel happy and grateful every time I discover a flaw of my own thinking.

I 100% agree here too, if you see a reply I made https://www.reddit.com/r/headphones/comments/acvas7/_/edbcfmn I said I might be also biased to my preference. Not even wrong and Non Sequitur had slipped my mind back then, thanks for the callback :)
 

SIY

Major Contributor
Technical Expert
Joined
Apr 6, 2018
Messages
1,495
Likes
2,146
Location
Phoenix, AZ
#24
KR8, you put your finger on one of my personal sore points (to be clear, it's a general point, this is VERY much not aimed at you!): imprecision in terminology for fun and profit has led to the audiophile definition of "subjective" as meaning "arrived at in the absence of the most basic controls." So it excludes well-controlled subjective measures like the work of Toole and Olive, and leads to that horrifically false dichotomy of "subjectivists" versus "objectivists."

I know that you understand this, so I want to enlist you in my hobby-horse brigade to start referring to the dichotomy as "rationalist" versus "flim-flam." :cool::cool::cool:
 

solderdude

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
929
Likes
1,454
Location
The Neverlands
#25
I would like to be corrected if I am wrong, but AFAIK tube amps do not change FR, but just add distortion at all frequencies but particularly at the lower ones? This means that if I run a 50Hz wave the resulting output would be either distorted at the same wave or/and its harmonics.

Someone please educate me on tubes if my understanding is wrong.
Yes, tubes add distortion, but so do all other amplification components. They are non linear devices.
When enough gain is used (means lots of tubes) with overall feedback the distortion levels can become very low (when no transformers are used) in tube amps as well.

Tubes don't add distortion particularly at lower frequencies.
The harmonic spread is the same all over the audible band (again without transformers, only talking of tubes) when the level is constant (well almost). The harmonic spread, just like FET's for instance consists of lower harmonics.

There is some truth to it though that it is predominantly the lower frequencies that have the highest amount of distortion but this is due to the fact that the largest amplitudes in music are present in the lower frequency range.
Therefore the biggest effect is heard/measured in the lows but this is because distortion increases with amplitude.

At low levels one sees predominantly 1st harmonics peeping above the noise floor. The higher the levels become the higher the harmonics get in amplitude and the more higher order harmonics are seen.
Of course, this depends on the circuit and types of tubes used.
 

RayDunzl

Major Contributor
Central Scrutinizer
Joined
Mar 9, 2016
Messages
6,251
Likes
2,298
Location
Riverview, FL
#26

garbulky

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Feb 14, 2018
Messages
691
Likes
163
#29
Am I among the handful who feels like objectivity is the only 'objective' for DACs/Amps? Should I do what they say and 'trust my ears instead of measurements'?
You are probably among the minority in the broad world of people interested in audio. But you are in the vast majority here. I go by subjective impressions so I wouldn't go by that metric. I think the objective for audio gear is to provide me the experience that I want or I'm looking for - whether it's accuracy, flat response, colored whatever - I have to like it and live with it. So if it accomplishes it by satisfying me, that's the metric. It doesn't have to be expensive. It doesn't have to do unusual things. It just has to do what I want.

But it doesn't really matter how I approach it. Either way, if objectivity is the way that works for you and gets you the best sound, I suggest you go all out for it. Enjoy the music! :)
 
Joined
Nov 7, 2018
Messages
91
Likes
39
#30
KR8, you put your finger on one of my personal sore points (to be clear, it's a general point, this is VERY much not aimed at you!): imprecision in terminology for fun and profit has led to the audiophile definition of "subjective" as meaning "arrived at in the absence of the most basic controls." So it excludes well-controlled subjective measures like the work of Toole and Olive, and leads to that horrifically false dichotomy of "subjectivists" versus "objectivists."

I know that you understand this, so I want to enlist you in my hobby-horse brigade to start referring to the dichotomy as "rationalist" versus "flim-flam." :cool::cool::cool:
Uh, I consider psychology, and by extension psychoacoustics, science ( you can see I consider cognitive biases as fact and do not contest them). Therefore, in my personal understanding, Floyd Toole and Sean Olive are 'scientists' who are conducting 'controlled experiments' using a method that I would consider scientific.

My father used to run a small pharma company where he always tried to improve the taste, dosing and efficacy of general OTC medicine (business was too small to compete with major pharmas and actually develop new medicine). The entire science of pharmacology is science, just like psychoacoustics experiments and findings are science in my understanding.

So yes, I accept to join your brigade of calling my 'objectivist' as the 'rationalist' to avoid confusion (though I hope it does not cause even more of it)

:D:D:cool::cool:
 

svart-hvitt

Major Contributor
Joined
Aug 31, 2017
Messages
2,018
Likes
900
#31
You are probably among the minority in the broad world of people interested in audio. But you are in the vast majority here. I go by subjective impressions so I wouldn't go by that metric. I think the objective for audio gear is to provide me the experience that I want or I'm looking for - whether it's accuracy, flat response, colored whatever - I have to like it and live with it. So if it accomplishes it by satisfying me, that's the metric. It doesn't have to be expensive. It doesn't have to do unusual things. It just has to do what I want.

But it doesn't really matter how I approach it. Either way, if objectivity is the way that works for you and gets you the best sound, I suggest you go all out for it. Enjoy the music! :)
Experienced @Floyd Toole says ears are ultimate judge. Just to make the distinction objectivist vs subjectivist more complicated than what first meets the eye.

An audio system is supposed to increase one’s utility, happiness, if you like. There are different routes to such a target and personal preferences will always play a big part.
 

SIY

Major Contributor
Technical Expert
Joined
Apr 6, 2018
Messages
1,495
Likes
2,146
Location
Phoenix, AZ
#32
Therefore, in my personal understanding, Floyd Toole and Sean Olive are 'scientists' who are conducting 'controlled experiments' using a method that I would consider scientific.
That is also my understanding, and was exactly my point. Their work uses a scientific approach to subjective measure- and as you also pointed out, it uses controls and is replicable.

So it's subjective AND scientific. These are not antonyms, and it distorts thinking when the snake oil guys and their dupes use the terms that way.
 
Joined
Nov 7, 2018
Messages
91
Likes
39
#33
These are not antonyms, and it distorts thinking when the snake oil guys and their dupes use the terms that way.
Yes, they certainly aren't antonyms, I agree and understand why you want to remove the flim-flam from the rational ones :D

On a separate note, my thread on reddit is not going as well as the one here :p One user has taken it upon himself to say I recommended DAW filters as replacements, while I merely mentioned that DSP can replicate tubes if done well enough and even pass Blind testing.
 

DonH56

Major Contributor
Technical Expert
Patreon Donor
Joined
Mar 15, 2016
Messages
2,477
Likes
2,337
Location
Monument, CO
#34
Haven't followed this, but a couple of comments on tubes speaking as a designer and user of them in the past (not now):
  1. Years ago the low-frequency argument against tubes centered primarily around the fact that most (vast majority) or tube circuits were capacitively (preamps) and/or transformer coupled (power amps), limiting their bandwidth. Even then preamps often reached to single-digit Hz and 100 kHz or more, with power amps usually meeting full-power specs at least across the audio band and often beyond. A proliferation of cheap gear tarnished their rep a bit.
  2. Fundamentally a tube's distortion series (expansion) is factorial while a bipolar transistor's is exponential, meaning at the device physics level a tube should have lower distortion than a bipolar transistor. An ideal FET is a square-law device with second-order distortion and nothing else so is the winner, but real FETs have higher-order distortion like the rest and higher output impedance and other issues. In practice all devices and circuits have limitations so most practical designs have similar performance. Does not mean they sound the same, but you pick your compromise.
FWIWFM - Don
 

rebbiputzmaker

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Jan 28, 2018
Messages
721
Likes
117
#35
Haven't followed this, but a couple of comments on tubes speaking as a designer and user of them in the past (not now):
  1. Years ago the low-frequency argument against tubes centered primarily around the fact that most (vast majority) or tube circuits were capacitively (preamps) and/or transformer coupled (power amps), limiting their bandwidth. Even then preamps often reached to single-digit Hz and 100 kHz or more, with power amps usually meeting full-power specs at least across the audio band and often beyond. A proliferation of cheap gear tarnished their rep a bit.
  2. Fundamentally a tube's distortion series (expansion) is factorial while a bipolar transistor's is exponential, meaning at the device physics level a tube should have lower distortion than a bipolar transistor. An ideal FET is a square-law device with second-order distortion and nothing else so is the winner, but real FETs have higher-order distortion like the rest and higher output impedance and other issues. In practice all devices and circuits have limitations so most practical designs have similar performance. Does not mean they sound the same, but you pick your compromise.
FWIWFM - Don
It is a pleasure to read someone who knows what they are talking about. Thanks Don.
 

Killingbeans

Active Member
Joined
Oct 23, 2018
Messages
172
Likes
253
Location
Bjerringbro, Denmark.
#36
So it's subjective AND scientific. These are not antonyms, and it distorts thinking when the snake oil guys and their dupes use the terms that way.
I get what you're saying (?), but I wouldn't call them synonyms either. It could imply that one of them is redundant. I would rather say that they are two sides of the same coin... or some other pocket-philosopher equivalent.

At the end of the day "perfect" audio reproduction is just as impossible as cooling something to absolute zero, and therefore preference will always be a factor. But you don't get anywhere near an approximation of perfection without science :D

Whenever someone throw stuff like; "You listen with your ears, not with your measuring instruments" at me, I put them in one of two boxes.

a. "I know it's crap, but I like it that way"

I can totally respect that. All setups have lots of compromises, but the one in question is just not my bag.

b. (the most likely one) "I have special golden ears and can hear magical properties in audio that no field of science has yet discovered"

Those people are simply bonkers, and are probably one of the biggest income sources for the Snake Oil industry.

It shouldn't be "Trust your ears", but instead "Trust science, but respect your preferences".
 

Sal1950

Major Contributor
The Chicago Crusher
Joined
Mar 1, 2016
Messages
4,912
Likes
2,118
Location
Central Fl
#37
Whenever someone throw stuff like; "You listen with your ears, not with your measuring instruments" at me, I put them in one of two boxes.
Your missing one more box.
c. "My system is of such superior resolution than yours I hear the things you can't. Have you tried better cables and dedicated grounding devices to blacken your blacks?" etc etc.
LOL
 

Sal1950

Major Contributor
The Chicago Crusher
Joined
Mar 1, 2016
Messages
4,912
Likes
2,118
Location
Central Fl
#38
Haven't followed this, but a couple of comments on tubes speaking as a designer and user of them in the past (not now):
As a addition to your comments, the vast majority of todays tube gear builders are designing to a "sound". Using various circuit and component manipulations they are purpose built to bring in a set of tone and distortion controls to set it apart from the crowd. Much of which is easily identified when someone like John Atkinson at Stereophile measures them and honestly reports the results.
With todays tech knowledge I beleive it's very possilble to build tube gear that would be transparent (or very close to it). It's biggest negatives still being long term reliablity and heat. But no one that I'm aware of is taking that path any more.
 
Top Bottom