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Subjective vs Objective opinions, post your favourite links / experiences
2Bdecided
post Jul 18 2003, 11:13
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We're an objectivist audio community here. We don't necesarily believe that everything can be measured (psychoacoustic codecs prevent that anyway), but we do believe that subective opinions should be backed up by rigorous tests, intended to remove all possible bias from human subjective judgements and opinions.

I think this is a good thing. I read the following from Dibrom in a recently locked thread:

QUOTE
If we simply let people go around making claims without challenging them, we would be no further than the --r3mix days, and likely much worse even given the larger number of people that participate in these forums.

You seem to focus only on the negative aspect here (I think I know why....) and completely disregard the benefit that has been wrought by this attitude. Yes, some people might get scared off in the process, but overall, this attitude is more helpful than harmful -- much more so in fact. There have been numerous cases were real problems have been even more emphasized and brought to bear through the increased scrutiny these types of situations bring about.


I very much agree with this.

Look at the opposite case: look at most Hi-Fi magazines. They advice people on buying $1000s of equipment (not just choosing between free audio codecs!), yet their advice is usually unscientific. The listening is done sighted, and without any control conditions. Objective measurements are presented as being inferior and/or removed from what people actually hear. Manufactuers claims are repeated verbatim. Opinions are stated as fact, and little is ever questioned.

Most significantly, there is no sense in which the influence of the magazine is used to improve the state of the art. They simply comment, often in a virtually meaningless, marketing driven manner, on products which they decide to review. Rather than helping people to buy better Hi-Fi, and leading the manufactuers to build better Hi-Fi, they do the opposite: People are confused as to what really does sound better, and often buy overpriced junk; while manufactuers spend less time (and money) improving the sound of their equipment, and more time following the latest trend or marketing gimmic. The result is that it's all too easy to spend $20,000 on a Hi-Fi which sounds absolutely bloody awful!

The equivalent here would be to spend weeks encoding your CD collection using a command line and/or encoder that was pretty poor compared to the best that's been acheived, and is available for free. But we don't allow that. We don't let people claim that X is better than Y, when it isn't. We don't let people claim that Z has magical properties. We do testing, and we try to move forward. And that is a good thing.

The latest thread with Xerophase was a good thread IMO. Maybe it took two pages to express something that we should have said to him in one posting - but we were interested, he was interested, and we've got a useful result. We've learned something. By following the rulse of the forum. And by being polite and encouraging him to join in with how we do things here.

There's a lot in the "tone" of how you do something. Whether we accept unsubstantiated claims is not up for debate - we do not. But the manner in which you coax these people into doing things the right way is very important.

We've got to allow people who don't know any better (and sometimes even those of us who do!) to make unsubstantiated claims at first, so that other members can point out that they're unsubstantiated, and suggest a fair way of testing them. This doesn't mean we accept unsubstantiated claims as truth, but it does mean that people sometimes need to be allowed to post them as a starting point for discussion and investigation. "I think X" is an unsubstantiated claim, but it's OK if it leads on to "How can I test if it's true?"

We are an objectivist audio community.

If you have any good objectivist/subjectivist links, links showing the importance of evidence, proof, and blind testing against feelings and opinions, or the opposite side of the argument, feel free to post them.

Cheers,
David.

http://sound.westhost.com/cables-p2.htm

http://skepdic.com/blondlot.html

http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/
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fewtch
post Jul 18 2003, 11:45
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Jul 18 2003, 03:13 AM)
We are an objectivist audio community.

If you have any good objectivist/subjectivist links, links showing the importance of evidence, proof, and blind testing against feelings and opinions, or the opposite side of the argument, feel free to post them.

You posted "we are an objectivist audio community" at least twice, maybe three times, as if to confirm it in your own mind.

You noted that the subjectivist approach can be very problematic. Yet, we've seen that a "pure" objectivist approach can also be problematic -- especially when that involves choosing charts and graphs over ears. Double-blind testing is important, of course -- but it doesn't mean that we can't entertain claims if they sound valid to us (of course, we want some common basis for agreement, and so far nothing has beat double-blind testing for this).

I have only one suggestion -- that we be an open minded, but non-gullible audio community, and not label ourselves strictly in some way or feel we have to adhere to some black-and-white objectivist standard because we fear subjectivism. Any such approach, made out of fear of the opposite approach, will destroy us as surely as any rigid, closed minded approach will -- because ultimately, ridigity is unscientific and closed off from the real world -- which consists of real people listening to music for purposes of pleasure and enjoyment, and not computers analyzing music in order to produce graphs. We need to avoid both superstition and scientism by carefully following the narrow path between the two. To do anything less is to follow the same path of laziness that the hi-fi magazine reviewers do. The middle way may be the most difficult and challenging, but it is the only way.

That's it... my 2 cents.

This post has been edited by fewtch: Jul 18 2003, 12:11


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KikeG
post Jul 18 2003, 11:51
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Description and discussion at rec.audio.high-end over a funny and enlightling tap water sighted tasting "experiment":

http://groups.google.com/groups?dq=&hl=es&...ws1.newsguy.com

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KikeG
post Jul 18 2003, 12:00
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About the objective vs. subjective issue... ABX tests are subjective tests, so I think the objective vs. subjective discussion is not like black vs. white.

I think that whe goal is to use as rigorous as possible methods, but without being mind-closed. I think that ABX or at least some kind of controlled DBT tests are an essential part of that rigorous approach, and that is not being mind-closed.

This post has been edited by KikeG: Jul 18 2003, 12:03
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2Bdecided
post Jul 18 2003, 12:05
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QUOTE (fewtch @ Jul 18 2003, 10:45 AM)
QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Jul 18 2003, 03:13 AM)
We are an objectivist audio community.

If you have any good objectivist/subjectivist links, links showing the importance of evidence, proof, and blind testing against feelings and opinions, or the opposite side of the argument, feel free to post them.

You posted "we are an objectivist audio community" at least twice, maybe three times, as if to confirm it in your own mind.

I wasn't confirming it in my mind.

I was stating it for the benefit of others, because some recent posts seem to suggest that people have missed this point.

If you want to tell everyone how something sounds, but have no interest in even checking to see if the effect is real or imagined, then you're in the wrong forum!
Post to rec.audio.opinion or Audio Asylum.


And fewtch, we've both been here long enough to know that the HA approach to psychoacoustic codec assessment falls into neither traditional objectivist or subjectivist thinking. We're subjective from the point of view of using our ears for quality assessment (with audio codecs, you have to, and with other things it's not a bad idea, though measurements are also useful there), but we're objective from the point of view of requiring the listening to be carried out with some controls to remove bias. We're also objective (I think) by believing that all the audible phenomena that we're discussing are real and explainable. There's no magic or effects "beyond science" at work.


Cheers,
David.
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fewtch
post Jul 18 2003, 12:16
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Jul 18 2003, 04:05 AM)
QUOTE (fewtch @ Jul 18 2003, 10:45 AM)
QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Jul 18 2003, 03:13 AM)
We are an objectivist audio community.

If you have any good objectivist/subjectivist links, links showing the importance of evidence, proof, and blind testing against feelings and opinions, or the opposite side of the argument, feel free to post them.

You posted "we are an objectivist audio community" at least twice, maybe three times, as if to confirm it in your own mind.

I wasn't confirming it in my mind.

I was stating it for the benefit of others, because some recent posts seem to suggest that people have missed this point.

If you want to tell everyone how something sounds, but have no interest in even checking to see if the effect is real or imagined, then you're in the wrong forum!
Post to rec.audio.opinion or Audio Asylum.


And fewtch, we've both been here long enough to know that the HA approach to psychoacoustic codec assessment falls into neither traditional objectivist or subjectivist thinking. We're subjective from the point of view of using our ears for quality assessment (with audio codecs, you have to, and with other things it's not a bad idea, though measurements are also useful there), but we're objective from the point of view of requiring the listening to be carried out with some controls to remove bias. We're also objective (I think) by believing that all the audible phenomena that we're discussing are real and explainable. There's no magic or effects "beyond science" at work.


Cheers,
David.

I'd like to respond to this line by line, but it's too much of a pain to fix up the quotes.

I agree with what you say, and was just making a similar statement/comment of my own (from my point of view) rather than disagreeing with yours -- and I wasn't intending to nit-pick on any particular points you made. I never stated there was any magic "beyond science" at work -- perhaps you derived that from what I said, but I didn't mean to suggest it.

This post has been edited by fewtch: Jul 18 2003, 12:23


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2Bdecided
post Jul 18 2003, 12:23
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KikeG beat me to it.


Every time I think about this discussion, I have a terrible idea: "instead of thinking of all these people who rely on subjective evidence and placeabo and expectation as poor deluded souls who need educating, why don't I just make some audio equipment myself and make some money out of them?" ;-)

The problem is, I'd be too honest. I'd make it as good as possible, ignore all the fashionable ideas which I knew were nonesense, and sell it at a fair price. This would make all the Hi-end fans think it was poor sounding cheap junk and I'd sell nothing! Whereas, if I put in lots of trendy design ideas which I knew would make it sound worse or simply sound identical but cost more, and charged, oh, 20x what it cost to design and manufacture, then I could, well, I could be a part of the audiophile industry ;-)

Cheers,
David
P.S. Not all expensive Hi-Fi is bad - some is wonderful. But finding out which - there's a challenge!
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fewtch
post Jul 18 2003, 12:35
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Jul 18 2003, 04:23 AM)
KikeG beat me to it.


Every time I think about this discussion, I have a terrible idea: "instead of thinking of all these people who rely on subjective evidence and placeabo and expectation as poor deluded souls who need educating, why don't I just make some audio equipment myself and make some money out of them?" ;-)

Yep, I've thought of that myself. It would be fairly easy (just get in 'good graces' with some high-end audio dealer, or learn the terminology well enough to sound like a Stereophile editor, and learn what sells -- maybe start an Ebay business selling "CD juice" or something).

Yep, I'm too honest too -- I'd rather educate those people (gently, not with a hammer over the head) than encourage even more of the same.

I've mingled with a lot of these people (Audio Asylum) -- I've been surprised that there are some things to "learn" from them too. The brain has two sides, intuitive/emotional (right brain) and logical/rational (left brain) and I found that I was paying far too much emphasis to the "left brain" tendency. I also found that balancing things out a little didn't cause an instant, irrevocable descent into superstition, either. tongue.gif

For example (just one among many) -- I got interested in vinyl (mostly for the out of print back catalogs of music), and found that the same basic audio wisdom is applicable as far as minimizing distortion and maximizing SQ -- and that there are some superstitions regarding vinyl among the "digital-only" crowd as well.

This post has been edited by fewtch: Jul 18 2003, 12:50


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Gabriel
post Jul 18 2003, 13:30
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QUOTE
The problem is, I'd be too honest. I'd make it as good as possible, ignore all the fashionable ideas which I knew were nonesense, and sell it at a fair price

Using EAC as a CD transport? Quite inexpensive, isn't it?
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2Bdecided
post Jul 18 2003, 13:54
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It's funny - we tell "hi-end" people that you can get perfect results ripping with a PC - much better than any stand-alone player in the digital domain. They laugh.

Bob Stuart of Meridian uses the same logic and uses PC CD drives in some of his expensive transports, and when he exlains this, no one contradicts.

It's not what you know, it's...
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fewtch
post Jul 18 2003, 14:02
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Jul 18 2003, 05:54 AM)
It's funny - we tell "hi-end" people that you can get perfect results ripping with a PC - much better than any stand-alone player in the digital domain. They laugh.

Bob Stuart of Meridian uses the same logic and uses PC CD drives in some of his expensive transports, and when he exlains this, no one contradicts.

It's not what you know, it's...

Belief is powerful stuff, to be sure. Lately things seem to be getting a little better in the "audiophile" world (just my subjective impression) -- having run into more people lately on certain forums, particularly "new entrants" who aren't duped as easily by the hype. More vinyl adherents are recording to CD-R (with the drop in standalone recorder costs) and finding little or no SQ difference between the original vinyl and the digital recording.

Maybe just part of the generally increasing skepticism everywhere (or the worse global economy... who knows). It's funny, but I find the vinyl people considerably less deluded about expensive "tweaks" than hi-end CD/"Hi-res" types (some of those are serious nut cases... tongue.gif).

This post has been edited by fewtch: Jul 18 2003, 14:09


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marx
post Oct 21 2008, 21:34
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Hi everyone I just joined up and I apologise for the slightly negative tone of this post but I am extremely relieved to have found this site or specifically this thread (I assume this thread sets the general theme for this forum) because in doing that I found some like minded individuals.

I have only been into Hi-fi for just over a year and I have been participating in a forum in New Zealand which I believe is highly geared to toward absolute subjective reviewing. I absolutely believe that there is a place for subjective reviewing after all nobody can tell you what you like. However in the forum I have been participating in to try and give a slightly objective view to what appears to some of the claims made gets you absolutely worked over, and the debating style of some of these subjective purist is based purely on character assassination rather than discussing the topic at hand. There is an unsaid word that unless you have something constructive to say then don't bother saying. Unfortunately this only seems to apply to the subjective thread, in the objective threads anything is fair game.

I like balance, I consider myself to be a very open-minded individual and as such I am open to both sides of the Subjective - Objective debate. In this respect the forum that I am partaking in the debate, on the subjective side against objectivity, the verbal input doesn't cover much else other than childish irrational attempts at shooting the objective messenger.

Until I found this site I found myself heading for Hi-fi despair, I was loosing faith in a hobby that I love thank you for restoring this faith and I am looking forward to contributing positively in this forum in the near future. I fully intend on contributing in the other forum still as there are some great people there it will just be nice to chat with some people that don't mind looking at audio with a different view.

This is the thread that almost put me over the edge. I would be interested on your thoughts and don't go easy on me, if I was missing the point feel free to tell me so.

Kind Regards

Marx
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Soap
post Oct 21 2008, 22:01
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Yes, you can rest assured every single thing I read by AudioEnz in that thread is utter rubbish.
I'm not even going to bother quoting him - people should read the entire thing - not a solid point anywhere.
There is no point wasting your time arguing with someone who not only appears highly resistant to change, but also has a financial interest in not changing his tune.

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HotshotGG
post Oct 22 2008, 00:36
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QUOTE
Yes, you can rest assured every single thing I read by AudioEnz in that thread is utter rubbish.
I'm not even going to bother quoting him - people should read the entire thing - not a solid point anywhere.
There is no point wasting your time arguing with someone who not only appears highly resistant to change, but also has a financial interest in not changing his tune.


I really think that when it comes down to the subjective vs objective argument is is my belief that "less educated" are unwilling to perform simple DBT/ABX tests simply, because they do not how to or cannot interpret the results. I get into arguments all of the time with people about this who aren't as concerned about "quality". It annoy's me very much as I know there is discernable difference there. laugh.gif

QUOTE
This is the thread that almost put me over the edge. I would be interested on your thoughts and don't go easy on me, if I was missing the point feel free to tell me so.


He seems to blindly shoot down your arguments. I don't think we have any right to say that equipement on X is better then Y unless we have actually tested. We can't make statements like they do in Bose Commercials that the sound is "big" and "bold". That just doesn't work.

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Slipstreem
post Oct 22 2008, 01:48
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Welcome aboard, marx. I think you've come to the right place. wink.gif

Cheers, Slipstreem. cool.gif
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Canar
post Oct 22 2008, 02:10
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I remember fondly the day I found Hydrogenaudio. Since then this place has been a home to me like no other on the Internet. Welcome!


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Light-Fire
post Oct 22 2008, 02:26
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Jul 18 2003, 05:13) *
We're an objectivist audio community here...


Subjective audio communities are not audio communities. They make no sense.

One should be as objective as possible when choosing audio hardware and software. And then, after decisions are made, just enjoy the music.
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Axon
post Oct 22 2008, 03:17
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Knowledge of HA has risen considerably in the audiophile world in the last year. Most of it is generally of a condescending fashion, although we're a credited resource for lossy encoding. And I told JA a while ago, straight up, that HA is a better resource for audio than Stereophile.

marx's comments cut deeper than many people here realize. How many people in the "real" world have had an interest in good sound but smelled the poopy finery coming out of the hi-fi world and turned their noses away? How many of them would have invested more heavily when given a more rational outlook on audio? In other words, could the audiophile world be ultimately hurting the cause for high-end audio?

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Soap
post Oct 22 2008, 04:18
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QUOTE (Axon @ Oct 21 2008, 22:17) *
In other words, could the audiophile world be ultimately hurting the cause for high-end audio?

I'm sure a solid argument could be made that they are.
But there are many who financially gain from subjectivist quackery and FUD. Obviously enough to, if not keep the train rolling on their own, at least keep the wheels greased.

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marx
post Oct 22 2008, 05:35
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Thanks Guys it's nice to know that I'm not alone. I'm sure I'll remember my day of audio salvation fondly too wink.gif
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sld
post Oct 22 2008, 05:42
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I joined HA when I was in high school and never regretted it.

Because music is inherently something that is pleasurable and emotional, when we want to analyse audio we have to intentionally take steps to eliminate bias and placebo as much as possible.

It is that intentionality that makes HA objectivist. In a world that is inclined towards irrational beliefs based on self-satisfaction and egos, HA is a haven of audio science for the layman.

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MichaelW
post Oct 22 2008, 07:03
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Sorry if this is a bit of a hobby-horse, but a simple distinction between subjective and objective doesn't quite get it.

John Searle (an American philosopher of forthright tendencies) distinguishes between the epistemologically subjective and the ontologically subjective; that is, between knowing objective things subjectively, and things that are irreducibly a subjective experience. Take two pieces of paper: is one brighter than the other? You can either judge it subjectively, or measure it. One is blue: that is an inherently subjective experience.

Of course, ontologically subjective things may well have correlations with the objective. For humans, blue corresponds to light of a certain wavelength. For us, UV levels are pretty much irrelevant, but for a bee they seem to be critical. There's no way of knowing what objective measures correlate with the ontologically subjective experience without actually using subjective experience as a test.

I take it that what HA stands for, above everything, is the disciplined and, if you will, objective discussion of ontologically subjective experiences. For instance, one way of trying to assess the performance of a lossy codec is to look at an audio spectrum. A standard HA meme is, when people make wrong use of audio spectra, to say "You don't listen with your eyes." This, I take it, is honouring the fact that the hearing of music is an essentially, ontologically, subjective experience. But ABX and similar blinded methods enable us to deal with this subjectivity in a disciplined and sharable way.

This is not only good because clear thought is good; it can be important for developers. Often it's easier to use objective measurements than to stage ABX tests: oscilloscopes are less complicated than human beings. But you've got to know what measurements will actually correlate to differences in the ontologically subjective experience of human listeners to music, and that can only be done using real humans with their subjective experiences. That's the way you know that there is little point in worrying about frequencies above 20KHz, or THD below about 0.1%. But you also need to know that although even-order harmonics are, objectively, a distortion of the signal, a non-linearity, quite a lot of people like a little dash with their music. It's beside the point to go all tech and say they shouldn't; they do, and because hearing music is essentially subjective, that's all you can say, and maybe give them a chance to have it. But you can say they're wrong if they confuse a little bit of spice with their signal with more *accurate* reproduction.

Hi marx, I'm in NZ too. I don't actually know anything about sound reproduction, but over the years I've thought a lot about the relationship between the inherently subjective, and publicly usable and defensible judgements, and I think the general points read across.
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krabapple
post Oct 22 2008, 07:31
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QUOTE (Axon @ Oct 21 2008, 22:17) *
Knowledge of HA has risen considerably in the audiophile world in the last year. Most of it is generally of a condescending fashion, although we're a credited resource for lossy encoding. And I told JA a while ago, straight up, that HA is a better resource for audio than Stereophile.

marx's comments cut deeper than many people here realize. How many people in the "real" world have had an interest in good sound but smelled the poopy finery coming out of the hi-fi world and turned their noses away? How many of them would have invested more heavily when given a more rational outlook on audio? In other words, could the audiophile world be ultimately hurting the cause for high-end audio?



I make a point of mentioning, and linking to, HA articles in any other audio forum I visit. I've had people thank me for finally showing them a place where audio talk isn't inimical to science...or common sense.

There's actually a modest, steady level of audio 'objectivism' online these days, between this place, audioholics , AVSforum (the latter two are wobblier but that's because they don't mandate 'proof of claim'), a couple of skeptic forums (e.g., SKEPTIC magazine and JREF) that occasionally touch on audio, and even good old rec.audio.high-end is still going on Usenet. Then too, the 'high end' world sometimes makes our case for us online -- the 'machina dynamica' website is point-and-laugh gold. (Maybe the joke's on me; I'm still half-wondering if someone will come forward and admit that's some sort of conceptual art project).

(Sadly, objectivist audio views seem to be losing what little hold they ever had in the *print* media representing the audio hobby. Hence my recent thread about the decline of Sound & Vision).

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HotshotGG
post Oct 22 2008, 07:53
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QUOTE
There's actually a modest, steady level of audio 'objectivism' online these days, between this place, audioholics , AVSforum (the latter two are wobblier but that's because they don't mandate 'proof of claim'),


Don't forget about Head-Fi! Even though it's a great forum with some users reincarnated from this website and looking at things from a purely scientific point of a view I have seen some quackery topics on there. Some which make me cringe. Anyway I thought I would chime in seeing that you were mentioning other audio forums on the net. wink.gif


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marx
post Oct 22 2008, 08:41
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QUOTE (MichaelW @ Oct 22 2008, 19:03) *
Hi marx, I'm in NZ too. I don't actually know anything about sound reproduction, but over the years I've thought a lot about the relationship between the inherently subjective, and publicly usable and defensible judgements, and I think the general points read across.


Nice to see another kiwi here. I am already revelling in the masses of intelligent rational conversation covered in this forum, something that has been sadly lacking in a lot of my experiences with audio forums. Nice work guys!!!!
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