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Subjective descriptors for audible transparency (that aren't BS)

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#1
In a typical objective vs. subjective discussion, the objective side usually wins in terms of technicalities or data, but loses out so much of its potential audience/readership due to a lack of subjective or flowery descriptors that (let's face it), make reading subjective audio reviews more entertaining or accessible.

Realistically, most people are unable to correlate graphs, charts, or SINAD numbers to the experience of listening to music. This makes them more susceptible (or gullible?) to BS subjective views.

For example:

A common subjective trope is:
DACs or amps with good measurements = clinical, boring, or analytical
Tubes = warmer, more musical

So the question is, how would you describe gear with good measurements, a.k.a. audibly transparent gear, to a non-technical person, in a way that would make them understand why 'audible transparency' is a good thing?
 

Doodski

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#2
Hmmmz some terms come to mind:
-dynamics
-dynamic range
-punchyness
-extended highs
-linear
Just some ideas.
 

RayDunzl

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#3
So the question is, how would you describe gear with good measurements, a.k.a. audibly transparent gear, to a non-technical person, in a way that would make them understand why 'audible transparency' is a good thing?
Do they get to listen to it first?
 

solderdude

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#5
There are people who feel the AQ Nighthawk is 'realistic' sounding (very 'dark' headphone)
There are people who feel the AKG K501 is realistic sounding (bass-shy and sharp treble)

I usually state a headphone is realistic sounding when it is somewhere in between those extremes.

FR and CSD and perhaps distortion (frequency and amplitude dependent) are indicators to me but sometimes I measure a headphone that measures decent but still sounds like crap anyway because there are other aspects that may remain hidden in the field of acoustic measurements.

I don't think anyone can correlate SINAD to audio quality, maybe some folks can actually hear it when SINAD is really, really poor.

You can't win them all. Only those that like measurements will see the value of it. The rest will believe/love the subjective 'stuff'. This is more 'magic' and 'fun' and there are gurus one can follow/believe. This is more fun to people.
Don't try to persuade these folks. Just tell them what you found/think.
 

Mnyb

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#6
They think about the wrong way , audio equipment does not "sound good" it sounds "less bad" if your lucky . You have whatever sits on your media/file/disc and then your adio equipment can make it sligthly worse or much worse :) so transparent= very sligthly worse .
All the flowery language is rigthly deserved by the musicians on your records .

1% distorsion implies thats there in some way is 99% signal 0,1% distorsion and 99,9% signal ,technically this description migth be awfull :) to all of you engineers .

How to explain acoustics ? i don't know :) the knotty issue of room interactions that makes the speaker/room interface the starting piont of it all .
 
OP
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Thread Starter #7
They think about the wrong way , audio equipment does not "sound good" it sounds "less bad" if your lucky . You have whatever sits on your media/file/disc and then your adio equipment can make it sligthly worse or much worse :) so transparent= very sligthly worse .
All the flowery language is rigthly deserved by the musicians on your records .

1% distorsion implies thats there in some way is 99% signal 0,1% distorsion and 99,9% signal ,technically this description migth be awfull :) to all of you engineers .
Thanks!

I would phrase that as:
(Audible transparency is...)
"Experiencing the music in the purest and most unadulterated way possible."
 

Blujackaal

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#9
1% distorsion implies thats there in some way is 99% signal 0,1% distorsion and 99,9% signal ,technically this description migth be awfull :) to all of you engineers .
Distortsion can also tell you if the driver performance or maxed out power wise. Because solder has showed at 80db & a version with EQ, The shure SRH1540 has only 0.4% instead of being 1% at 95db with stock sound.
 

BDWoody

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#10
So the question is, how would you describe gear with good measurements, a.k.a. audibly transparent gear, to a non-technical person, in a way that would make them understand why 'audible transparency' is a good thing?
I try to correlate the whole measurements thing as simply being part of the the pursuit of 'Hi Fi'...which stands for HIGH FIDELITY! (I know... that sounds like crazy talk to some).

Many seem to want to pursue moderate fidelity with pleasing distortion, but will feel offended if that's pointed out, so gotta be careful...

To me, any piece of equipment that compromises on that may be interesting, but not part of how I pursue the hobby. I give plenty of room for other choices...
 

Wombat

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#11
Distortsion can also tell you if the driver performance or maxed out power wise. Because solder has showed at 80db & a version with EQ, The shure SRH1540 has only 0.4% instead of being 1% at 95db with stock sound.
Come again.
 

tuga

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#12
In a typical objective vs. subjective discussion, the objective side usually wins in terms of technicalities or data, but loses out so much of its potential audience/readership due to a lack of subjective or flowery descriptors that (let's face it), make reading subjective audio reviews more entertaining or accessible.

Realistically, most people are unable to correlate graphs, charts, or SINAD numbers to the experience of listening to music. This makes them more susceptible (or gullible?) to BS subjective views.
If "most people" were to take up recreational sailing they'd make an effort to learn about winds and currents as well as all the mechanics involved in order to get the most out of their dinghy (and not end up lost at sea or upside down).
 

BDWoody

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#13
If "most people" were to take up recreational sailing they'd make an effort to learn about winds and currents as well as all the mechanics involved in order to get the most out of their dinghy (and not end up lost at sea or upside down).
Yeah... I had to get rescued from the Ocean via Coast Guard helicopter once, after going complete turtle in a catamaran while out with friends one afternoon.

Was a cold few hours until we were spotted by a smaller police chopper looking for us, then another 20 minutes before the big boy showed up with a diver and basket.

A bit more education by our 'Captain' would have made for a better day.
 

pozz

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#14
Any subjective descriptors seem ok when spoken or written by someone who has a clear, technical understanding. It's not so much a matter of vocabulary as viewpoint.
 

Absolute

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#15
I suspect that the x-factor in all these discussions about subjective/objective qualities are related to people's references.
If you have never heard a good quality speaker like a Revel or similar, how can you know or describe what it sounds like?

If the only reference you have had the last two weeks are some Klipsch, how do you recognize good objective sound quality from just better than what you've been listening to the last few weeks?

How to describe "audible transparency"? I don't know, that will depend on what you're listening to. Transparency may or may not sound good depending on many factors, so the only reason for trying to argue any superiority of transparency over non-transparency is the long-term effect of reducing the circle of confusion, resulting in a better sound overall. Imo.
 
OP
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Thread Starter #16
Any subjective descriptors seem ok when spoken or written by someone who has a clear, technical understanding. It's not so much a matter of vocabulary as viewpoint.
True, but I think most people in ASR share a similar viewpoint that;
  • A high SINAD score is better (even though this isn't audible after a certain point, because it shows good engineering)
  • an amp/dac that doesn't alter the frequency response is desirable
  • a low output impedance/high damping factor is better (depending on the type of headphone/speaker).
  • etc.
A lot of readers, OTOH, don't necessarily understand all that. What they want to know is;

If I buy this amp/dac/headphone/speaker, will I get (to borrow a phrase from another thread)...

'authoritative bass with good slam and kick'? :p (a small matter of vocabulary)
 

pwjazz

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#17
Objectivists and subjectivist both sometimes miss the forest for the trees.

1. Transducers (speakers, headphones) matter a lot more than source gear, as long as that source gear doesn't have horrible distortion or a high noise floor with the given transducer, so I find little use in obsessing about SINAD beyond a certain point.

2. When it comes to source gear, given acceptable distortion and noise, what really matters is that there's enough power (voltage and current) and that the output impedance is low enough to provide a decent damping factor with your transducer and not alter the frequency response too much. To that end, I find it odd that the DX3 Pro V2 with its 10 ohm output impedance is such a darling in some objectivist circles. That's too high to provide a proper damping factor to even something like a 55 ohm Focal Clear or the 32 ohm AKG 371, let alone the 16 ohm or lower balanced armature earphones that some people use, and a high SINAD doesn't change that. In many ways, I think a power and output impedance chart would be far more useful for amps than a SINAD chart.

3. In headphones specifically, frequency response matters a lot, but it's difficult to interpret exactly how something will sound just by looking at a frequency response graph, partially because of auditory masking, partially because of the complexity of harmonics in natural sound and partially because headphones interact differently with different people's ears/heads (not to mention hearing loss and personal preference). So while some subjectivists focus on how frequency response measurements don't account for everything they hear, and some objectivists obsess about precisely EQ'ing everything to a specific frequency response target, the reality is as usual somewhere in between and a bit more complex.

Back to the OP's original question, if we include distortion, noise, power and output impedance under the rubrik of "measurements", perhaps a flowery phrase that highlights the strengths of objectively good measuring source equipment (i.e. a DAC/AMP with high SINAD, high power and low O.I.) is that X dac/amp provides ample clean and quiet power to the most demanding headphones, providing precise control to everything from ultra-sensitive IEM's to power-hungry planars and high impedance dynamics, or something like that.
 

Wes

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#19
Isn't the OP's question what J. Gordon Holt tried to do?

I don't see that there is anything particularly wrong with his audio glossary - just that the gloss put on things by his literary descendants is never tested...
 

NoMoFoNo

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#20
I sense an irony and tension in the concept of a forum wherein members discuss audio, the gear and the hobby, when the goal of the site hosting these discussions is to objectively test gear and publish that data. Every day I see posts and very-persistent posters who, whether on purpose or not I cannot usually discern, blur the lines between goals of quantifying performance and layering on human subjective experience on top of that.

My own opinion is that almost every other audio forum is drowning in subjectivist hokum and I wish I could avoid much of the same here, but then again there would be much less discussion perhaps.
 

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