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Stereophile's Jim Austin disagrees w Atkinson; says tubes have something that can't be measured

teched58

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In Stereophile's review of the Mastersound 845 Compact integrated amplifier, which is a tube amp, editor in chief Jim Austin is once again publicly disagreeing with a reviewer; this time it's John Atkinson.

Basically, the TL;DR is that in the measurements section of the review, Atkinson (JA1) qualifies his comments by saying -- I paraphrase -- that he's commenting on its performance as a tube amp, with the recognition that tube amps don't perform as well as solid state. He adds the following explanation in the article's comments section: "When I write 'The amp performs along the lines of what one would expect for a tube amp with zero negative feedback,' the measured performance predicts departures from a neutral sonic character that will be audible."

To which Jim Austin (JA2) responds:

I just want to make it clear that the opinion expressed by JA1 here, though very well-supported, is not universally shared.

It's true--no one connected with reality can deny it--that certain features in old-school tube amps cause departures from neutrality, especially with loudspeakers with impedance curves that drop below, let us say, 4 ohms, which is most modern loudspeakers. No one can deny it because they are measurable at clearly audible levels. But there's another school of thought--embraced by certain other Stereophile writers--that believes that something less tangible is retained in some such amplifiers that is lost in demonstrably more accurate ones. Such opinions are based on subjective experience--self-perceived connection with the music. This makes them literally irrefutable-- they cannot be tested objectively, so they cannot be contradicted, which is annoying--yet (and this is my opinion, as the magazine's editor), in a magazine committed to subjective experience--to listening--above all else, such opinions must not be dismissed out of hand.

Edit: I thought I should add that the opinions/beliefs I'm referring to are held by many of the most experienced, devoted, passionate audiophiles. I do not take that lightly.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile



Still sticking to the "some things can't be measured" trope.
 

fpitas

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VintageFlanker

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Such opinions are based on subjective experience--self-perceived connection with the music. This makes them literally irrefutable-- they cannot be tested objectively, so they cannot be contradicted, which is annoying
Annoying, it is... I cannot believe that Jim Austin never heard about controled listening tests... :rolleyes:
 

fpitas

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The X Factor rears its ugly head again. Our trolls try to tell us, but will we listen?
 

fpitas

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We laugh, but I'm sure 100s of imaginative subjectivists hit the renew button on their subscription.
 

Inner Space

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Still sticking to the "some things can't be measured" trope.
Not really - JA2 is instead committing to a huge logic reversal. He basically wrote (my edits):
But there's another school of thought--embraced by certain other Stereophile writers--that believes that something less tangible is distorted retained in some such amplifiers that is not distorted lost in demonstrably more accurate ones.
And who could argue with that? It's all completely measurable, and it brings us back to the "some people enjoy distortion" position, which we all know well. I'm surprised, though, at the blatantly ridiculous special pleading. I used to enjoy S'phile in years past, a bit like eavesdropping on semi-connected weirdos, but since JA2 took over, it has lost its appeal. Now it's like visiting the zoo.
 

Talisman

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1683815965131.png
 

subframe

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Not really - JA2 is instead committing to a huge logic reversal. He basically wrote (my edits):

And who could argue with that? It's all completely measurable, and it brings us back to the "some people enjoy distortion" position, which we all know well.
Correct, he’s not saying there’s a magical force at play, he’s saying some people enjoy the measurable distortions and find it adds to their enjoyment of music.
 

Music707

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We laugh, but I'm sure 100s of imaginative subjectivists hit the renew button on their subscription.

Exactly my thoughts. Being the current editor, JA2 may feel a strong urge to write what he thinks his subscribers like to read. Given the long-standing prior editorship of John Atkinson I take JA2's comment as disrespectful.
 

scrubb

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I think Jim Austin is missing the main point of his own argument:
- Everything can be measured.
- Tube amps don't measure as well as SOTA solid state amps.
- Jim likes the sound of some tube amps better than solid state amps.
- Therefore; he likes the sound of distortion and/or other artifacts created by tube amps better than the neutrality of SOTA solid state amps.

If he is saying there is something about tube amps that cannot be measured, he is wrong (I'm not sure he actually says that). He needs to determine and define what characteristic of the measurements he likes, whether its a certain type or level of distortion, or noise, or whatever.

Ultimately I suspect he's making this entire statement because he's afraid the manufacturer will view Atkinson's statement as negative and is worried they'll withdraw their advertising support.
 
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teched58

teched58

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<snip>

Ultimately I suspect he's making this entire statement because he's afraid the manufacturer will view Atkinson's statement as negative and is worried they'll withdraw their advertising support.

Yes, Jim is protecting the football. The ~$120k/yr + WFH + travel to audio shows football.

I can't say I wouldn't do the same, giving the paucity of decently paying jobs in publishing.
 

fpitas

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Ultimately I suspect he's making this entire statement because he's afraid the manufacturer will view Atkinson's statement as negative and is worried they'll withdraw their advertising support.
Between that, and the subscribers that eat that stuff up.
 

notsodeadlizard

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Regardless of all this useless fuss, the amplifier is impeccably beautiful.
This is actually a collectible item.
And the price for such a beautiful thing can not be called unreasonable.
No one will ever notice that its distortion is not 0.000003%, because no one in the world notices this at all.
And that's enough.
 

subframe

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Honestly, the title of this thread should be changed, that is clearly (measurably!) not what he wrote.
 

fpitas

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Regardless of all this useless fuss, the amplifier is impeccably beautiful.
This is actually a collectible item.
And the price for such a beautiful thing can not be called unreasonable.
No one will ever notice that its distortion is not 0.000003%, because no one in the world notices this at all.
And that's enough.
Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I wouldn't let it in the house ;)
 
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