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Why Your Objective Sound Quality Argument Sucks, and why it doesn't convince anybody
Axon
post Jul 15 2005, 04:31
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In the course of a Head-Fi thread in which I apparantly played a key part in getting closed, I realized that many/most audiophile subjectivists (and more specifically, those who consider their ears infallible) cannot be persuaded by reason.

Gasp. Well, I guess everybody else here knew it already.

But I also realized something much deeper, that the competing schools of thought of audio look remarkably like paradigms, in the Kuhnian sense. One of the main implications of this is that both sides, objectivist and subjectivist, can explain all observable phenomena in an acceptable manner (to that side). The other big implication is that one school eventually wins out for reasons indirect to the correctness of that theory - often for social or pragmatic reasons. In other words, we can't reason with subjectivists because our observations already have explanations that are more believable to them, and even if we are in fact right, it doesn't really matter. Therefore, the way to argue objectivism is through other effects.

Since the original thread is closed and I wanted more discussion on the topic, I'm reposting the relevant part of the post here. I hope this will stimulate discussion on how to best persuade people that a fully objective approach to evaluating audio is best.

QUOTE (Publius)
Anybody can find a difference between two different things, even two of the same make and model, but it takes hard proof to say that difference means anything, backed up with logic and experience. And it's here where I think we're never going to agree. For every device, there are always going to be any number of parameters and failure modes. Without exception, the audiophile community will attribute differences in sound to every parameter and failure mode of the device!

Thus, interconnects sound different because of different dielectrics, resistances, capacitances, characteristic impedances, electrostatic forces, microphonics, crystalline structures, quantum alignments, conductor widths, conductor lengths, connector types, connector materials, conductor materials, conductor distances, numbers of conductors, solder types, and braid topologies. In other words, according to various audio manufacturers, audiophiles and Head-Fi members, every conceivable difference to a cable changes the sound.

This is not sound science! Or sound engineering for that matter! Occam would roll in his grave if he saw a state of the art engineering theory such as this, practiced by the most famous people in the industry. No, I'm not saying everybody believes every effect is important - but that's an even more complicated situation, because then everybody has their own little theory as to how cables work, and will choose different effects to work towards the same goals.

What does all that mean in the end? Surprisingly, not as much as you'd think I'd say, but still a lot. Even if you attributed audible differences to all those effects, you'd still have a consistent theory of interconnects, and there wouldn't be any evidence I could show you to sway you towards thinking one of those effects didn't matter. You could even build cables based on your theory, and they could sound good, and people would buy them.

It's on the fringes that this sort of thinking breaks down.

    * When some people think a $200 cable sounds as good as a $1000 cable, or a $10,000 cable, that's because the $200 cable got it right and everybody else is overcharging. Or the designers got lucky, or they've tapped into a hitherto-unseen effect.
    * When a cable that takes all these effects into account sounds only as good as those that don't, the other cables got lucky, or they've tapped into a hitherto-unseen effect.
    * When some differences are clear as day sometimes and impossible to detect in others, it is due to emotions/stress in the listener, or a flawed audio system, or a flawed detection system, or a hitherto-unseen effect.
    * When RCA connections still invariably used for even the top of the line gear when the optimum characteristic impedances are obtained with BNC or coax, it's because of the entrenched standard, vendor stupidity, or a hitherto-unseen effect. (Anybody who doubts me on this can show me a 20Ghz switch with RCA inputs.)
    * When 6N copper so highly desired for interconnects, yet the amplifiers themselves use regular copper and (heaven forbid) 66/37 solder, it's because the interconnect can affect the sound independently of the materials inside of the electronics due to some hitherto-unseen effect.
    * When audio salesmen tell you to purchase cables based on a percentage of the total value of the system, rather than how much intrinsic value the cable adds to the system, it's because the cables are always less important to the final sound quality than the other components of the system, regardless of how any of them sound or cost.

Of course you can answer all of these questions. Everybody can. You might be able to answer them better than I have. That's not the point. The point is that to answer them you will almost invariably need to appeal to ad hoc hypotheses. Either here's a flaw somewhere else in a system, or a new effect is discovered, or an existing effect is less important than some other effect. Never is an effect considered completely inaudible based on new evidence, nor is an effect generalized to explain more evidence. Rarely (if ever) does an experiment in a new cable result in a poorer sounding cable. Ever since audiophiledom has started, and people started caring about cables, the theory of their quality has never simplified over time, and it remains a collection of guidelines about how certain parameters of construction affect certain dimensions of listening, without significant predictive power about how not to build a cable beyond what has been already manufactured. Of course I'm singling out cables in particular here but I could repeat this argument for all sorts of other things.

Truth, per se, is not directly a part of the conversation. Everybody can explain the evidence, and if you are comfortable with believing that every effect is audible and everything sounds different I won't be able to convince you otherwise. But if you don't - if you admit that some effects are not audible, that some audible differences may in fact not exist, that we humans are smart enough to agree on what is and is not audible, and that we can program a computer to test for everything that is audible - then everything else must fall into place.


Original post here.
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boojum
post Jul 15 2005, 05:23
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I have to respond. The belief that special speaker wire, or cable, makes a difference rocks me. Look inside the amps and see the diameter of the wire feeding these "sound pipes." Sometimes it is slim bell wire. Thank God for the gullible audiophile. He is keeping many of the crooks concentrated in one industry. cool.gif


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atici
post Jul 15 2005, 05:50
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Although I consider myself on the objectivists side, I sometimes question why "transparency", i.e. having no audible difference should be the ultimate goal to the audiophile hardware in the future. Who can guarantee that in 20 years people won't be wearing bionic implants that improve their hearing by a hundredfold? Looking at latest news in brain controlled devices (link 1, link 2, link 3) I believe such a scenario is very likely. Then are we going to alter the current standards of transparency when $10000 cable indeed sounds better to a person with an implant under ABX test? If we admit so, then we also have to admit that the criterion posed by us the objectivists is by no means an end to this argument.


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KyPeN
post Jul 15 2005, 05:52
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QUOTE (boojum @ Jul 14 2005, 08:23 PM)
I have to respond.  The belief that special speaker wire, or cable, makes a difference rocks me.  Look inside the amps and see the diameter of the wire feeding these "sound pipes."  Sometimes it is slim bell wire.  Thank God for the gullible audiophile.  He is keeping many of the crooks concentrated in one industry.  cool.gif
*


I agree. I think "good" cables can make a difference...to an extent. If it is well built to specifications and conducts properly, then it is doing it's job. What about the wires inside of a speaker, inside of your headphones (some people mod these, ok), the connections to the amp, the speakers inside the amp itself, the binding posts. I could go on and on. If I have a 99.99999% 24k gold cable that cost me $3,000, then the binding posts on the amp, the cables inside the headphones or speakers, the cables inside the amp, etc had better be 99.99999% 24k gold or I just threw $3,000 out the window. Additionally, just because all of this stuff IS 99.99999% 24k gold, that doesn't mean it is going to make an AUDIBLE difference in an ABX test.

IMHO: I'll believe it when I hear it. No sooner...

EDIT: http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....showtopic=33951

No one made it passed phase 2. I wonder why.... dry.gif
Also note the very expensive equipment. This was not on a pair of $1 sony headphones people...

This post has been edited by KyPeN: Jul 15 2005, 05:58
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Box Cutter
post Jul 15 2005, 06:19
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I partly agree. I think ABX testing should be done before you conclude that cable/amp/speaker A or whatever actually does sound better than cable/amp/speaker B. However, if you have consitently picked out A as sounding better in a blind test, just because you don't know exactly what component of the amplifier (or other device) is causing it to sound better doesn't mean the difference isn't there.

In other words, one should be wary of placebo, but being unable to determine the cause of a given difference does not mean the difference is just placebo.
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Dibrom
post Jul 15 2005, 07:13
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QUOTE (Box Cutter @ Jul 14 2005, 09:19 PM)
I partly agree. I think ABX testing should be done before you conclude that cable/amp/speaker A or whatever actually does sound better than cable/amp/speaker B. However, if you have consitently picked out A as sounding better in a blind test, just because you don't know exactly what component of the amplifier (or other device) is causing it to sound better doesn't mean the difference isn't there.

In other words, one should be wary of placebo, but being unable to determine the cause of a given difference does not mean the difference is just placebo.
*


This isn't usually the problem though. The problem is the difference not showing up reliably at all, or simply vanishing when performing some sort of DBT (this is done to establish the existence of the difference apart from user influence). Most audiophiles will make all kinds of excuses for why this happens, most of them lacking in any solid theoretical basis.

If a difference can be reliably discerned, and this can be done in a fashion demonstrating correlation between the supposed effect and the users perception, apart from the users ability to tamper with the results, then I think most of the people around here would grant that they are actually perceiving a difference (that is, a difference with an external physical cause, rather than an internal psychological or psychophysical cause such as with placebo).

The problem comes about when people make these sorts of claims, but then fail to be able to prove or demonstrate them convincingly in any way.

This sort of goes to the original poster's point about paradigms. However, I think it can probably be stated even simpler as a difference in the epistemology that these differing sides seem to subscribe to.

The so-called "objectivists" (not a very good term IMO as this debate moves closer to philosophy) often seem to subscribe to an epistemology that falls somewhere between rationalism and empiricism, with a somewhat realist metaphysics. "Subjectivists" on the other hand, seem to end up much closer to idealist epistemology and antirealist metaphysics (I would not be surprised to find a significantly higher proportion of "subjectivist" audiophiles subscribing to mysticism or other similar types of belief systems common to such a combination). Of course, it can get much more nuanced than that, but the point being: good luck trying to convince either side that the other is correct (as was pointed out already).

The only sorts of arguments that I can formulate in support of my system necessarily rely upon principles of that system that I have already accepted as being correct. I can partition my system and argue for parts of it using other parts, but they can always be questioned in turn. From the outside, this looks like question begging, while from the inside it does not -- at least until someone asks me to support my system without relying on any of it's results smile.gif

There are possibly always other ways of trying to go about making an argument in support of a certain system, or to develop formal theories about systems in general. Some people do it with very complex and abstract math and formal logic -- although it's doubtful something like this would convince the sort of audiophile (or skeptic in general) that doesn't even accept certain principles of basic physics and signal processing theory or whatever else. At the end of the day nothing you will say will convince the eternal skeptic.

Realizing that, I just kind of accept the fact that some skepticism is in fact wrong, and some people aren't worth bothering to convince smile.gif Definitely not a satisfying conclusion, but what else can one do?

This post has been edited by Dibrom: Jul 15 2005, 07:20
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Box Cutter
post Jul 15 2005, 07:34
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QUOTE
At the end of the day nothing you will say will convince the eternal skeptic.

One of the fundamental truths of humanity. wink.gif

And as for the problem of subjectivists using faulty logic, here's a little pearl regarding techno-babble and pseudoscience in general:

"The threshold for disproving something is higher than the threshold for saying it, which is a recipe for the accumulation of bullshit."

--Dr Bill Softky, Redwood Neuroscience Institute.
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Axon
post Jul 15 2005, 09:41
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QUOTE
The so-called "objectivists" (not a very good term IMO as this debate moves closer to philosophy) often seem to subscribe to an epistemology that falls somewhere between rationalism and empiricism, with a somewhat realist metaphysics.  "Subjectivists" on the other hand, seem to end up much closer to idealist epistemology and antirealist metaphysics (I would not be surprised to find a significantly higher proportion of "subjectivist" audiophiles subscribing to mysticism or other similar types of belief systems common to such a combination).  Of course, it can get much more nuanced than that, but the point being: good luck trying to convince either side that the other is correct (as was pointed out already).

I think the term objectivist is more accurate than you think. In the philosophical realm, objectivism refers to the belief of a objective reality independent of each observer, while subjectivism (aka relativism) involves the notion of a reality that is different for each person. This matches exactly the present debate. When speaking of neutrality and audio quality, one side believes that the optimum is different for each person, and different sources and amplifiers match different peoples' ears and tastes. The other side treats the notion of neutrality and signal quality as a mathematical ideal, and believes that any deviation from the mathematical ideal necessary to "improve" the quality of the signal is either to correct an existing flaw or to introduce euphonic distortion.

I don't think any clean distinctions of epistemology can be made. From the subjective viewpoint, they are the ones who are more closely following their aural observations and positing causes, so they are the more empirical ones.

The claim that a lot of audiophiles are mystics has been made before, and it is highly resented - some would probably say it's a bigoted remark. I was actually in my highest audiophile mode while an EE student with some degree of a skeptical outlook. But I think it would be a fair cop to say that most EEs with a signal processing or audio engineering background are not audiophiles.

Another big issue with the term "objectivism", though, is that it is easily confused with Randism. So maybe a different term should be used.

QUOTE
There are possibly always other ways of trying to go about making an argument in support of a certain system, or to develop formal theories about systems in general.  Some people do it with very complex and abstract math and formal logic -- although it's doubtful something like this would convince the sort of audiophile (or skeptic in general) that doesn't even accept certain principles of basic physics and signal processing theory or whatever else.  At the end of the day nothing you will say will convince the eternal skeptic.
*

Well, as I alluded to in my original post, there are arguments against "subjectivism" that transcend observation and truth, which are completely valid and are probably more persuasive than giving alternate explanations to things like vinyl and amps and such.

Examples abound in the history of science where one theory wins over another based on social stuff like this. Heliocentricity and the combustion theory didn't really succeed because they were necessarily more correct. In fact, they were initially much less correct than earth-centricity and phlogiston.

Of course, the audiophile could easily retort by saying that it's subjectivism which is the correct (and newer) theory, and the entire industry will eventually come over to its way of thinking. In the end it's all a matter of how many people believe what makes sense.
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cliveb
post Jul 15 2005, 09:52
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An interesting debate. I have come to the following hypothesis, and of course all that follows comes with a massive slice of "in my opinion":

The act of listening to reproduced music comprises two distinct components: (i) the creation of a physical soundfield by means of equipment; (ii) the response inside the listener's ear/brain system to that soundfield.

Now, the second of these components (the listener's response) is not determined by the soundfield alone. External factors, such as the listener's state of health, can genuinely change what they hear. One such factor is knowledge of the equipment being used. Hearing a difference due to such knowledge (when there is no change in the soundfield) should NOT be described as "self-delusion", "lying", or any other kind of negative term. It is a genuine difference in what is heard.

The objectivist and subjectivist camps both seem to draw the wrong conclusions. The subjectivists incorrectly ascribe the difference in what they hear as being due to a difference in the soundfield, refusing to acknowledge that they might be subject to external influence. This is ironically an attempt by them to appear "objective" about their position. Meanwhile, the objectivists incorrectly tell the subjectivists that they aren't actually hearing anything different and are deluding themselves. This is ironically a refusal by these so-called scientists to acknowledge the huge weight of empirical evidence that a difference is perceived.

In the real world of music listening, the equipment in use is known. We can't get away from this. (DBTs are a useful experimental tool, but play no part in listening for pleasure). And so we can't get away from the fact that this knowledge WILL impinge on what we hear. People need to accept that these external factors are a valid part of the listening experience, and to stop thinking that perceiving a difference where none exists in the soundfield is some kind of character flaw.
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2Bdecided
post Jul 15 2005, 11:14
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I'll accept that a lot of what people believe they hear (outside of DBTs) is base on their expectation of what they will here.

However, you'll only believe that the bad $10,000 amplifier sounds better than the good $1,000 amplifier while you believe that it is reasonable to believe this. (!)

If you can come to believe that the $1,000 amp sounds (or should sound) better than the $10,000 amp, then the listener expectation effect will work in reverse, and you can save a lot of money (unless the $1,000 amp really sounds worse, in which case you might realise one day!)

The subjectivists are forced to spend ever more money on ever stranger equipment, because they just can't bring themselves to believe that the $1,000 amplifier really does sound fine. Meanwhile, the objectivist belives that the $1,000 amplifier really does sound fine, and so it sounds better to him than to the subjectivist - in fact the $1,000 amp sounds better to the objectivist than the $10,000 amplifier does to the subjectivist! The subjectivist thinks the objectivist is deaf, but the objectivists gets to hear better sound, enjoy the music more and spend less money!

Cheers,
David.
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2Bdecided
post Jul 15 2005, 11:18
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I understand the idea that both camps can convince themselves that they are correct, in a self-consistent way within their own beliefs. Most of the time.

But how do subjectivists get around the issue of subjectivists (or any one) hearing differences between the same piece of equipment presented twice?

Cheers,
David.
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Lyx
post Jul 15 2005, 12:34
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I hope that i understood the arguments right. If yes: why would a DBT stop someone from enjoying subjective criterias? It sounds as if there only can either be objectivism OR subjectivism. I dont understand why. The problem imho is the lack of people being able to differentiate: If you accept that there are objective as well as subjective features in an object, then you can as well enjoy both - here's an example:

We have a 1000$ Amp and a 2000$ Amp. In a DBT, you cannot find a difference between both. However, you still buy the 2000$ Amp because it just looks more nice. Thus, in this example you knowingly spend 1000$ more on an amp just for its subjective features.

So, if i understood the discussion, then it is not a question between objective OR subjective evaluation - instead it is a question of self-discipline and the ability differentiate.

- Lyx

This post has been edited by Lyx: Jul 15 2005, 12:35


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antz
post Jul 15 2005, 13:20
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QUOTE (KyPeN @ Jul 15 2005, 05:52 AM)
QUOTE (boojum @ Jul 14 2005, 08:23 PM)
I have to respond.  The belief that special speaker wire, or cable, makes a difference rocks me.  Look inside the amps and see the diameter of the wire feeding these "sound pipes."  Sometimes it is slim bell wire.  Thank God for the gullible audiophile.  He is keeping many of the crooks concentrated in one industry.   cool.gif
*


I agree. I think "good" cables can make a difference...to an extent. If it is well built to specifications and conducts properly, then it is doing it's job. What about the wires inside of a speaker, inside of your headphones (some people mod these, ok), the connections to the amp, the speakers inside the amp itself, the binding posts. I could go on and on. If I have a 99.99999% 24k gold cable that cost me $3,000, then the binding posts on the amp, the cables inside the headphones or speakers, the cables inside the amp, etc had better be 99.99999% 24k gold or I just threw $3,000 out the window. Additionally, just because all of this stuff IS 99.99999% 24k gold, that doesn't mean it is going to make an AUDIBLE difference in an ABX test.

IMHO: I'll believe it when I hear it. No sooner...

EDIT: http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....showtopic=33951

No one made it passed phase 2. I wonder why.... dry.gif
Also note the very expensive equipment. This was not on a pair of $1 sony headphones people...
*



Just to be picky, you'd have wasted your money anyway, since silver is cheaper and happens to be the best electrical conductor! I agree with your point though :-)
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Dibrom
post Jul 15 2005, 13:30
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QUOTE (Axon @ Jul 15 2005, 12:41 AM)
I don't think any clean distinctions of epistemology can be made. From the subjective viewpoint, they are the ones who are more closely following their aural observations and positing causes, so they are the more empirical ones.


I don't really agree with this point, but I'm a bit short on time for posting so I'll have to come back to it.

QUOTE
The claim that a lot of audiophiles are mystics has been made before, and it is highly resented - some would probably say it's a bigoted remark. I was actually in my highest audiophile mode while an EE student with some degree of a skeptical outlook. But I think it would be a fair cop to say that most EEs with a signal processing or audio engineering background are not audiophiles.


I could imagine some people resenting such a statement, but I'd honestly be interested in someone explaining why the two are not similar on many of levels. You have pointed out a lot of characteristics of the way that audiophiles look at the world, and the thresholds that they set for the obtainment of knowledge. I just so happen to think that many of these characteristics are not limited to the sort of subjectivist/pseudo-science you have singled out, but are in fact symptomatic of more general belief patterns and knowledge treatment (i.e. epistemology). Mysticism is just one case I can think that shows similarities. And this is not necessarily meant as an insult -- it's an observation. I have known quite a few mystics myself, some of which I consider to be good friends. I just happen to think they're wrong on some fundamental points about the nature of the world.

QUOTE
Another big issue with the term "objectivism", though, is that it is easily confused with Randism. So maybe a different term should be used.


This was exactly my point. Perhaps I should have stated that more clearly. I understand objectivism and subjectivism with respect to outlooks on the nature of reality (the topic comes up quite often in philosophy). I have already more than once seen "objectivism" as used in the context of audio confused with "objectivism" used in the Randian sense. In fact, I believe that one of the sites Arny mentioned in his recent debate with the Stereophile editor was a case of this exactly.
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nyarlathotep
post Jul 15 2005, 13:56
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QUOTE (Axon @ Jul 15 2005, 05:31 AM)
In the course of a Head-Fi thread in which I apparantly played a key part in getting closed, I realized that many/most audiophile subjectivists (and more specifically, those who consider their ears infallible) cannot be persuaded by reason.

I started some time ago a similar thread with reference to the same article entitled "The Ten Biggest Lies in Audio" which can be found there (PDF 115kB, The Audio Critic website) or at Bruce Coppola's website.

The (long and passionate) discussion in French can be read there and the thread hasn't been closed ( biggrin.gif ).
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ddrawley
post Jul 15 2005, 14:11
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"A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still."

More here.

http://channels.lockergnome.com/windows/ar..._his_will.phtml

Do not confuse me with the facts, I have made up my mind.
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Axon
post Jul 15 2005, 20:42
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QUOTE
I could imagine some people resenting such a statement, but I'd honestly be interested in someone explaining why the two are not similar on many of levels.  You have pointed out a lot of characteristics of the way that audiophiles look at the world, and the thresholds that they set for the obtainment of knowledge.  I just so happen to think that many of these characteristics are not limited to the sort of subjectivist/pseudo-science you have singled out, but are in fact symptomatic of more general belief patterns and knowledge treatment (i.e. epistemology).  Mysticism is just one case I can think that shows similarities.  And this is not necessarily meant as an insult -- it's an observation.  I have known quite a few mystics myself, some of which I consider to be good friends.  I just happen to think they're wrong on some fundamental points about the nature of the world.

A lot of audiophiles have no problems with the modern scientific method, modern medicine, DBTs in medical and consumer fields, and modern psychoacoustics. They are just not convinced that either such methods and examples apply to audio, or they are insufficient to explain what is being observed. Or they may even believe in it but still be influenced by subjectivism to hedge their bets (and purchases). I sort of fall in the latter category. That's quite different from having a purely subjective/mystical worldview. Perfectly rational people can believe in this, and in fact a lot of scientists/engineers are audio subjectivists, and may even apply it in audio engineering. (cf last month's IEEE Spectrum article about the tubed iPod amp, and a smattering of AES submissions which smell strongly of audiophilia.)

More succintly, we're already talking Kuhn, so I don't think we can be talking Randi at the same time.
QUOTE
QUOTE
Another big issue with the term "objectivism", though, is that it is easily confused with Randism. So maybe a different term should be used.

This was exactly my point. Perhaps I should have stated that more clearly. I understand objectivism and subjectivism with respect to outlooks on the nature of reality (the topic comes up quite often in philosophy). I have already more than once seen "objectivism" as used in the context of audio confused with "objectivism" used in the Randian sense. In fact, I believe that one of the sites Arny mentioned in his recent debate with the Stereophile editor was a case of this exactly.
*


I used to call it "audio objectivism" to try and make a distinction, but I agree that a better term is needed. I just haven't seen one yet. And "subjectivism" is such an applicable term! "Skepticism" doesn't quite cut it, both because that only represents knowledge acquisition without having an existing philosophy or body of knowledge, and because I think skepticism is internally self-consistent within a subjectivist framework.

What about logical positivism? Much as I disagree with it as a general philosophy, I think it is a good description for what we're aiming towards - strictly materialistic, everything that can't be measured is meaningless, personal preferences exist but are not relevant. It's a rather esoteric term though.
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Axon
post Jul 15 2005, 21:17
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QUOTE (Lyx @ Jul 15 2005, 06:34 AM)
I hope that i understood the arguments right. If yes: why would a DBT stop someone from enjoying subjective criterias? It sounds as if there only can either be objectivism OR subjectivism. I dont understand why. The problem imho is the lack of people being able to differentiate: If you accept that there are objective as well as subjective features in an object, then you can as well enjoy both - here's an example:

We have a 1000$ Amp and a 2000$ Amp. In a DBT, you cannot find a difference between both. However, you still buy the 2000$ Amp because it just looks more nice. Thus, in this example you knowingly spend 1000$ more on an amp just for its subjective features.

So, if i understood the discussion, then it is not a question between objective OR subjective evaluation - instead it is a question of self-discipline and the ability differentiate.

- Lyx
*

When I say "subjectivism", I'm referring to a specific philosophy of audio quality and design: that short of obvious effects such as hearing damage, human hearing is an infallible source of observation and experience and comparison. Therefore, any differences in evaluation between different people - especially regarding neutrality - means that the evaluation itself is not comparable between individuals. In short, different realities for different people.

It's obviously a lot more complicated than that, but most audiophiles share the philosophy to a greater or lesser degree. It's a way for educated people to explain why some people think tube amps sounds better than discrete opamps, and vinyl sounds better than CD, and one cable brand sounds best, while at the same time allowing others to think that solid state and CDs sound better, and a different cable brand is better. It's an internally consistent theory encompassing the observations of audiophiles over the last 25 years.

One point I must emphasize is that hardly anybody believes everything in this theory. It's sort of in the abstract. Each audiophile has his/her own theory of how audio works, what sounds best, what tweaks work, etc. which differs from what I'm presenting here (I lay this out in my original post). And you're right, a lot of them do take ABXs seriously. But if we had to argue each person's individual theory we'd get nowhere. Moreover, attacking the theory in the abstract is not a strawman argument at all, because rather than being an extreme that "nobody" believes, people tend to pick and choose what they want from it. So refuting it still has great value.

I think your notion of this as self-discipline is pretty correct. As Dibrom points out, a lot of this is about how high to set your threshold of knowledge, and when you start to treat a hypothesis as fact.
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Axon
post Jul 15 2005, 21:23
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Jul 15 2005, 05:18 AM)
I understand the idea that both camps can convince themselves that they are correct, in a self-consistent way within their own beliefs. Most of the time.

But how do subjectivists get around the issue of subjectivists (or any one) hearing differences between the same piece of equipment presented twice?

Cheers,
David.
*

Easy. Burn-in. The device is simply not the same as when it was last heard. Or it's differences in temperature changing the circuit parameters. Or two "identical" devices have differences due to their part tolerances. Or you're getting more acclimated to the system, and can better listen to its faults and strengths.

Or it's something new, something nobody's ever seen before. cool.gif
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Axon
post Jul 15 2005, 21:27
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Jul 15 2005, 05:14 AM)
I'll accept that a lot of what people believe they hear (outside of DBTs) is base on their expectation of what they will here.

However, you'll only believe that the bad $10,000 amplifier sounds better than the good $1,000 amplifier while you believe that it is reasonable to believe this. (!)

If you can come to believe that the $1,000 amp sounds (or should sound) better than the $10,000 amp, then the listener expectation effect will work in reverse, and you can save a lot of money (unless the $1,000 amp really sounds worse, in which case you might realise one day!)

The subjectivists are forced to spend ever more money on ever stranger equipment, because they just can't bring themselves to believe that the $1,000 amplifier really does sound fine. Meanwhile, the objectivist belives that the $1,000 amplifier really does sound fine, and so it sounds better to him than to the subjectivist - in fact the $1,000 amp sounds better to the objectivist than the $10,000 amplifier does to the subjectivist! The subjectivist thinks the objectivist is deaf, but the objectivists gets to hear better sound, enjoy the music more and spend less money!

Cheers,
David.
*

This is a very persuasive argument - if you believe this, you will still enjoy your music, and you'll be less poor! However, I don't think it's easy to say that the level of satisfaction will be the same. That sort of thing is a very personal experience that can't be generalized.

For example, a lot of audiophiles speak of the visceral joys of buying vinyl, cleaning it and playing it, that exist independently and additionally to actually listening to it. It's hard to say that you'll be just as satisfied listening to CDs because they sound "just as good" when they're getting their kicks from something else too.

Ditto for buying new equipment, tweaking, DIYing and tube rolling.
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Axon
post Jul 15 2005, 22:52
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Also to Dibrom's credit, Mark Levinson's latest foray, the Burwen Bobcat, is doing nothing to reassure me of the ability of audiophiles to disregard pseudoscience.

QUOTE
The Burwen Bobcat, through its use of ultra-high-frequency reverberation and strategic equalization, overcomes the deleterious effects of PCM digital, Levinson claimed. He said he had proven this in tests using the Avatar Biofeedback Testing System. Because he did not have an Avatar system at Red Rose, he offered to test my responses to PCM digital and the Burwen Bobcat on the spot, employing the techniques of applied kinesiology.


This post has been edited by Axon: Jul 15 2005, 22:57
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Axon
post Jul 18 2005, 06:47
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Bump. Wow, did I scare everybody off?
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Erukian
post Jul 18 2005, 15:35
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QUOTE (Axon @ Jul 17 2005, 09:47 PM)
Bump. Wow, did I scare everybody off?
*



Yes. Yes you did. tongue.gif

I think you've pretty much closed the point in Objectivest vs Subjectivest. You think it's better to be objective about everything (probably in life?) which is great, I most of the time share that view. It's also cool to try and persuade people to be objective too, but you get to a point where you either get through all the marketting fluff the past 20 or 30 so years or don't.

So I love your example with speaker wire, how there's _so_ many variables in the construction/parts that retailers find new reasons to overcharge customers. I've seen friends who just invested A LOT of money into cables (HT or auto) and would feel darn silly to be told that a lamp cord from the 50's made with nickel sounds as good as their super high end monster cable. In fact I would say they would be ignorant if you showed them the facts on paper and they'd go defensive saying "skin effect" "magnetic flux tube" etc etc.

I guess you either get through or dont depending on how convincing you can be. Cables though, are by far far far the least important part in a system. I early on found myself buying the hype and investing in monster speaker wire. Now after becoming objective and looking at the facts on how wire works, I feel used.

If i were to be as objective as i can, I'd rank a system in importance in this order
1)Recording quality/mixing
2)Speakers/Headphones
3)Sources
4)Amps
5)Preamps
6)Cables

I believe that order is right, but rating how important each part is is entirely subjective.

-Joe
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2Bdecided
post Jul 18 2005, 16:45
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QUOTE (Axon @ Jul 15 2005, 08:23 PM)
QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Jul 15 2005, 05:18 AM)
I understand the idea that both camps can convince themselves that they are correct, in a self-consistent way within their own beliefs. Most of the time.

But how do subjectivists get around the issue of subjectivists (or any one) hearing differences between the same piece of equipment presented twice?

Cheers,
David.
*

Easy. Burn-in. The device is simply not the same as when it was last heard. Or it's differences in temperature changing the circuit parameters. Or two "identical" devices have differences due to their part tolerances. Or you're getting more acclimated to the system, and can better listen to its faults and strengths.

Or it's something new, something nobody's ever seen before. cool.gif
*



Well, if all these effects cause people to "hear" differences between identical pieces of equipment that are larger than the differences they "hear" between different pieces of equipment, only an idiot would suggest that the equipment differences under test are important, or even significant!

Yet that's what people say when blind testing cables. We've had the thread here recently. "I think X=B because B sounds much better than A..." when in fact X=A.

When they make such a mistake, people on planet HydrogenAudio conclude that they must have imagined the difference, since they've implicitly "heard" a difference between two things that were the same, while failing to "hear" a difference between two things that were different! However, people on planet Audiophile couldn't possibly have been mistaken in this way, and so conclude that they're more gifted at hearing things than other people.

Cheers,
David.
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2Bdecided
post Jul 18 2005, 16:46
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Jul 18 2005, 03:45 PM)
planet Audiophile


Sorry for introducing that idea - I don't want to give anyone nightmares!

Cheers,
David.
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