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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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    1 hour ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Sometimes I wish everyone would get a thicker skin and not be outraged so easily. We have a global community with countless different native languages and personal backgrounds from tons of cultures. Perhaps we should also give people a break and the benefit of the doubt. 
     

     

     

    Well, at least we can console ourselves in the knowledge that much of that outrage is of the faux variety.

     

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    9 minutes ago, pkane2001 said:

     

    I don't like pointing fingers, but there's this recent thread about a new ethernet switch that a gentleman involved in this very thread decided to join to try to push a subjectivist point of view ...on a decidedly objectivist-minded forum. It wasn't a good showing for him. The whole thing got very nasty.

     

     

    So all objectivists are angry, bitter, evil people because one of them put something you don't like in his signature?

     


    Hmmmm.... can you post screenshots of what I exactly posted there, and how? 

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    1 hour ago, firedog said:

    And what you think is conclusive, a "massive amount of anectdotal evidence" is something they understand to not really be evidence at all. And why would they have confidence that their truth will come out? Based on what? The massive amounts of people who won't even consider the idea that their perceptions are clouded by expectation bias? The same way the climate change deniers, Kennedy assassination conspiracy buffs, Holocaust deniers, flat earthers, and anti-vaxxers have all come to their senses when confronted by facts? But according to your approach, we should all just accept all those ideas because then we will accept the  "reality" that doesn't conform to "our" truth.


    All that I was saying is that people with the truth on their side behave in way that demonstrates confidence that they’re on the right side of things.  
     

    Not everyone is going to come to their senses but no one put me in charge of making sure that they do.  And likewise no on on this forum was put in charge of making sure others come to their senses.

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    13 minutes ago, pkane2001 said:

     

    Are you serious? A statement about speakers measuring differently is an ad hominem? I must be in an alternate universe, there's no other explanation :(

     

     

    Yes, I never argued that ESL and dynamic driver speakers measure the same.  That is the literal definition of an ad hominem.

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    9 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    If people believe this is fidelity, I don’t think you or anyone should care

     

    I don't personally care what type kool aid people drink. I'll tend to push back when I know when other people are pushing one type when it's certainly anotherkool aid in certain aspects of this hobby. 

     

    Fidelity has a dictionary definition. It means something very specific and narrowly defined. 

     

     

     

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    20 minutes ago, pkane2001 said:

     

    So all objectivists are angry, bitter, evil people because one of them put something you don't like in his signature?

     


    Thanks for providing evidence that supports my civility gap assertion.  Putting words in someone else’s mouth is usually done in an attempt to turn things in an uncivil direction - particularly when someone can’t come up with a civil and substantive response.  I won’t take the bait.  But thanks for helping to prove my point.

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    8 minutes ago, pkane2001 said:

     

    No. A literal definition of ad hominem is a personal attack in place of an argument about the subject. You were not attacked in any way that I can see by Dennis' statement.

     

    image.png.d50a901da3411ff41594292c8f67709c.png

    You are absolutely right, lol.  What in the hell was I trying to come up with, straw manning perhaps?  I don’t even know anymore!  Who gives a shit.

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    30 minutes ago, emcdade said:

    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.

     

    The mechanics of a speaker dictate the weaknesses - the suspension system of dynamic drivers is an extremely crude arrangement, irrespective of the cost of the unit - and stiction kills the quality of the sound when cold. ESLs don't have this, and can fly from turn-on ...QED

     

    ESLs have that huge blast of treble in the centre, which disappears when you move sideways - a peculiar characteristic which has had various arrangements to compensate to some degree - but I have never been convinced of their virtues.

     

    The boxiness of dynamic drivers can be eliminated by driving them hard, from cold - a workaround that I have used for decades, this conditions the suspensions, a necessary 'evil' each time - you know when you have done enough, because a satisfying 'bloom' emerges in the SQ.

     

    But who measures this? The process of extracting best sound is complex, so many variables in play - fighting about what matters is downright silliness ... will "audio rage" be the next biggy, after, "road rage" ... 😲

     

     

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    18 minutes ago, pkane2001 said:

     

    Ah, right. It wasn't you who said this just a few hours ago. I imagined the whole thing, and the civility gap that this represents:

     

     


    You are arguing in bad faith and the only reason I’m playing along is because of how closely your behavior aligns to a link I posted last night.  Wild.

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    Just now, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Why do you push back? Seriously. 

     

    Because the class of product I push back on can't provide more 'slam', 'wider sound stage', 'airier highs'. 

     

    I even shot a video and posted it at AS where I start playback of a 24/192 and you can see the network connection literally go to 0Kbps but the music is still playing. 

     

    You are being LIED to by manufacturers. 

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    Just now, kennyb123 said:

    You are arguing in bad faith and the only reason I’m playing along is because of how closely your behavior aligns a link I posted last night.  Wild.

     

    Whatever you say, buddy. Have a good day, I'm out.

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    1 minute ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Because people are literally dying. 


    Taking into consideration of the age of most audiophiles, that is not entirely wrong. ;) 

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    1 hour ago, plissken said:

     

    I don't personally care what type kool aid people drink. I'll tend to push back when I know when other people are pushing one type when it's certainly anotherkool aid in certain aspects of this hobby. 

     

    Quote

     

    The point to my article wasn't to address pushing back but rather how the pushing back takes place.

    Joel

     

    Quote

     

     

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