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"It's the best" - Subjective or objective statement?


joelha

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When a reviewer or a poster says something is "the best" and doesn't also add "in my opinion", "in my system", or some other similar qualifier, invariably some people take exception and some even get upset.

 

I'd love to hear from others about this because frankly I don't get it.

 

It seems pretty clear that if an individual is saying something is the best and gives no evidence or credentials for the position he's taking then his statement is offered as an opinion, not as a fact.

 

Bob from Dubuque, Iowa thinks a certain USB cable is the best and now everyone believes that statement is factual?

 

Are those who take issue with these statements really fearful that hoards of audiophiles will storm some retailer or on-line site to buy every one of these "best" components available just because someone they barely know (or don't know at all) says it's the best?

 

The question to me isn't whether these "best" statements are objective or subjective. The real question is, why do some people get so bugged about the distinction?

 

Joel

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Personally I try to take the opinion that yes when someone says x is the best that is a completely subjective opinion. However many people in such statements go further and say x is the best because... at that point they are being subjective.

 

Its like (if I may direct the conversation so controversially) if someone asks "what is the best USB cable" it is as valid an opinion that all USB cables sound the same, as that a Nordost or Chord USB cable sounds best. What is not valid is someone coming in to such a thread and saying "all cables sound the same; science shows us there can't be a difference" or in reply to a statement that "all cables sound the same" saying "thats rubbish, lots of people hear differences" or "well you wouldn't hear any differences because your mind is made up" or "you can't hear differences because you system isn't good enough".

 

Eloise

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Joel,

 

This thread has been started obviously in response to my critique of Chris's review. From my perch, when someone makes an absolute statement like that, reviewer or otherwise, that person's opinion is suspect. What I find a little comical is how so many obsequious followers there are that it is considered sacrosanct to be critical of a reviewer, Chris in this case.

 

His words are not gospel. I criticized him when he claimed Magico were "great value".

 

Incidentally, this is not the first and surely won't be the last time a reviewer claims something is "the best".

 

This use of "best" was without any "relative context" and is what I find over the top. There are those who think reviewers (or certain ones) can do no wrong and there are those that think they can do no right. I am somewhere in between, read a review, using the context of the taste of the reviewer, seeing the equipment they own, music they listen to, etc. With so many variables in the equation, I just can't take a review seriously when the reviewer calls something "the best" without qualifying it as their opinion.

 

I will be the first to admit, I have used the term "the best" but always reflecting "the best" in my system producing "the best" synergy in my system which is as close to what Chris has in his listening environment as an apple is to orange. I don't have the hubris to make a blanket statement that my system or any component is "the best" without qualification.

 

Just my two cents and you guys can imply whatever you want when reading the review I am questioning, but there was no qualifications by the reviewer and in reading what he said I don't believe Chris meant there to be any qualifications so I think the OP is taking some liberties in an effort to defend something that doesn't need defending. I think Chris' comment is pretty clear and based on that comment I, personally, must question the veracity. No biggie. Not the first time and it surely won't be the last.

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Priaptor,

Thanks for your message.

This thread was inspired by the many people who have posted as you have. Yours was only the last post I read before thinking to start this thread. So please don't think I created it as some barely hidden attempt to come after you or your post. If you were the only one to express the opinion you did, then I wouldn't have cared so much.

And I think you're making an unfounded assumption when you say we're worshiping Chris or his reviews. I think that's a self-revealing comment.

You can't seem to imagine that people like myself could believe a product could actually be the best without having to worship the person offering the opinion.

I'll take it a step further. I'm guessing Chris will jump in at some point and validate what I've said in my first post . . . that he was making a subjective rather an objective statement. I think (and I suspect most readers understand) that's implied in his review.

Joel

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Most readers here are smart enough to realize that any review (especially one where money is involved) is just a data point to consider. No one has the time, money and desire to review and compare every bit of kit out there scientifically. A review is always subjective based on experience, personal preference, money, mood, etc.

 

Most still enjoy reading them without getting too fussy. :)

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Priaptor,

Thanks for your message.

This thread was inspired by the many people who have posted as you have. Yours was only the last post I read before thinking to start this thread. So please don't think I created it as some barely hidden attempt to come after you or your post. If you were the only one to express the opinion you did, then I wouldn't have cared so much.

And I think you're making an unfounded assumption when you say we're worshiping Chris or his reviews. I think that's a self-revealing comment.

You can't seem to imagine that people like myself could believe a product could actually be the best without having to worship the person offering the opinion.

I'll take it a step further. I'm guessing Chris will jump in at some point and validate what I've said in my first post . . . that he was making a subjective rather an objective statement. I think (and I suspect most readers understand) that's implied in his review.

Joel

 

Joel,

 

First of all, there are those who look for validation of their purchases through these reviews AND there are those who worship the words of reviewers as is obvious by the incredible defense should someone, like me for example, raise a contrarian point of view that doesn't even refute the reviewers subjective opinion. When someone makes a critique of the written word, why the hostility if it is done in a civil manner. More important, why try to reinterpret what the person said, when in fact it is in black and white what it is I am criticizing in the review.

 

You can choose to interpret his comment anyway you want but Chris' comment has NO subjectivity in it, but states an unequivocal "fact":

 

"Chalk this magic up to the Alpha DAC RS and its brilliant designer Michael "Pflash" Pflaumer and the rest of the 'Berkeley' team who took part in creating the best DAC on the market"

 

Pretty bold statement if you ask me.

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Joel, let me try ...

 

A Ferrari XYZ is the best.

-> Rubbish.

 

A Ferrari XYZ is the best because it can do 220 MPH.

-> Still rubbish.

 

A Ferrari XYZ is the best because it can do 220 MPH and has 8 gears.

-> Still rubbish.

 

A Ferrari XYZ is the best A Ferrari XYZ is the best because it can do 220 MPH and has 8 gears and it is orange.

-> Nothing changed; still rubbish.

 

A Ferrari XYZ is the best because it can do 220 MPH and has 8 gears and the roof can go off.

-> Still rubbish.

 

A Ferrari XYZ is the best because it can do 220 MPH and has 8 gears and the roof can go off and it comes with a digital radio.

-> Still rubbish and worse.

 

A Ferrari XYZ is the best because it can do 220 MPH and has 8 gears and the roof can go off and is has an airco.

-> Still rubbish, but starts to get better.

 

A Ferrari XYZ is the best because it can do 220 MPH and has 8 gears and the roof can go off and is has an airco and comes with 8 years of full warranty.

-> Still rubbish, but better again.

 

A Ferrari XYZ is the best because it can do 220 MPH and has 8 gears and the roof can go off and is has an airco and comes with 8 years of full warranty and drives on gasoline.

-> Baloney because I look for electrical cars.

 

Still my first expression above is the most baloney; No context always is.

 

Peter

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The question to me isn't whether these "best" statements are objective or subjective. The real question is, why do some people get so bugged about the distinction?

 

You can bet that the most who are bugged (the most) don't even respond. One of those is me for obvious reasons.

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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Priaptor,

Please put in quotes anything I said to indicate hostility.

Joel

 

Joel,

 

Well, when people get defensive, they do so when they feel they must defend, which rarely comes without some sort of hostility. As it pertains to you in particular, maybe the word to better describe it was defensive, rather than hostile, although when you state I am making "unfounded comments" implying that is "self-revealing" or that your sentence that follows about me "imagining", I would claim an element of hostility in your reply. Plus there are others on that thread that have been attacked for voicing contrary opinions.

 

If my perspective is wrong, why do you guys feel so compelled to defend and parse what seems to be an obvious comment by Chris to turn it into something he didn't say instead of just let his comment stand on it's own. Why do you guys have defend his written word? Again, he stated:

 

"Chalk this magic up to the Alpha DAC RS and its brilliant designer Michael "Pflash" Pflaumer and the rest of the 'Berkeley' team who took part in creating the best DAC on the market"

 

I am sure Chris knew what he was writing, believes what he wrote and my perogative to take issue with such a statement. No harm intended just my perspective that raises a red flag when I read a review or anyone's comment for that matter regarding a product, service, etc.

 

Howie

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A Ferrari XYZ is the best.

-> Rubbish.

Not rubbish - but an opinion.

 

A Ferrari XYZ is the best because it can do 220 MPH.

-> Still rubbish.

 

A Ferrari XYZ is the best because it can do 220 MPH and has 8 gears.

-> Still rubbish.

 

A Ferrari XYZ is the best A Ferrari XYZ is the best because it can do 220 MPH and has 8 gears and it is orange.

-> Nothing changed; still rubbish.

and the rest of your statements... are perhaps debatable, but they express subjective opinions (especially if stated "the best compared to") so are not rubbish.

 

Eloise

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Not rubbish - but an opinion.

 

 

and the rest of your statements... are perhaps debatable, but they express subjective opinions (especially if stated "the best compared to") so are not rubbish.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise,

 

I think we have to make a differentiation between "opinion" and a "statement of fact".

 

When someone says it is the best I have heard, or in my opinion, that is opinion. When someone says "it is the best on the market" they are rendering a statement of fact.

 

As it pertains to Chris' comment, which I will repeat:

 

"Chalk this magic up to the Alpha DAC RS and its brilliant designer Michael "Pflash" Pflaumer and the rest of the 'Berkeley' team who took part in creating the best DAC on the market"

 

he is making a statement of fact, not opinion.

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Eloise,

 

I think we have to make a differentiation between "opinion" and a "statement of fact".

The "facts" I was referring to was in reference only to Peter's "examples".

 

If you say "a Ferrari XYZ is the best because it does 220MPH" then this can be considered a statement of fact because you are making a qualified statement. If the Ferrari XYZ2 comes along that does 225MPH with everything else equal presumably that would become "the best".

 

If you just say something is "the best" (as Chris did on his report) then that can only ever be an opinion.

 

I suppose I always take any claim of absolutes with a pinch of salt and read it as "in their not so humble opinion".

 

Eloise

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Eloise,

 

I think we have to make a differentiation between "opinion" and a "statement of fact".

 

When someone says it is the best I have heard, or in my opinion, that is opinion. When someone says "it is the best on the market" they are rendering a statement of fact.

 

As it pertains to Chris' comment, which I will repeat:

 

"Chalk this magic up to the Alpha DAC RS and its brilliant designer Michael "Pflash" Pflaumer and the rest of the 'Berkeley' team who took part in creating the best DAC on the market"

 

he is making a statement of fact, not opinion.

 

 

No, he is stating his opinion. It can't be anything else, because "best" implies evaluation. He saying he thinks it's the best DAC on the market. Has he heard every DAC in existence? Obviously not. And he obviously also hasn't surveyed the entire world to get agreement. So clearly it's his opinion of DACs he knows about. To claim he is somehow stating otherwise is to be an extreme literalist and to take the phrase out of context.

 

The context is also that Chris has heard and reviewed several other DACs that many think are the best or one of the best available. So he is comparing these DACs that are considered "the best" by many.

 

Elsewhere in the review Chris also said it's the best DAC "he's heard". That's also part of the context that you haven't taken into account.

 

I understand that you object to the use of the phrase and the way Chris wrote the review. That's your opinion, and NOT a FACT about the review. I think you are overreacting and being a bit picky regarding that one sentence. A reviewer doesn't need to end every sentence with "in my opinion" or "in my experience". It's clear from the context.

 

I'm defending Chris not because I am a fanboy or because I worship him, but because I don't agree with your approach. I think I read his review with the immediate context of the review in mind and also in its larger context among audiophile reviews. I don't think you did the same.

 

But your opinion about his writing style is your opinion. It's a fact that not everyone sees it that way.

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All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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You can bet that the most who are bugged (the most) don't even respond. One of those is me for obvious reasons.

 

I am of two minds about this.

 

First, as Eloise says above, I always mentally add "in [whoever's] opinion" to such statements unless we are talking about science, and I am hard pressed to think of any example where a qualitative statement like "X is the best [whatever]" would be a statement of scientific fact. Thus the reaction I am tempted to give is that I don't know what all the fuss is about.

 

Yet I also understand that such statements, though they are in my view necessarily statements of opinion, have real world consequences for people like Peter.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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No, he is stating his opinion. It can't be anything else, because "best" implies evaluation. He saying he thinks it's the best DAC on the market. Has he heard every DAC in existence? Obviously not. And he obviously also hasn't surveyed the entire world to get agreement. So clearly it's his opinion of DACs he knows about. To claim he is somehow stating otherwise is to be an extreme literalist and to take the phrase out of context.

 

The context is also that Chris has heard and reviewed several other DACs that many think are the best or one of the best available. So he is comparing these DACs that are considered "the best" by many.

 

Elsewhere in the review Chris also said it's the best DAC "he's heard". That's also part of the context that you haven't taken into account.

 

I understand that you object to the use of the phrase and the way Chris wrote the review. That's your opinion, and NOT a FACT about the review. I think you are overreacting and being a bit picky regarding that one sentence. A reviewer doesn't need to end every sentence with "in my opinion" or "in my experience". It's clear from the context.

 

I'm defending Chris not because I am a fanboy or because I worship him, but because I don't agree with your approach. I think I read his review with the immediate context of the review in mind and also in its larger context among audiophile reviews. I don't think you did the same.

 

But your opinion about his writing style is your opinion. It's a fact that not everyone sees it that way.

 

Firedog,

 

You are clearly defending his comments; it was not an opinion it was a statement of fact which I guess I once again have to repeat:

 

"Chalk this magic up to the Alpha DAC RS and its brilliant designer Michael "Pflash" Pflaumer and the rest of the 'Berkeley' team who took part in creating the best DAC on the market"

 

There is NO qualifying comments to that comment, no mitigation, nothing. Chris is a smart guy, he knows what he writes. Yes he also said it was the best he ever heard and then goes on to say the best DAC on the market. The former comment, was an opinion and does not in any way imply that the latter was an "opinion". They are mutually exclusive comments to be taken in their own context.

 

Sorry, my assessment is not my opinion but a strict interpretation of what he wrote.

 

I do have to laugh at those of you rising up to reinterpret his comments. It reminds me of all the talking heads in DC going on TV to reinterpret what all their bosses really said. Sorry you don't agree with "my approach" at restating the exact words he wrote.

 

For a group of people who claim they aren't fanboys, etc, you people are coming out in droves defending him for something that doesn't require a defense.

 

Lastly, my criticism of his comments are indeed just "my opinion" and my opinion is I don't like reviews when these kinds of absolute comments are made as in my opinion these kinds of comments mitigate the thrust of the review. However, let us not confuse "my opinion" with what he actually wrote.

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If you take Chris's report as a scientific type report - yes "the best DAC on the market" is made as a statement of fact and you would be right to question his use of language.

 

However Chris is not writing a reasoned scientific paper. He is writing for enjoyment - his and ours - so while he is careful with what (and how) he writes there should be a large latitude given.

 

It's like, to use analogy, the difference between writing a history book; and a historical novel.

 

Eloise

 

PS I have in the past complained that Chris doesn't always differentiate clearly enough between facts; informed opinions and outright speculations so I hope you don't consider me one of Chris's "fan girls".

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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When a reviewer or a poster says something is "the best" and doesn't also add "in my opinion", "in my system", or some other similar qualifier, invariably some people take exception and some even get upset. I'd love to hear from others about this because frankly I don't get it.

Hi, Joel -

 

To me, there's no "best" anything - so the utterer's intention is a moot point. No matter what the genre, there are a few that clearly excel in one or more ways and there are some that clearly fall short of the mark. The rest are in the middle - pleasing to many, "great value", etc, but non-controversially both better than the bottom feeders and bettered in some way(s) by those in the top group. Beyond that, it's subjective and opinion-driven........and it doesn't matter to me. I like what I like, and I hope everyone else is equally satisfied with their choices.

 

Of course, my choices are the best (along with my regards to all of you).

 

David

 

smiley-laughing004.gif

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PPS. I generally hate un-quantified superlatives and anything claimed to be "the best"; "a game changer" or offer "night and day differences" starts to stink a little!

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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PPS. I generally hate un-quantified superlatives and anything claimed to be "the best"; "a game changer" or offer "night and day differences" starts to stink a little!

 

When night and day start to stink I would look into synesthesia, or perhaps a pig farm moving into the area, as potential explanations.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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PPS. I generally hate un-quantified superlatives and anything claimed to be "the best"; "a game changer" or offer "night and day differences" starts to stink a little!

Aren't we all getting a tad too grouchy about a simple review that was written with a honest and unbridled enthusiasm? The joy that Chris experienced listening to the Berkeley RS was tangible and I, for one, am glad such gear exists...doubt I will be buying one in the near future and it's very existence diminishes the resale on my series one BADA but I buy it in a heartbeat if I had the readies.

I believe his sentiment. Whether it is the best is just so much doodoo.

Warren

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We can some up damages or not as a consequence of reasonable intelligence. To purchase a product based solely on a subjectively positive review is unreasonable. Negative subjective reviews on the other hand are in fact quite damaging as marketing research has shown. That's why you see so few of them in audiophile circles but tons of gushing positive reviews instead.

 

So whether or not Chris endorses a product or not isn't the real issue, it's the validity or value of subjective reviews. Taking offense to Chris' claims is kind silly. Lending them an absolute value even sillier........if that's a word. lol

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Round and round and round she goes. Where she stops, nobody knows.

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We can some up damages or not as a consequence of reasonable intelligence. To purchase a product based solely on a subjectively positive review is unreasonable. Negative subjective reviews on the other hand are in fact quite damaging as marketing research has shown. That's why you see so few of them in audiophile circles but tons of gushing positive reviews instead.

 

So whether or not Chris endorses a product or not isn't the real issue, it's the validity or value of subjective reviews. Taking offense to Chris' claims is kind silly. Lending them an absolute value even sillier........if that's a word. lol

 

Your logic was spot until your last sentence. You state "it's the validity or value of subjective reviews" which you credit and then go on to criticize those of us who question the validity of a review by the way it is written using such terms as "the best on the market". By your own tortuous logic you are making my point. Lol

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