Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Warning Label

Warning!  This product makes explicit or implicit claims regarding auditory performance which have not been verified by published Double Blind Testing.

So we can just slap this label on high end gear, and the DBT evangelicals should shut up.

Just in case you haven't heard the argument.  There are 4 kinds of deficiencies in playback that we can hear: noise, distortion, changes in timing, and changes in frequency response.  Those are the only things that have been established to be audible, and only within certain measurable limits.

My version of the high end pursuit goes beyond the "established audible" and tries to make things as good as reasonably possible, combined with perhaps some additional parameters, my favorite being "information" given that we have lossy systems and systems like DSD and Delta Sigma Dacs that I believe are lossy.

I believe indeed many things have been overplayed, my key one is jitter, whose established audible limits are far beyond the level audiophiles obsess about.  Overobsession with jitter leads to paranoid avoidance of digital signal transmission via SPDIF which is what we have.  I do as much transmission and processing as I can in the digital domain, because it is measurably far superior, and sounds transparent to me.  At the end of the crossover lines, I (will) have nice DACs that drive amplifiers via decent cables and that is pretty much all (I like blue jeans BJC-1 design…it even satisfies my tweako itches with a solid core center conductor and polyethylene dielectric, not to mention the low capacitance and double shielding.)  So that gets to another thing for many audiophiles: cables, often at increasing stratospherically increasing multiples of the cost of a Blue Jeans Cable, and most often inferior in many ways, supposedly sold on "listening" but as much as anything it's all cultism, hero worship, tribal identification, and so on.

I am convinced that PCM is fine, and nothing wrong with high rez PCM.  I also believe that transistors are fine and tubes are most often used as a flavoring device--which may significantly reduce transparency.  I don't find the need for much flavoring, and transparency is the thing to me.

Digital is fine, but analog well done is also fine, and often seems more pleasurable.  I don't understand this though I theorize about it a lot.

Meanwhile, I do see much of the high end audio scene as a circus medicine show.  But I also think it should be patently obvious that it is so.  Need not argue with the clowns.  Pointless anyway and generates bad feelings.  Meanwhile, I follow my own magic practice to which the High End Warning nearly equally applies.

Sadly none of my audiophile friends wants to accept the key finding of DBT, that things are very hard to hear reliably.  Their magic practice depends on the belief that they have discovered many important things, important to them, by (non-DBT) listening tests.

I have rarely even attempted DBT, but I have the additional view that because sighted tests often lead to superstitions that don't hold up to DBT, listening tests beyond the basic may not be worth doing.  I haven't even much "tried to hear the difference between DAC's" except at clubs and friends houses.  I follow my casual listening result, just plugging new things in and assessing sighted difference over time, knowing that it too may be wrong, but not much different than "careful" sighted A/B testing.  But measurements of certain kinds are, in my belief, still useful, so I have them too, and thinking about how things work.

Here's one of the more amusing (and less bitter) confrontations between audio objectivists and subjectivists.

I've been discussing ABX hardware (not so much the Big Debate) just a bit on my computer club blog (which I am nominally "President" of).  I've been taking apart a QSC ABX box.  The account was not renewed by the actual owner and the email list turned defunct.  Conicidence?

I wouldn't think of mentioning anything about the ABX comparator or DBT at the Audiophile club I am a member of.  If it comes up I try not to say much or anything.

It is an in-your-face thing.  To suggest that people are all wrong.  But the sad thing is, most audiophiles are wrong, almost all in fact.  Even very smart people, Especially perhaps very smart people.  But best not to make a big deal about this.  The minimum one's conscience will let one get away with will do.  Let the rich sheep get slaughtered by the fraud.

I'm only "right" because I have a very nuanced leopard spotted view.  (I like leopard spotted better than grey hat, what John Atkinson claimed to be when confronted with Peter Aczel's White Hat (Objectivist) vs Black Hat (Subjectivist) dichotomy.

No actually I don't claim to be uniquely right, but I think overall I'm on a better track, and I do work constantly on improving mistakes, updating my views.

Having one's own ABX facilities is a bit like having one's own casino.  Want to try your luck?  I think it's a very cool feature for an audio system to have.  And it does actually require greater precision in fine level adjustment than most people are used to.

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