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Hearing/believing
Yahzi
post Mar 12 2013, 11:09
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If amplifiers/DAC/CDPs all sound the same assuming certain conditions are met, why is it that those who claim audible differences exist often hear the same things, with the same equipment? Even in the same listening test. Or abroad. What part of the perceptual codec can account for that behaviour?

Just wanted to get some insight as to what might cause this to occur.
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ktf
post Mar 12 2013, 11:17
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QUOTE (Yahzi @ Mar 12 2013, 11:09) *
why is it that those who claim audible differences exist often hear the same things, with the same equipment?

What do you mean by that? Do you have examples?

If you mean the broad, vague stuff like a 'wider soundstage' or a 'clearer sound', those who claim these things usually hear the same things even with different equipment. Every celebrated tweak somehow seems to add depth to the soundstage or more clarity. I really wonder how deep the soundstage of some tweak-heavy setups has become. rolleyes.gif


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db1989
post Mar 12 2013, 11:22
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme
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Yahzi
post Mar 12 2013, 11:57
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QUOTE ("ktf")
What do you mean by that? Do you have examples?


What I mean is that, for example, certain amplifiers may be assumed to have a bright sound which is shared by other people, even in the same evaluation. The anecdotal reports are shared by people, but the same things are often shared. I've seen these things all the time on internet forums, don't ask me to cite a specific example, but if you have been browsing and reading enough of these audiophile discussions you'll find them.

What part of the perceptual codec could account for that? That is what I'm asking. Is it just suggestibility? I would like to understand this in more depth.

This post has been edited by Yahzi: Mar 12 2013, 12:00
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julf
post Mar 12 2013, 12:27
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QUOTE (Yahzi @ Mar 12 2013, 11:57) *
What I mean is that, for example, certain amplifiers may be assumed to have a bright sound which is shared by other people, even in the same evaluation.


And are they totally independent evaluations, or is there a chance the evaluations are affecting each other?

There can, of course, be actual audible differences between certain amplifiers that on purpose go for, for example, a "bright" sound by slightly emphasizing high frequencies and possibly allowing slightly more harmonic distortion as well. That would of course have nothing to do with a perceptual codec.
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phofman
post Mar 12 2013, 12:42
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QUOTE (Yahzi @ Mar 12 2013, 12:57) *
Is it just suggestibility? I would like to understand this in more depth.



IMO the first step should be to experience the phenomenon personally in a blind listening test. If you really identify the phenomenon, only then should the analytic/investigatory phase occur.
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Yahzi
post Mar 12 2013, 12:55
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QUOTE ("julf")
And are they totally independent evaluations, or is there a chance the evaluations are affecting each other?


Sure, I suppose that is a possibility especially when we are talking about amplifiers with a high source impedance. But if we are talking about solid state, let's say, Yamaha receivers - people commonly assert that they sound bright. Yet there is no evidence to support that claim. Frequency response is ruler flat.

Denon and Onkyo are much the same, just flat. Yet people often describe them in different ways, again, conclusions reached are often similar if you peruse the forums of several audio sites. In those cases, where scientific analysis does not conform with the anecdotal reports, how would several people manage to agree or come to the same conclusions concerning that receiver? Is it merely coincidence? Hence my question. Let's rule out high output impedance as a design flaw or whatever.

I'm trying to better understand why people believe what they do, under these circumstances. What types of bias were involved to steer people into believing this? In a listening test with 5 guys, the majority agree on sound quality differences which are not supported by the science, I assume it's 99.99% due to perceptual codec malfunctions, or something. biggrin.gif Either way, there must be a logical explanation for this.

This post has been edited by Yahzi: Mar 12 2013, 13:15
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Soap
post Mar 12 2013, 13:10
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If you are serious in your question the first step would be to remove any possibility of unconscious expectation bias on your part and collect a random selection of the available data from said forums and clearly determine if people independently came to similar conclusions regarding sound or if either they did not come independently OR if your impression of the data does not match reality.


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Nessuno
post Mar 12 2013, 13:13
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QUOTE (Yahzi @ Mar 12 2013, 12:55) *
I'm trying to better understand why people believe what they do, under these circumstances. I assume there is a logical explanation for this.

Oh, yes: they've got a severe case of... biggrin.gif


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Yahzi
post Mar 12 2013, 13:22
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QUOTE ("Soup")
If you are serious in your question the first step would be to remove any possibility of unconscious expectation bias on your part and collect a random selection of the available data from said forums and clearly determine if people independently came to similar conclusions regarding sound or if either they did not come independently OR if your impression of the data does not match reality.


I never thought of unconscious bias. Excellent point! And how do those subconscious and unconscious levels of bias manifest in how we perceive sound?
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Porcus
post Mar 12 2013, 14:41
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QUOTE (Yahzi @ Mar 12 2013, 11:57) *
The anecdotal reports are shared by people, but the same things are often shared. I've seen these things all the time on internet forums, don't ask me to cite a specific example, but if you have been browsing and reading enough of these audiophile discussions you'll find them.


That sounds like you have observed the «me too!»-herd?


But certainly, there are cases where they are well-justified. Possibly:
- LP playback specifics like the RIAA EQ. Some are fit to curve, some to an idea of what was actually put into the groove («do as they do, not as they say»). And maybe, though somewhat scarce in actual playback: de-emphasis filters
- Impedance matching for headphone outlets which are merely a serial resistor
- Amp on the edge of being able to drive speaker
- Volume/voltage differences ... one of my amps back in the days (Rotel RA-1412, anyone?) had so much background hiss it was an issue on sensitive speakers.


QUOTE
And how do those subconscious and unconscious levels of bias manifest in how we perceive sound?


Expectation bias. Confirming what one thinks is likely.


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Arnold B. Kruege...
post Mar 12 2013, 14:43
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QUOTE (Yahzi @ Mar 12 2013, 06:09) *
If amplifiers/DAC/CDPs all sound the same assuming certain conditions are met, why is it that those who claim audible differences exist often hear the same things, with the same equipment?


The "same things" are often broad generalities.

Believe it or not, people can influence other people, even by means of saying things. ;-)

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Dynamic
post Mar 12 2013, 15:26
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To put it in simple terms, the companies probably promote their products with certain terms (clarity, presence, precision, etc.) and certain reviews in the audiophile press get read by most of the audiophile community, making certain ideas common. People may test products with their friends, and hear each other's reports too. Primed with certain expectations, they will focus on those aspects and hear them. If something supposedly bright sounds a little muddy, they'll maybe shift their position and with the effects of comb-filtering and similar room effects, the sound reaching their ears may indeed change physically. They then confirm their expectation and are pleased that they are discerning enough to hear what the golden-eared reviewer could hear.

So it's a collection of ideas like psychological framing, expectation bias, confirmation bias & social proof. With all these added together in one test and with our sonic memory being so indistinct, it's a powerful psychological effect that is usually larger than any audible difference. But it's also non-random and the social proof aspect is especially likely to make us expect to hear what others have heard. We're all susceptible, even if we're aware of the effects.

Oenophiles can be sold snake oil in the same way, as I was shocked to find in a company from whom I purchased some wine-glass racks, and offered for nearly £2000 a glass crystal stick you insert into your wine, complete with instructions for how to test it that would happily invoke all the biases necessary to believe it was responsible for giving the wine body and depth and finish, and developing it's maximum flavour potential. I seem to recall some pseudoscientific 'explanation' of the esoteric principles by which it claimed to work.

Certain tricks can be played by sneaky experimenters (e.g. put a device with a 'mellow' reputation inside the shell of a device with a 'bright' reputation and vice-versa (or the same device in both) and some of these biases can be isolated). Careful ABX-minded people randomise it all away to isolate the effect of the device over a number of tests.

(On the wine front, a number of experts began talking of tannins and red-wine words to describe white wine with red food colouring added in a test published a couple of years ago, while they used white wine descriptions for the uncoloured equivalent. I think they were kept anonymous as it was the psychology research that was most important.)

With loudspeakers differences might be true and significant, of course, though room effects make a big difference and can cause tonal differences as your ears move around the space (comb filtering etc) making it hard to be consistent.

There are also some audiophile tube amps that deliberately colour the sound and are non transparent. There are also some very well designed transparent and linear tube amps, though it's unlikely they are any better than far cheaper solid state amps (and their linearity is probably measured on solid-state test and measurement equipment without a thought).
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Ed Seedhouse
post Mar 12 2013, 16:31
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QUOTE (Yahzi @ Mar 12 2013, 02:09) *
If amplifiers/DAC/CDPs all sound the same assuming certain conditions are met, why is it that those who claim audible differences exist often hear the same things, with the same equipment? Even in the same listening test. Or abroad. What part of the perceptual codec can account for that behaviour?


All these perceptions disappear the moment you make it so that they don't know which bit of equipment they are listening to.

If you see that amplifier X is providing the power, and if you already believe that amplifier X has such and such a sound, then such and such a sound is what you virtually certainly will "hear". We are all human and subject to our beliefs effecting what we believe we are seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling or touching.




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Yahzi
post Mar 12 2013, 16:58
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Dynamic, thank you very much for your detailed reply. What you say makes a lot of sense, especially the social aspects of bias. Can you explain what the McGurk effect is? Does it not have something to do with sight affecting sound? Thanks again for the time and effort!
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_if
post Mar 12 2013, 17:34
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QUOTE (Yahzi @ Mar 12 2013, 07:55) *
In a listening test with 5 guys, the majority agree on sound quality differences which are not supported by the science, I assume it's 99.99% due to perceptual codec malfunctions, or something.

Is there some meaning of perceptual codec that I'm unaware of? The only definition I can think of is a thing like MP3 or any other format based on a model of human audio perception that has an encoder compress and a decoder decompress audio on playback to save space. But you're not talking about lossy compression, it seems you're talking about the ears and minds of people who are hearing sound, in which case I don't see how such a term can possibly apply.

This post has been edited by _if: Mar 12 2013, 17:34
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Yahzi
post Mar 12 2013, 19:23
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Perhaps I used the word incorrectly. My apologies.
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db1989
post Mar 12 2013, 19:35
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Again, and in case the implication of the link I posted before wasn’t clear: If people tend to (think they) hear certain phenomena that recur time and time again in separate reports from subjective testing, this is almost certainly due to expectation bias based upon prior suggestions (perhaps from equally invalid tests), i.e. the transmission of memes. Subjective comparison is invalid overall, so ascribing other possible causes to trends in perception would be just as unverifiable as the tests and, really, a waste of the time needed to do the necessary supposition about the reasons.
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Porcus
post Mar 12 2013, 19:47
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QUOTE (Yahzi @ Mar 12 2013, 16:58) *
Can you explain what the McGurk effect is? Does it not have something to do with sight affecting sound?


Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFPtc8BVdJk and a couple of more videos.



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Yahzi
post Mar 12 2013, 20:36
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Watched the video. That was .... WEIRD. But how does the McGurk effect influence things in a sighted evaluation? So you basically hear with your eyes? Or something...?
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greynol
post Mar 12 2013, 20:46
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When what you hear conflicts with what you see (or are used to seeing) then what you see takes precedence and your perception of what you hear is altered. You can literally "hear" something different as a direct result of what it is that you expect to hear (or not to hear).

This post has been edited by greynol: Mar 12 2013, 21:00


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Porcus
post Mar 12 2013, 21:58
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QUOTE (Yahzi @ Mar 12 2013, 20:36) *
But how does the McGurk effect influence things in a sighted evaluation?


You hear with your brain, just like you see with your brain. It attempts to correct misinformation by filling in from instinct or learning what it does already «know». If you see a perspective drawing, or a photo, your brain fills in the missing details.

Optical illusions are well known. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optical_illusion . Auditory illusions are also well known: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auditory_illusion . Of course there are those who insist their golden ears can never be fooled. By all means, there could very well be someone around who is lacking this useful brain functionality, but just because someone boasts of it that doesn't mean they are necessarily right.


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db1989
post Mar 12 2013, 22:01
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QUOTE (Porcus @ Mar 12 2013, 20:58) *
You hear with your brain, just like you see with your brain. It attempts to correct misinformation […]
It attempts to correct missing information. Misinformation, on the other hand, will arise if the subject puts too much faith in their brain’s less than perfect attempts at reconstructing absent portions of phenomena and feels that others need to know about it. wink.gif
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Porcus
post Mar 12 2013, 22:11
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Warning: this posting contains anecdotical evidence from a single data point collected by a non-neutral observer.


QUOTE (Porcus @ Mar 12 2013, 21:58) *
this useful brain functionality


Is there anyone herein who regularly attend live rock shows, and who will be surprised to read the following?

- It sounds so much more real when you see someone playing. More live than on screen than without. Close my eyes and listen, yes, maybe even for minutes, but visuals matter also for what I think I hear.
- Look like you are flogging a chord real hard? Sound like you are, even with an effect box compressing the dynamic flat. Does this look like betcha-can't-play-this? Sounds like it is difficult too, of course within reason. And some guitar players impress me the other way: you hardly see their hand twitching the fingerboard even close up, and wow-how-is-the-genius-doing-that ... sounds near-flawless at worst.
- The musician's apparent emotional state enhances (or destroys) the sense of what the music sounds like. Arrogant? Miserable? Torn? Psycho? Horny? It isn't only what you hear. Singing them blues with a big grin on your face – even when the sound doesn't allow me to actually hear how the lips articulate – that just ... sounds ... wrong.
- Even with volume adjusted by earplugs, volume to the body does matter.
- Lights? Matters. Warm lights. Cold lights. Not to mention a strobe shock.
- There is a sound quality range where I «know» that I am repairing details. Where it is not so bad as «dammit, I have to focus to hear a bloody thing», but where it is borderline between concious and not. Around that level, it is actually somewhat ... tiresome. I can tell after half an hour or so.

And (... close my eyes, look deep in my soul), I am paying money for this colour of the pill. I could have a not-too-bad hifi every year instead ...

This post has been edited by Porcus: Mar 12 2013, 22:14


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Willakan
post Mar 12 2013, 22:32
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People tend to form groups around people who tend to hear, for whatever reasons (largely psychological), similar things to them. There's also a great deal of subtle (subconscious?) cues being shared in a lot of these totally-surprise-omg 'identical' evaluation swaps.
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