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semente posted a topic in General ForumI've found this interesting opinion piece on the question of Live vs. Reproduced and one's ability to assess accuracy through listening. In Search Of Accurate Sound Reproduction: The Final Word! Do all audio enthusiasts have the same ability to judge high quality sound reproduction equally? An even better question might be: “how important is the term “accurate” when describing and evaluating audio components today? What, if anything, does accurate sound reproduction mean for the average audio enthusiast, or better yet, should it? The enjoyment and goal of accurate music reproduction is inextricably linked with the audiophile components that we use and evaluate to achieve great sound in our homes. Of course, each individual has or acquires different needs and subjective abilities while trying to achieve this ultimate sound quality. In the case of high definition audio reproduction, we should remember that the strive for “neutrality” in high end audio has a chain of command that THEORETICALLY ends with the individual listener; assuming of course that this is his ultimate target! Without getting to deeply philosophical, one could argue that judging high definition sound reproduction is quite subjective in theory; while on the other hand, true “accuracy”could well be a different story altogether! Looking back to the advent of high definition sound reproduction which had a huge surge in popularity in the late 1960’s, it really came to fruition in the 70’s with the help of a few particular audiophile magazines; namely Harry Pearson’s “The Absolute Sound” and particularly, J. Gordon Holt’s “Stereophile”. These journals were revelatory in the fact that its founders, were music lovers who were trying to describe the sound of hi-fi components as closely relevant to what they perceived and heard in many live musical events both had attended throughout their lives. While I personally did not agree with all of these authors opinions, they both had the intuitiveness of realizing that the “proclaimed” accuracy or neutrality of audio components and high quality sound reproduction should be recognized more for their intrinsic and individual tonal qualities as compared to live, unamplified sound per say, versus how the components measure up in a laboratory. This, we all know by now is a far cry from throwing out all objective technical measurements by any means! Technical measurements are quite useful in what they fundamentally tell us about the basic design principles of a component and the probability of them reproducing audio in a faithful and hopefully, accurate way in our home environment. The best designers will let their ears be that final judge. More importantly, both of these individuals were firm believers that high quality audio components, particularly loudspeakers, should try to bring us (if the source material permits) as close to what we remember hearing (live instruments) in a particular venue in a natural acoustic where the performance may have originated as well as trying and keep the loudspeaker neutral so it is agnostic to the type of music being reproduced. Some reviewers today still understand this whereas others seem to have pushed it under the bus. Still others are not even sure if it means anything to them personally at all. However, a truthful soul will readily admit that much pop, rock and electronically manipulated program material has no relevance to live instruments in a real space and venue. A good recording of live, acoustical instruments and voice made in a studio or setting with relatively few microphones (preferably a cross paired figure eight; (see Blumlein https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blumlein_Pair ) and high quality recording equipment will reveal more about a components sound stage, stereo imaging and indeed, its sound quality than music that is intentionally and commercially manipulated for a specific effect. The sound of the “real thing” means different things to different people but is not the aforementioned music the only true standard for judging the ultimate performance of an audio syst are quite eager to proclaim which reviewer or journals opinions he or she considers the “gospel”. However, generally speaking, a high definition audio system that can convey this type of source material convincingly will never fail to please the prospective listener. http://www.stereophile.com/content/acoustical-standard-follow-letters I will be the first one to admit that all of us high-fi enthusiasts and music lovers, rightfully, have priorities and “tastes” in music which are critical when choosing hi-fi components. Having said that, this is quite different than proclaiming that an individual’s “tastes” in recorded music reproduction are all that really matter when auditioning the sound quality of high end audio equipment. Quite the contrary. While engineers, some of whom may be musicians, try to perfectly recreate a particular musical event, in fact, an individual’s ideas as to how a recording may ultimately have been fabricated in a studio may well be far removed from what he actually heard at a particular “live” event. Let’s be blunt: an electronically manipulated and amplified source is NOT RECREATING A REPLICA OF LIVE SOUND REPRODUCTION! (Hate to say that folks…) Our hearing is interpreted by our brain. If you’re a musician, your brain rewires itself differently. I think that has quite a bit to do with how we perceive and process sound, independent of the audio components used to evaluate the finished product. So then, if your tastes run awry from acoustical instruments, recordings and recording venues, it may certainly be even more challenging for you, the music lover, to evaluate a particular components true qualities and/or faults that you may come to acknowledge in your home listening environment; no? (...) read more at http://www.vintageandsound.com/in-search-of-sound-accuracy/
It would appear there are many threads on many forums debating computer audio evidence vs hearing differences when listening. People have dug trenches, grenades have been lobbed, feelings (and maybe some egos) bruised, threats made or implied, ridicule slung,….and this has been interspersed with respectful discussion over differing viewpoints. So all in all its like most other so-called subjectivist vs objectivist debates I have stumbled upon, ending with people picking up their marbles and retiring to their corners. I say "so-called" subjective vs objectivist as, ironically, I see both sides of the debate as necessarily subjective. As some may already know I am sceptical about "data" and "measurements" presented as evidence. As a scientist in my own field I have seen how they can mislead or be misinterpreted or just be plain wrong. They become subjective in their interpretation as to what they mean. They become potentially dangerous in that they start to dictate behaviour, based on assumptions/conclusions on the available evidence of what we know about things here and now. We still of course need measurements and still need to strive to improve both their accuracy as well as their relevance to the outcomes we are studying. I believe evidence should guide our opinions and behaviour, just not dictate it rigidly or have the need to slavishly stick to it. Evidence is only as good as the next batch of evidence, the new tool to measure it, or the new revelation we are not measuring what we thought we were. Evidence changes, and as such is a somewhat capricious commodity. What is more disturbing, for some, than the 'attack' on physical evidence being relatively unreliable is the whole unsavoury notion of psychological influences. A rejection that they have any valid role to play in interpreting or changing the 'real' world. Surely things psychological are an affront to the physical evidence, 'not real', 'imaginary' and even pejorative ? If physical evidence can't explain something the assertion is that you are nuts, unworthy, stupid in believing otherwise. I think most of us are aware that psychological things can alter the way we perceive things and seemingly at times with out any accompanying change in the real world or sensory processing apparatus. The question is does it matter? If it comes down to enhancing the enjoyment of an entirely subjective experience like music on our HiFi, itself a basically 'illusory phenomenon', then I would say no. I say illusory because we are relying on known pycho-acoustical neurological processing to recreate something that isn't there, not just a recreation of a past event, but an actual acoustic image of instruments and people an a soundstage. I think there is a deeper concern however that the 'truth' is not being served, that advancements in audio will only come with 'real changes' in the research and development of technologies and equipment. Things that can be verified. There are parallels in medical research where people go to great pains to eliminate the effect of placebo influencing outcomes. On the other side of the equation the placebo effect, likely to apply to each and every one of us, is harnessed for its therapeutic power. A boost of around 30% efficacy is not to be sneezed at... and that goes double when treating hay fever ! It can however be potentially dangerous when it is the sole foundation for results if it distracts or diverts from other treatments that may be needed to address serious illness. Is Audio truth, then, a matter of greater 'accuracy'. If we get more clever in our measurements and our gear improves to faithfully reproduce what we measure then it stands to reason that more accurate sounds better ? Does the more accurate CD sound better than Vinyl ? Does halving Total Harmonic Distortion have the inverse affect on sound quality ? Does eliminating all jitter sound better ? Is there a 'sweet spot' in increasing digital resolutions ? Or is there something in the flawed nature of analogue sound that appeals to us ? Stay tuned for the answers…..but not from me. Is audio truth, then, a function of double blind listening tests ? Well as scientific testing goes I would suggest it is not exactly a model of the ideal test rig but it seems it is entrenched in our thinking. It certainly has face validity. It may be of genuine value depending on the methodology and limitations of the interpretations and conclusions. When examining the place of testing methods is it that truth comes in the form of pitting reliability, specificity, and prevalence together in a 2 x 2 table of false positives/negatives and true positives/negatives to determine Positive and Negative Predictive Values ? The whole DBT debate is a topic all on its own, just mentioning here with a view to deferring to another time. Whether in medicine or music my view is that sometimes the evidence is right and sometimes it is wrong. Sometimes the effect is largely psychological, sometimes it isn't. Sometimes you’re the bug and sometimes you’re the windshield..er, got carried away. It does however trouble me when people start talking in absolutes on either side of the fence. A little red flag goes up in my brain saying, they don’t know what they're talking about. Then again , I could be wrong ! ;-) The neurobiology is interesting on this subject. Psychological influences can not only 'colour' the way we see things but it seems also to be able to change the very hard-wiring in the central nervous system that processes sensory information. A kind of self reinforcing and self propagating loop that physically changes our perception of the world. At the centre of this is the neuroplasticity of the nervous system that adapts to changes not just in relational to the physical milieu but also to our psychological state, or if you like, our reaction to the world. This can have positive benefits in many domains including shaping our abilities to learn new things, discern or refine our perceptual skills. It can also be destructive, sensitising our responses to pain in a negative way. It is a very powerful construct, analogous to fire, it can warm you when your cold of burn you if applied incorrectly. So just perhaps, when it comes to listening to music, it appears there is something more to "trust your ears" than 'meets the eye'. Enjoy the music.