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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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    4 hours ago, emcdade said:

    Measurements of speakers falls into the same camp for me of:  the measurements only correlate to part of the experience.

     

    A Martin Logan Electrostat may measure flat as can be across it's frequency response the same as a dynamic driver speaker could, identically even.  But the way ESL's present the music with their technology is so fundamentally different that it ends up being a completely different experience altogether, despite an identical tonal balance.

     

     

    Actually they don't measure close to the same at all.  In a myriad of ways.  So the measurements agree with the listening in this case.  I'm not claiming speaker measurements are a solved problem, but they'll detect an ESL from any box speaker. 

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    7 minutes ago, esldude said:

    Actually they don't measure close to the same at all.  In a myriad of ways.  So the measurements agree with the listening in this case.  I'm not claiming speaker measurements are a solved problem, but they'll detect an ESL from any box speaker. 


    That is getting harder to do. The Macintosh XRT line array:column speakers are hard to distinguish from the line array electrostatics. 

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    14 minutes ago, Ralf11 said:

    certain displayed behaviors might be consistent with how one would expect a narcissist to behave - such as denigration of other peoples hearing, their audio system?

     

    or believing that one's own hearing is so superior that it allows the slightest detail to emerge in a cloud of grandiosity?

     

    I don't think it's appropriate to denigrate a system or another's hearing -- but I don't see it as being totally out of bounds to suggest those as possible reasons why someone might not be hearing what others hear.  I've said before that until a few years my own system hadn't advanced far enough to allow me to hear what many others were reporting.  It still has a ways to go.  This was a fun way to gauge my progress:  https://www.audioaficionado.org/showthread.php?t=46837

     

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    29 minutes ago, Ralf11 said:

    it sounds like you don't like people to quote top notch engineers in the audio field

     

     

     

    If you don't have personal experience and knowledge, you are a poser.  It's what we call hearsay.  Posers (ooops quoters) call it something about a "higher authority".  Those guys who wrote the books actually had the experience.

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    18 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Let’s all try to be civilized human being talking about entertainment. 
     

     

     

    day-age works - i.e. it is outside the facts and so cannot be falsified (which is pretty much what faith is)

     

    a literal day is ... entertainment

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    2 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

     

    If that's what you believe then you're a larger problem than purely objectivists. For the most part they don't care about personal preference. You seem to have a problem with someone saying it "sounds good" when it measures bad. Who cares if something sounds good to someone. 

     

     

    Evidence please. Schedule please. Perhaps you can share it via Google docs. 

     

     

     

    Your work involves creating memes?

     

    I'm half measurement and half going through my reference albums and recordings. Show me something that measures bad on a Rohde & Schwarz or Audio Precision analyzer and sounds good. It may not sound great, but I've haven't  found  stuff that measures good actually sounds bad. 

     

    I've found over the years just my reference albums cause most high equipment fail and my reference recordings get almost everything else. "All the young dudes" is surprisingly hard on high end equipment. How often do you hear "Pet Sounds" at shows? There are reasons you don't.

     

    Pretty balanced I would say. 

     

    There is little reason to design poorly measuring equipment today. Funny that stuff that measures bad won't play my reference albums and hasn't since I created the list in the eighties.

     

    I sometimes introduce myself then ask which audio analyser they use.  I get some interesting answers but more folks this year give a model and we talk about results and issues like ESS "humps". 

     

    That the pendulum is swinging away from purely subjective reviews look at the traffic to Audio Science Review. 

     

    I spend some time on golf sites to keep things on track. It's why Andy Quint noted I have a lot of sheep pictures.  Golf has an easy authority hierarchy. What kind and how many tournaments have you won? Nine wins will generally put me at near the top of any gold discussion.

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    1 hour ago, esldude said:

    Actually they don't measure close to the same at all.  In a myriad of ways.  So the measurements agree with the listening in this case.  I'm not claiming speaker measurements are a solved problem, but they'll detect an ESL from any box speaker. 

    That’s an ad hominem.  The most frustrating of the replies.

     

    There isn’t a measurement I know of that gets to the mechanics of speaker design and whether you prefer the box less (and balls-less imo) sound of an ESL vs. a sometimes boxy but more dynamic sound of drivers moving air.  I’m not talking spinorama stuff or the poor off axis response ESL’s are known for.

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