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Subjective / Objective , Philosophy of Science

Tatl

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I just made an account here. First post. I'm a 26 year old musician/producer/mixer. I started taking interest in audiophile questions about two years ago, stemming from a quest for dead-accurate monitoring. I've been all over the audio internet, and I've heard a good deal of systems in person. Audiophile and pro, analog and digital, cheap and expensive. It's funny how the audiophile world and the pro world don't really like to mix, even when they're taking interest in the same questions.

 

One of my favorite audiophile writers is Herb Reichert, because he's obsessed with sound that is -direct- and -naked-. Corporeal and palpable. "In the room" explicit. He is allergic to sheen or gloss. His writing asserts that there must still be technological aspects essential to convincing playback that we haven't yet learned to measure, since systems with textbook A+ measurements can still lack this elusive naked quality. Herb prizes this directness over perfect frequency response, dynamic response, or resolution. For him, it is its own parameter with its own merit, and its origin and relation to the others remains mysterious, though he is constantly investigating. Systems that check other boxes, but lack this essential quality, are for Herb false and deceptive, since they offer everything but the soul of the music.

 

Now of course, there are many in the audio world who feel this way, or who perhaps feel similarly about some other quality they've discerned. Most people call them "subjectivists". To me...it seems like they're misunderstood. Their general claim is simply: we haven't learned to measure everything that's important, so one has to keep an open mind and seek undiscovered correlations. We hear differences outside of what is reflected in the measurements.

 

Philosophically speaking, any measurement that reliably correlates to reality, ever made, in any science, was initially correlated to the human subjective senses, or rests on proofs, which ultimately rest on correlations to our naked senses. The most basic proof for 1+1=2 is that you can pick up one twig, pick up another, and there, you have two twigs in your hand. The subjective layer is the FIRST data layer. You always view numbers on pages THROUGH this layer, and interpret them through mental proofs BASED on it. All accepted science is based on subjective impressions our ancestors agreed on.

 

Even the number one is based on subjective experience. The experience of a whole. The experience that an object can be separate from it's environment in the first place. The experience that a pebble is a separate thing from the air or water around it, and that it has a high enough degree of self-consistency to be given a name at all.

 

It seems wildly arrogant to assert "we're at the end of audio science" the way "objectivists" do. What if we aren't? In the past, whenever we thought we were, in any field, were we? No. It's not an intelligent position to take, as far as I'm concerned. Staunch objectivists make a wager: "I bet our theories are perfect." Does that seem like a good bet?

 

The measurements obsession, in my view, and the philosophy it begets, becomes a kind of fascism that grows in the mind. One ends up losing trust for one's sensory impressions, and dogmatizing the impressions of others. OBVIOUSLY blind tests are better. Obviously people's minds can trick them. Obviously measurements are useful. But the fact is, with self-awareness and curious self-skepticism, one can improve one's recognition of sound, in incredibly various ways. We aren't aware of the limits. There are hearing masters who slay blind tests. Charles Hansen posted about a man he knew who could reliably make insane calls blind, including about gear riser materials, etc.

 

In science, data has to be critically interpreted, and fit into hypotheses and theories. Data is also reinterpreted. Endlessly. It always should be. Hypotheses are recrafted and retested. Ultimately, the human is the master of science, not the tool. People seem to be forgetting this...and it honestly creeps me out.

 

One of the most magic parts of life is that you can actually improve ALL of your senses. And you can have a critical, evolving relationship with how you interpret them. It's amazing. You don't need to be a measurement machine's bitch, or a slave to whatever theories are in hegemony. You get to develop your own experience and your own ideas. You can actually plumb the depths of human sense down paths no one has gone before. And you can craft interpretations which are entirely new. Forever.

 

We ought to hammer this out more so we don't lose more folks to the personless, non-critical void.



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11 minutes ago, wgscott said:

... which is why we have the annoying refrain: "Did you do a blind test?"

 

 

 

1 hour ago, wgscott said:

 

I don't see where that contradicts anything I wrote or implied.

 

However, to make this go easier, I will suggest that such distinctly audible differences should be easily measurable with current technology and equipment.

 

Did I say distinct? I swear I said discern... I also was not trying to contradict, but make a note that many state that audio electronics are transparent to the point of being the same, but others seem to find difference in them. One can attempt to blame this all on bias and claim a need to ABX and such, but to my knowledge there has been no verifiable proof that it has been of value in this. Sure there are measurable differences, there has to be. What there does not seem to be is a proper testing protocol to equate what is heard to measurements.

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3 minutes ago, 4est said:

 What there does not seem to be is a proper testing protocol to equate what is heard to measurements.

 

That is an interesting point.  Do you really think lack of testing protocols is the biggest (or at least a large) limiter in making audiophile progress?  I'm not disputing the point, but I don't hear many efforts on these pages trying to suggest new or better protocols.  Perhaps there should be. 

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13 minutes ago, sdolezalek said:

 

That is an interesting point.  Do you really think lack of testing protocols is the biggest (or at least a large) limiter in making audiophile progress?  I'm not disputing the point, but I don't hear many efforts on these pages trying to suggest new or better protocols.  Perhaps there should be. 

Until someone can look at the measurements and tell me what it will sound like to me, then yes.

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20 hours ago, wgscott said:

 

The topic comes up as a new thread about once every couple of weeks.  It is almost always started by someone who labels themselves "subjectivist," and invariably they claim to have something new to say, and bash science and scientist with the zeal that one now associates with the White House spokespeople.

 

 

Strangely enough, it never seems to go anywhere.

 

Often started by someone "new" who is merely acting as a Troll.

 

 

We can already can look at the measurements and tell what it will sound like in many, many cases.

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14 hours ago, sdolezalek said:

For most objectivists the fear is that the laws, rules, principles they have learned may neither be sufficient nor even accurate in describing a state of affairs, but so much time and learning has been spent acquiring the knowledge and understanding of those principles, rules and laws of science and physics that again fear of having to abandon learning, or re-learn a difficult subject, or change the rules prevents the objectivist from being open to challenge.

 

Yes, this is a core reason for why the ongoing biffo takes place - a great pity, because it's holding back the advancement of audio possibilities.

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Regarding differences in how people hear, I have yet to find someone who doesn't react positively to the "illusions I conjure". Some may merely have no trouble talking to someone else while the volume is at maximum; women tend to be the ones who just "soak it up", they're comfortable with the listening, no matter what happens to be playing. And the latter are the ones who will lose interest and walk away "to do something useful" when their attention is not gripped by the music.

 

A good word is "comfort" - the music may completely fill the house, at thunderous levels - but it doesn't niggle, or draw a request to "turn it down!"

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4 hours ago, pkane2001 said:

 

Unfortunately, that's part of the standard "subjectivist" platform to accuse all objectivists of this straw man argument. While I consider myself an objectivist, I'm open to learn and to find things that don't fit into my world-view. I'm more than curious about these, I seek them out and try to prove or disprove them, try to analyze them, try to understand them. There are many others here that do the same.

 

Not that I'm a working scientist, but scientists live for an opportunity to find something yet unexplained by existing theories, something that can result in a new theory and maybe even help overturn an old one. That's what moves science forward. But there is no evidence in an uncontrolled audiophile test for a scientist to even become mildly interested in getting involved.

 

On the other hand, I'm all for it. I love audio, I love music, I've been an audiophile for most of my life. Prove it to me. Or give me enough reason to believe you. Or describe what you are doing in detail so I can repeat the experiment and prove it to myself. Or just state that this is your uncontrolled, subjective experience and has nothing to do with science and engineering. All of these are valid.

 

What's not valid is to insist that science is wrong or somehow deficient on the basis of sighted listening tests alone. This kind of evidence will not be accepted in any scientific community and for a good reason: there's already a good explanation for these differences. It's called human perception.

Did you mean to ignore the other half of my comment? The part that said: "The opposite, is equally true -- just because I think I hear a difference doesn't mean there actually is one -- again perhaps 99% of the time it is expectation bias, perception or simply differences between end users, but here too that last 1% is the interesting one because it opens the door to asking whether there is something there, that we may previously not have paid attention to, that might be both measurable and matter."

 

I completely agree with you that "scientists live for an opportunity to find something yet unexplained by existing theories, something that can result in a new theory and maybe even help overturn an old one."  I think the problem we face on "Audiophile Style" is that we have as many non-scientists representing or clinging to scientific theories they don't fully understand (but declaring themselves as objectivists) as we have subjectivists wanting to believe their imperfectly formed impressions.

 

The combination of noise on the right plus noise on the left has a tendency to drown the signal in the middle.  

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4 hours ago, Tatl said:

easy shot, proving my point

 

also appears you have a logic deficiency, not just science

 

are you here just to troll?

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2 hours ago, sdolezalek said:

The combination of noise on the right plus noise on the left has a tendency to drown the signal in the middle.  

 

I do agree with you on this. 

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whoever wrote that wiki must think that science means 'systematic study'

 

but history is a  'systematic study' 

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8 hours ago, Ralf11 said:

 

Often started by someone "new" who is merely acting as a Troll.

 

 

Yeah, "new" as in new username.

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1 hour ago, fas42 said:

 

Same old rundown...

 

I particularly love the sleight of hand by asserting that a single sinewave isn't 'steady state' by reference to 'an unending series of non-zero differentials'.

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1 hour ago, fas42 said:

 

Same old rundown... full of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McNamara_fallacy's - while people keep ignoring the "hard stuff'' we're not going to get anywhere ...

 

This is why I generally ignore you, Frank. If you ever start demonstrating a fraction of the understanding that Self does, I may change my mind. 

 

14 minutes ago, opus101 said:

 

I particularly love the sleight of hand by asserting that a single sinewave isn't 'steady state' by reference to 'an unending series of non-zero differentials'.

 

He's not wrong, though. As he said, an amplifier "lives in the moment." It has no concept of past or future.

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1 minute ago, Don Hills said:

As he said, an amplifier "lives in the moment." It has no concept of past or future.

 

This is correct however he's still using sleight of hand. Of course an amplifier isn't able to conceptualise (the anthropomorphism he decries in subjectivists) but it does have memory by means of energy storage.

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Their general claim is simply: we haven't learned to measure everything that's important, so one has to keep an open mind and seek undiscovered correlations.

 

Aren't they taking too long to discover the unknown? 

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1 hour ago, opus101 said:

 

This is correct however he's still using sleight of hand. Of course an amplifier isn't able to conceptualise (the anthropomorphism he decries in subjectivists) but it does have memory by means of energy storage.

 

He's still not wrong. With a single sine wave, the input (and thus any energy storage) is constantly changing. That's far from your 'steady state'.  I'm a little surprised by Frank's dismissal of the article's author, looking at things from an unconventional perspective is one of the things that Frank (and many "subjectivists") advocate for.

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10 minutes ago, Don Hills said:

 

He's still not wrong. With a single sine wave, the input (and thus any energy storage) is constantly changing. That's far from your 'steady state'. 

 

But its not my steady state. He's set that up as the straw man he's debunking. Hence the sleight of hand.

 

Note here the irony - its typical for 'objectivists' to dismiss arguments by dismissing those who posit them. You've done that with Frank - 'That's why I generally ignore you Frank' - a perfect example of ad hominem. OTOH you describe Frank's response as 'dismissing the article's author' when in fact he dismissed the arguments, through referring to the fallacy they embodied.

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1 hour ago, STC said:

 

Aren't they taking too long to discover the unknown? 

 

 

"In the twenty or so years that have elapsed since the emergence of the Subjectivist Tendency, no hitherto unsuspected parameters of audio quality have emerged." 

 

He said that 30 years ago...

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