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What is "good enough"?

mppix

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I just spend a dinner with friends discussing this and we could not agree - as so often - but we came up with some points of views that we all adopted at various times:
  • The scientist: requires that a component must reproduce audio beyond what can be detected by a listener. Scientists may use their own measured ears, best case human hearing, or the ears of their preferred pet as reference. Quality is a deterministic measure of physical units in reference conditions.
  • The psychologist: requires a scientific approach but only for parameters that have been shown to matter in side-by-side blind test. Quality is a statistical measure of, typically, physical units.
  • The pragmatic: assesses components predominantly by listening to well-known recordings in a familiar space and by playing with volume and other controls. She/he may engage in occasional side-by-side comparisons, which are usually not blind, and consider a system agreeable if it lacks obvious flaws. The pragmatic can listen to a vinyl or tape record without needing to identify flaws. Quality is largely binary: pass or fail.
  • The enlightened: has gained superior audio knowledge by attending audio-shows and is friends with the local hifi store. She/he knows all the high-performance components and does not necessarily need to listen to a component before forming an opinion. Quality is measured in $.
  • Everybody else: considers that everything but all-in-one devices are a waste of space and hifi should not cost more than a family dinner. Typically buys state-of-the-art hifi that is bluetooth speakers, preferably an Alexa/Siri/Echo. Quality is measured by a "best of ranking" by some website (one of the first few google responses).
It is also noted that these individuals can be
  • egoistic: the listening room has a single chair and well defined sweet spot
  • social: the listening room is open for social gatherings and the sweet spot must extend over a minimal area, which may be a couch or more
  • compromising: the listening room doubles as additional room, e.g. living room, limiting placement options and often adding requirements such as dorm-proof, child-proof, or pet-proof.
At our dinner, we could not find system that is "good enough" for everybody. Perhaps we did miss something important or perhaps it is for the better if the question has more than one answer.

I'm curious what folks here think.

Just remember it is all for good (and well intended) fun.
 

Chrispy

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I'd think unless you do something in the way of an actual proper test/comparison setup to eliminate your biases none of you may ever get your answers. Can't imagine even having such a conversation with my friends, they just don't care nor are particularly informed about how audio works. Just curious what were these mythical systems that were considered and rejected?
 

Rja4000

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I'm curious what folks here think.
I have another definition for "pragmatic"

Your definition ("assesses components predominantly by listening") leads to a lot of disillusion and waste of time, in my experience.

Therefore, the "pragmatic" approach for me is to preselect by referring to measurements where it gives the (almost) full picture, and based on budget and functionalities, and then to listen only when it makes most sense (loudspeakers, headphones, mainly).

Since I'm proceeding this way, I get much better and consistent satisfaction.
And much less incertainty and time loss.
 

TonyJZX

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Like a lot of you guys I have a lot of equipment all over the place.

And so occasionally I set up a system in a spare room with what is lying around and see how it pans out.

I'm obviously not super rich but I have some space and some free time... this is KEY... if you have heaps of money then maybe you're used to McIntosh Sonus Faber setups...

And so even a cheap system a lot of times performs to level that is really 'close enough'... at this point you just enjoy the music.

I have an smsl a300 amp, c100 dac... this is $300... hooked up to a middling set of 6-7" speakers its pretty much there. Is there better? sure. I have better equipment but at this price it doesnt matter.
 

Axo1989

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I just spend a dinner with friends discussing this and we could not agree - as so often - but we came up with some points of views that we all adopted at various times:
  • The scientist: requires that a component must reproduce audio beyond what can be detected by a listener. Scientists may use their own measured ears, best case human hearing, or the ears of their preferred pet as reference. Quality is a deterministic measure of physical units in reference conditions.
  • The psychologist: requires a scientific approach but only for parameters that have been shown to matter in side-by-side blind test. Quality is a statistical measure of, typically, physical units.
  • The pragmatic: assesses components predominantly by listening to well-known recordings in a familiar space and by playing with volume and other controls. She/he may engage in occasional side-by-side comparisons, which are usually not blind, and consider a system agreeable if it lacks obvious flaws. The pragmatic can listen to a vinyl or tape record without needing to identify flaws. Quality is largely binary: pass or fail.
  • The enlightened: has gained superior audio knowledge by attending audio-shows and is friends with the local hifi store. She/he knows all the high-performance components and does not necessarily need to listen to a component before forming an opinion. Quality is measured in $.
  • Everybody else: considers that everything but all-in-one devices are a waste of space and hifi should not cost more than a family dinner. Typically buys state-of-the-art hifi that is bluetooth speakers, preferably an Alexa/Siri/Echo. Quality is measured by a "best of ranking" by some website (one of the first few google responses).
It is also noted that these individuals can be
  • egoistic: the listening room has a single chair and well defined sweet spot
  • social: the listening room is open for social gatherings and the sweet spot must extend over a minimal area, which may be a couch or more
  • compromising: the listening room doubles as additional room, e.g. living room, limiting placement options and often adding requirements such as dorm-proof, child-proof, or pet-proof.
At our dinner, we could not find system that is "good enough" for everybody. Perhaps we did miss something important or perhaps it is for the better if the question has more than one answer.

I'm curious what folks here think.

Just remember it is all for good (and well intended) fun.

Interesting discussion. Categories make sense. I guess lean toward pragmatic/social with a bit of measuring thrown in, and a less binary approach than pass/fail. And friends* with a couple of hi-fi stores so maybe pragmatic/enlightened (ironic choice of the last word notwithstanding).

Like @Chrispy I don't have too many conversation like that with physically present people, so half your luck there. :)

*meaning I can drop in and listen for a few hours to something wildly expensive that I'm super-unlikely to but that day because they don't mind an excuse to do that too
 
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GXAlan

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I don’t think I fit into any of those categories, but perhaps the “Astronaut” would be fair. I require a scientific explanation for everything but enjoy the risk and reward of adventure and appreciate that one’s favorite planet or nebula may not actually have any relevance to science.

I am very pragmatic, but I don’t think pass/fail is appropriate. Sometimes vinyl is superior in enjoyment despite knowing that it is inferior as a format.

That said, I find myself gravitating towards products that do not measure transparently on static test tones and try to find a scientific rationale that may explain things. I, for one, like Dolby Pro Logic II Music. The width of the Bose 901 works wonders for social gathering or when I want a presentation of a concert hall.

I think the egoistic view is easy. One listener. However even in social or compromising environments, there are still times when an egoistic experience is desired. This is where A and B speaker options are great or different Dirac presets.
 

ozzy9832001

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I always draw a parallel between computer overclockers and audiophiles. They behave very similar and have a lot of similar snake oil and nonsense associated with them.

Overclockers chase benchmark scores and audiophiles chase frequency response graphs. At the end of the day if my PC hits 4990mhz instead of 5005mhz will I notice a difference? Probably not. If my frequency response is .001 db straighter will a notice a difference? is it even noticeable?

Who knows. People do things for different reasons. I got into both hobbies because I liked the science involved in both. Audio is more fun because it's vicarial.
 

ahofer

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I’m on vacation, chartering a sailboat. Among sailers there are those who just enjoy being out on the water, and those who run around the boat endlessly trying to get an extra tenth of a knot to shave a second off of…tacking back and forth across a known body of water all afternoon.
 

computer-audiophile

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Interesting discussion. Categories make sense. I guess lean toward pragmatic/social with a bit of measuring thrown in, and a less binary approach than pass/fail. And friends* with a couple of hi-fi stores so maybe pragmatic/enlightened (ironic choice of the last word notwithstanding).

Like @Chrispy I don't have too many conversation like that with physically present people, so half your luck there. :)

*meaning I can drop in and listen for a few hours to something wildly expensive that I'm super-unlikely to but that day because they don't mind an excuse to do that too
I feel something like that, only I couldn't have expressed it so well in English.

What I have been missing for a long time is the social exchange with audiophile colleagues, as I had in the past. Where you invited each other in the circle of audiophile friends to listen and see what is going on and which result were achieved. Here where I live now I do not find such people in the area. I have only lively contacts with musicians and composers, but they have no particular weakness for hi-fi audio. There are no really great hi-fi stores here either.
 
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Digby

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I admit to being totally selfish and wanting to press the science into my service - what do I mean by this? I mean simply that I have heard a number of loudspeakers that have scored highly on preference tests and measured well, yet have fallen flat or left me cold in one sense or another. These speakers all had, to my ear, different types of flaws, some (in my ears) worse than others. They all had their own character too, even when within spitting distance of one another in performance.

Since all speakers are in one sense or another flawed, I seek to find what flaws I find most egregious and which are of little concern. What kind of sound 'presentation' I favour and which I do not. I hope to use measurements to narrow down the range of speakers I will bother to audition, by trying to understand my own preferences and how they relate to measurements. I haven't all the time in the world to audition, and not every excellent speaker scratches every person's particular itch. I can't say I know precisely how to achieve such ends, but I have more ideas about it than when I started.

This is how I see things, more or less.
 

computer-audiophile

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I'll try to define what is good enough for me: These are things that I came up with based on a well informed choice. This is an unedious process, because (hopefully) one learns more and more. For me, this has been going on for 60 years now concerning the audiophile hobby.
 

Digby

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The pragmatist should include an economic characteristic - is it good enough for the money I can afford / am prepared to spend. Or maybe that is a new category?
Is anyone, save the super wealthy, outside price considerations?
 

Ricardus

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Good enough sounds easy to achieve. Buy stuff that measures well and is affordable. The weak link is speakers, so spend a little more for good ones, and you're there.

The rest is unimportant.

Does it look as cool as a bunch of Mac gear with their silly LED's under the tubes? In that case, yes, because those silly LEDs are just dumb.
 

fpitas

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Is anyone, save the super wealthy, outside price considerations?
I suppose it depends on whether you can achieve a satisfactory outcome without straining your finances. You may not need to be wealthy.
 
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mppix

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I'd think unless you do something in the way of an actual proper test/comparison setup to eliminate your biases none of you may ever get your answers. Can't imagine even having such a conversation with my friends, they just don't care nor are particularly informed about how audio works. Just curious what were these mythical systems that were considered and rejected?

It started with somebody considering the Hypex Nilai500diy for their KEFs from their NC400. This quickly boradened: a Tannoy owner thinks studio monitors are the way to go; a B&W owner thinks it is the wrong amp altogether; and a vinyl aficionado thinks this part of the chain is less important.

The discussion was far messier of course and we all assumed various positions that we started to point this out to each other - hence the post.

The evening also suggests that alcohol makes people more enlightened :)
 

computer-audiophile

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In my experience, the purchase price of hifi gear is an unsuitable criterion when it comes to the achievable sound quality. I have always had a lot of fun finding things that are outstanding or special and at the same time not too expensive. However, the lifelong gadgetry, my audio pilgrimages and sound researches have cost me a fortune on balance.
 

Digby

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Most of us live with financial constraints, but I’m sure we have all met folks on forums and in person who spend well beyond their means.
Yes, so financial considerations apply to almost everyone, whether we (as a 3rd party) think they spend too little or too much.

I suppose it depends on whether you can achieve a satisfactory outcome without straining your finances. You may not need to be wealthy.
If someone is 'not very free' with their money, then a significant part of their decision is going to be dictated by price (almost irrespective of income). Someone who is much more liberal in spending money wouldn't be satisfied until they spend more. My point is these are psychological questions and it pertains a lot to the temperament of a person as to how much they'd be happy to spend. Some aren't happy when they spend 'too much', others aren't happy if they 'don't spend enough' - this could be two people with roughly the same income, with disparate ideas as to what is a satisfactory outcome, due almost entirely to the amount of money they are happy to apportion to their hobby.
 

muslhead

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I suppose it depends on whether you can achieve a satisfactory outcome without straining your finances. You may not need to be wealthy.
I know a number of super wealthy. Some of them have the exact same spending constraints as those with modest means, theirs are just self imposed.
That is partly how they got super wealthy.
 
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