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  • joelha
    joelha

    Guest Editorial: Why did audio stop being about audio?

    How many forum threads on this site (and others) devolve into heated exchanges about whether people actually hear what they say they hear? Without “proof”, listeners are often mocked, insulted and their experiences discredited.


    Challenges range from assuming the listener has been influenced by expectation bias (I believe it will sound good, so it does sound good) to faulting his unwillingness to rely on measurements or blind testing.


    What bothers me most is reputations are attacked so casually. Everyone from Chris Connaker (one of the most decent people I’ve known in the industry) to reviewers and manufacturers are accused of lying, cheating and taking bribes. People, whom I suspect in most cases haven’t even heard the product they’re attacking, will smear the reputations of others they probably don’t know. Those who are attacked rely on their reputations to earn a living. That’s to say nothing of the personal attacks on the listeners themselves. And the attackers attack anonymously. Unless the case is black and white i.e. I sent you money and you never shipped my product or there are repeated, unresolved product defects, trying to ruin a person’s name is evil. Nothing will undo a person’s life faster and more effectively than giving him a bad reputation. And doing it anonymously and without hard evidence is cowardly and arrogant. In such cases, it’s highly likely the charge is far more unethical than the action being charged.


    Some will say measurements make their case open and shut. But there are too many examples of how measurements fall well short of telling the whole story. There are tube amps with 3% - 5% distortion that sound better to many than amps with far better measurements. Are those products a scam? Vinyl doesn’t measure nearly as well as digital and yet many strongly prefer its sound. Should fans of vinyl be told that turntable, tonearm and cartridge makers are scamming them as well?


    For some of my audio choices, some would say I’m deluding myself. Let’s say I am. If I’m happy with my delusion, why should the nay-sayers care? It’s an audio hobby. Why can’t I enjoy my system and post about my experiences, allowing others to judge? The nay-sayers might say “That’s fine, we’re just posting to protect others from being taken in.”


    Fair enough. But these are not always cases of “I have one opinion and you have another”. Many of the arguments are too heated, personal and frequently repeated to only be about audio.


    I believe these debates are about religion and before you conclude that I’ve lost my mind, consider the following:


    Many claim they have experienced God or have witnessed miracles with little or no evidence. The debates concerning those claims are often very intense and personal. Challenges commonly include: Where’s your evidence? Where’s your data? Only because you want to believe do you believe.

     

    Sound familiar?


    This is why I believe the challengers care so much. Allowing audiophiles to post their subjective conclusions without proof brings them one step closer to accepting those who relate their religious experiences without proof. For them, science is god and a subjective conclusion upends their god and belief system. They fight hard so that doesn’t happen.


    This is audio folks. Whether I think I hear something or not isn’t that important. If my audio assessment matters that much to you, I’m guessing you’re anti-religion and/or anti-God. That’s fine. But that explains why something as innocuous as describing the sound of someone’s ethernet cable could elicit such strong and often highly inappropriate comments.


    I’m old enough to remember this hobby when people would meet at audio stores to just listen and schmooze. We’ve lost too much of that sense of camaraderie. We may differ on what we like, but we all care about how we experience music.


    Whether I’m right or wrong about any of the above, would it hurt to return to the times when people’s disagreements about audio were friendly? Can we stop assailing the reputations of the people who rely on this industry to care for their families and employees? Can we respect the opinions of those who differ with us by not trying to shut them down with ridicule?


    It’s not about “religion”. It’s just about audio.

     

    - Joel Alperson



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    With religion or politics, my life may be affected by those whose values or policy decisions I disagree with.  That's not true with audio.  Science isn't going to go away if I don't think measurements align with my listening experience.

     

    I still respect people whose beliefs seem like a fairy tale to me as long as they aren't trying to force me to adopt their values.  

     

    It kind of reminds me of a Fox guy who puts a bullet in his TV set while watching MSN.  

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    Thanks for your post, Rick.

     

    If you respect the people whose views you disagree with, then I think that's great.

     

    Joel

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    1 hour ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Thanks again Joel for putting yourself out here with an honest editorial.  I hope the adults here can remain adults and keep the discussion civil. If this happens, an interesting conversation will no doubt ensue. 

    Thanks a lot for your support, Chris.

     

    I couldn't have gotten my views out there in quite the same way without your help.

     

    Joel

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    Just now, rickca said:

    The world's greatest cultural achievements in music, art and architecture were inspired by beliefs I find odd.  Some of those same people contributed incredible scientific insights.  It isn't either/or.  

    Agree 100%

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    One of the problems with running a forum is that it is no longer just like minded individuals trading information. There are people and machines whose job it is to influence internet users.  They are paid, or are programmed, to promote products or ideas that they have no real belief in.  They are simply following a script.  There are giant corporations now that are paid huge amounts to influence people.  These are who you may be arguing with.  It is no longer a matter of having a difference of opinion with someone.  It is a matter of someone wanting to sell you a product or an idea. It is no longer friendly conversation, it is business,  and the direction can get heated.

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    1 minute ago, Ralf11 said:

    For speakers, yes.

     

    A speaker with a linear phase crossover will have a natural frequency response peak that can be ameliorated but not altogether avoided. Which measurement is better sounding, linear phase or flatter frequency response?

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    3 minutes ago, firedog said:

    But do you thing that's what's going on here? It doesn't appear to me that the arguments here have much to do with the commercial interests of the posters. Most are just hobbyists having a discussion. 

     

    How many times did the MQA shills post the same inane and untrue bs talking points over and over?

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    Measurements are critical,  but in the end. we listen to music.

     

    The problem is that a computer can post a million posts that say: "The dogshit speakers are the best speakers I have ever heard".

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