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Your hearing is not that good… Sorry, it’s just not

jeffhenning

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When it comes down to listening to music, many people like to think that there is something magical and special about their ability to hear.

Let me clue you into something: there is nothing special about your hearing. In fact, compared to many mammals, humans have rather poor hearing.

At best, the dynamic range where humans can actually discern the quality of the music or audio they are experiencing is about 100 dB. That’s it.

When you get louder, audio than 100 dB, your ears’ ability to discern the finer qualities of the audio starts being degraded. Just like with a microphone, those two little microphones on either side of your head start to get overloaded. So that’s it… Human hearing is basically stuck around 16 bits of dynamic range. Of course, we can hear a great deal of detail within that dynamic range, but don’t get all proud of yourself and think that you’re ability to discern the most minuscule detail is close to infinite. It’s not!

This all gets down to the subject of whether our hearing is as good or better than Amir’s test equipment. Sorry, it’s not even close. The test equipment is much, much better than human hearing.

As the wonderful Ben Stern used to tell his young son, Howard, “Don’t be stupid, you moron!”

jeff henning
 

DVDdoug

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I agree that measurements can be better than human hearing. My standard example is the oscilloscope on my bench at work that goes to 100MHz. But I don't work in audio so I don't have anything to measure distortion.

I never thought I had exceptional hearing but I've always been pickier than the average listener. And now that I'm older I've lost some high-end. I'm sort of "in tune" to what I'm listening to, and I listen to reverb and other sound characteristics at live events... just because I'm interested in sound and audio..

I used think there were "golden eared audiophiles" (and I do trust Amir as a trained listener) but since I've learned that most "audiophiles" don't believe in blind listening tests, I no longer trust most of what I read.

Some people obviously do have better training and/or better hearing than others.

I've intentionally avoided trying to train myself to hear compression artifacts, or anything like that. I'm not really trying to hear defects. I want to enjoy the sound/music. Of course, I've heard some low-quality MP3s but I wouldn't want to become more picky and maybe lose some listening enjoyment.

As far as dynamic range, somewhere around 100dB seems right, but we can have short-duration peaks above 100dB SPL and there is an acoustic noise floor so we can't hear sounds down to 0dB under any normal listening conditions. And the equipment may need a wider dynamic range if we want/need headroom.
 

JSmith

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JSmith
 

Chrispy

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Sorry to cherry-pick a single line, but you shouldn’t…
Unless his listening is conducted under properly controlled, blind conditions he is just as prone to bias as anyone else.
I just read a reaction of Amir's subjectively over a period of time where he somewhat addressed this possibility......altho without also changes of gear connected it may not convince some....it's a better subjective experience I might read over the usual idiotic audiophile blog/magazine stuff....
 

Blumlein 88

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About that dynamic range, I think the instantaneous DR (or near instantaneous) is something like 60-70 db. Your hearing adapts its sensitivity somewhat to get a usable range greater than that. Also I was worked in a room with some large machinery driven by huge natural gas powered engines. With a good SLM the level bounced around a continuous 105 db. A loud cacophony. Many people walked thru it or would work in it for a short time. Some for longer which seemed crazy to me. It was just a very loud roar. However, if you put on some hearing protectors or earplugs, that knocked the noise down maybe 25 or 30 db. At that level the loud nearly featureless roar had tremendous amounts of detail and nuance. You ears weren't distorted and overloaded. You could hear tiny sound details of the engine internals. Like valves in need of adjustment or wrist pins starting to go bad or bearings in clutches getting noisy. It also is related to masking. The louder a sound the greater the range and level of masking. So there is a sweet spot where masking is less while other things are loud enough to be heard separately.
 

Count Arthur

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I've done a few of those on-line hearing tests to see how much distortion you can hear, or the differences between various levels of lossy compression, bit rates etc.

I have come to the conclusion that my ears are more cloth than gold. :)

On the upside, it has made me much more relaxed about listening to lossy compressed music on YouTube, Spotify, etc.. I also no longer worry about finding Hi-Res versions of CDs I have and I think the DSP in my active monitors converts everything to 24bit, 48kHz anyway.
 

benanders

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About that dynamic range, I think the instantaneous DR (or near instantaneous) is something like 60-70 db. Your hearing adapts its sensitivity somewhat to get a usable range greater than that. Also I was worked in a room with some large machinery driven by huge natural gas powered engines. With a good SLM the level bounced around a continuous 105 db. A loud cacophony. Many people walked thru it or would work in it for a short time. Some for longer which seemed crazy to me. It was just a very loud roar. However, if you put on some hearing protectors or earplugs, that knocked the noise down maybe 25 or 30 db. At that level the loud nearly featureless roar had tremendous amounts of detail and nuance. You ears weren't distorted and overloaded. You could hear tiny sound details of the engine internals. Like valves in need of adjustment or wrist pins starting to go bad or bearings in clutches getting noisy. It also is related to masking. The louder a sound the greater the range and level of masking. So there is a sweet spot where masking is less while other things are loud enough to be heard separately.

So I should set my stereo to 105 dB and wear hearing protection for better detailed listening?

Joking aside, that’s interesting contextual explanation you’ve given @Blumlein 88
 

Pareto Pragmatic

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When it comes down to listening to music, many people like to think that there is something magical and special about their ability to hear.
Hearing and listening are different. Hearing is biological, listening is cognitive. That's how I think of it at least. No one can learn to hear better, but people can learn to listen better.

When I put new tweeters in some vintage speakers, my cats noticed right away. It took me some time to pick out the differences. They have great hearing. As for how much detail they perceive when they listen to music, you would have to ask them.

Listening can be trained and improved. I do think people who listen first, then predict what they will see in the measurements, then measure... those are the people training their listening skills in the best possible way. Can people learn to listen better without measurement? Sure. But having an objective reference for our perceptions of sound grounds up and keeps our brains from hearing things that are not there. Or corrects us when our brains play tricks on us.

For me, I could tell a big difference between my AV amp and a small TPA 3255 amp. When I was swapping cables to compare. Then I got an a/b switch, and the differences were a great deal less obvious. Still differences, but far less different than I thought. A 30 second delay was enough that my ears were trumped by my brain.

When we compare A/B testing with measurements, we learn to listen to smaller and smaller differences, and learn to pick them out when there are lower levels of difference. Kind of like designers learn to distinguish more color variation than the average person. That's how anyone can learn to listen better, no matter what they hearing might be (within reason of course).

I am done training my listening, btw. I can certainly pick out problems in, say, the 80-120 region, but I know I can't tell the difference between a 90 and 100 problem by listening. I don't want to get to the point where I will pick out problems with anything I use. I am going to get some new speaker in a couple of months, and I will measure them and set them up for the room. But I will 100% NOT a/b them with other speakers.

As a result, I am sure they will sound perfect!
 

sq225917

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This 100%, there's some variance in function some are marginally better at pitch difference, absolute pitch, some better at temporal discernment ( which is just frequency again). Mostly though people have just learned to appreciate a particular aspect of music reproduction and that biases their entire experience of music.
 
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jeffhenning

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A few more thoughts….

• As stated, previously, the human ability to discern quality when the level gets above 100dB is degraded to a greater extent the louder the sound gets. That’s all. You can still hear and discern audio quality, but it gets worse as the volume goes up from there. Oh, and if you do it often enough, there is the hearing damage that you’ll suffer.

• Totally subjective audio reviews that focus on the listener’s experience ingesting audio from any source that then that person’s impressions as fact are basically useless. In those rare cases where something is going wrong and the writer actually points that out, they are of value. Unfortunately, though, those reviews are a few and far between.

• Subjective audio reviews that are about the users experience other than the quality of the audio are of value. A Kipple will not tell you about build quality or software intuitiveness or just generally using the equipment.

• The objective, science-based reviews given at this site are among the few you will find on the web that aren’t total crap. Seeing how most audio reviewers have just jammed a bunch of equipment into a room with bare wooden floors, drywall and dubious acoustics, why you would listen to any of these blithering idiots and take their opinions seriously even the least bit is beyond me. The worst of these is Michael Fremer. The man is both a gigantic a-hole and a dilettante. He’s a know-nothing moron.

• I will take issue with Amir on two subjects. The first is about phase response in audio and whether it’s important and you can hear it. Having done a decent amount of experimentation creating DIY, active loudspeakers, you can hear the improvement that time alignment and linear phase filters produce. Having done that as well as using DSP such as Dirac or Audessy with a “perfect” crossover, the improvement is audible. That being said, if all of the other qualities of the loudspeaker are not top-notch, you are just polishing a turd. DSP is the last thing that you can and should do to improve a loudspeaker. Its improvement is only a couple of percent in the overall scheme of things involving the sound of the a really good loudspeaker. To go the DIY route, though, is a lot of work, and not for the faint of heart.

• Being an owner of the original KEF LS50’s, I’ve found them to be a pretty spectacular loudspeaker. Are they just as good as the latest iteration that they’ve released in the last year or so? I would certainly hope they’re not. Wouldn’t mind having the latest and greatest, but I’m not running them by themselves in a stereo set up. I have seven of them in my home theater and cross them over at 170Hz to Rythmik servo subs (170Hz is limit where they start distorting the lower you go). I realize Amir didn’t do this. Relieving the LS50s of any responsibility of creating low bass really cleans up their sound. In a rig like mine, they play ridiculously loud and clean.
 

Multicore

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Let me clue you into something: there is nothing special about your hearing.
Who are you talking to?


And here I am listening to High Rise II after listening to Earthbound.

I like transparency not because I can hear it. I like having it so that I don't have to think about it.

I can't tell the difference between 128kbps MP3 and CD. I consider that a bonus and I want to keep it that way. So long as the equipment isn't interfering with my listening in a way that I notice, all's well.
 
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Vacceo

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Who are you talking to?


And here I am listening to High Rise II after listening to Earthbound.

I like transparency not because I can hear it. I like having it so that I don't have to think about it.

I can't tell the difference between 128kbps MP3 and CD. I consider that a bonus and I want to keep it that way. So long as the equipment isn't interfering with my listening in a way that I notice, all's well.
Same attitude over here: I like clean reproduction because if something goes wrong, there is a source of issues I can already discard.
 
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Zapper

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I will take issue with Amir on two subjects. The first is about phase response in audio and whether it’s important and you can hear it. Having done a decent amount of experimentation creating DIY, active loudspeakers, you can hear the improvement that time alignment and linear phase filters produce.
But changing the phase relation between drivers also changes the radiation pattern, doesn't it? The lobes in particular may move in position and frequency. So is it possible that what you hear isn't phase per se, but its influence on the radiation pattern, and hence the reflected soundfield?
 

jooc

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When it comes down to listening to music, many people like to think that there is something magical and special about their ability to hear.

Let me clue you into something: there is nothing special about your hearing. In fact, compared to many mammals, humans have rather poor hearing.

At best, the dynamic range where humans can actually discern the quality of the music or audio they are experiencing is about 100 dB. That’s it.

When you get louder, audio than 100 dB, your ears’ ability to discern the finer qualities of the audio starts being degraded. Just like with a microphone, those two little microphones on either side of your head start to get overloaded. So that’s it… Human hearing is basically stuck around 16 bits of dynamic range. Of course, we can hear a great deal of detail within that dynamic range, but don’t get all proud of yourself and think that you’re ability to discern the most minuscule detail is close to infinite. It’s not!

This all gets down to the subject of whether our hearing is as good or better than Amir’s test equipment. Sorry, it’s not even close. The test equipment is much, much better than human hearing.

As the wonderful Ben Stern used to tell his young son, Howard, “Don’t be stupid, you moron!”

jeff henning

It's scary how true it is that young people can hear better - over Christmas I had my 11, 14 and 16 year olds listen to a varying-frequency set tones and raise their hand when they hear it and they were consistently able to hear high-pitched tones that my wife and I couldn't.
 

Yorkshire Mouth

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Sorry to cherry-pick a single line, but you shouldn’t…
Unless his listening is conducted under properly controlled, blind conditions he is just as prone to bias as anyone else.

Agreed.

That’s no offence to Amir. And for what it’s worth, my experience is that he doesn’t show much bias.

Apart from with bass…
 
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