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What's the problem with double-blind testing?
mirrorsawlljk
post Oct 19 2005, 03:03
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I happened to pick up an issue of stereophile at a record store I visited and I was pretty shocked to see a seemingly intelligent person in the correspondence section bashing double blind testing as being unreliable. I'm afraid I don't understand his angle of attack. I don't see how anything could be a more reliable test of sound quality differences than a properly conducted double blind listening test.

I'm almost afraid to read the rest of the magazine if this is the kind of letter they think is worth publishing. Is there an audio magazine that isn't filled with this kind of thinking?
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onthejazz
post Oct 19 2005, 10:03
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Interesting publication. I like it, too bad its not in full production anymore. Thanks much for the link. Anybody have any more quality sources?
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Donunus
post Oct 19 2005, 11:00
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The writer of the letter in stereophile is incorrect in saying double blind tests are unreliable but he has a point. I do abx tests in foobar to compare different files a lot but there just are too many songs to abx to make sure all of one formats files are as good as the other ex. mp3 vs aac vs wav, etc... The thing I always notice though is that when using the analytical side of the brain(abx testing) only certain parts of the music is being focused and the emotional side of the music isn't being analyzed, therefore the goosebump factor of the sound the way the music delivers emotion cannot be analyzed! Its very hard to have the left and right side of the brain working at the same time.

My Example for this is when doing an abx of one particular song, I passed the test in foobar with flying colors(100% on abx test) but thought the differences were not really significant enough to make me keep the wav files from the cds and kept only the mp3s. After a few weeks of listening to the mp3s and really getting to know and love the songs better, I tried just popping the cd in for a listen... wow, goosebumps.... The parts I loved in the songs i was listening to gave me goosebumps for the first time. Now thats music! The feeling is lost on some parts of the mp3. And that was with my pc using sennheisers, not even my high end home rig.

Its not totally reliable to trust abx testing for determining the enjoyment one gets from his music because human memory can only remember only a certain number of seconds at a time like in an abx test. Its good for making codecs for eliminating artifacts but abx testing a few seconds of one song does not determine the accuracy of the dynamics of the whole piece. All the buildup of sound, the emotion! Bash me now but I have been an audiophile for more than 15 years and I am only 31, and have been a music lover since 5 years old. I know what I'm talking about. Listening to a bad stereo system, I can hear differences between different files for example but I don't really tend to care whether I am listening to the mp3 or the wav version. But with a very involving music system, the mp3 can sometimes put a damper on the fun factor of the song.

Also, stereophile loves posting "gray area" letters. I love that magazine. They exaggerate things sometimes but overall they are very accurate the way they subjectively describe the audio quality of equipment.
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Danimal
post Oct 19 2005, 20:20
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QUOTE (Donunus @ Oct 19 2005, 05:00 AM)
The writer of the letter in stereophile is incorrect in saying double blind tests are unreliable but he has a point. I do abx tests in foobar to compare different files a lot but there just are too many songs to abx to make sure all of one formats files are as good as the other ex. mp3 vs aac vs wav, etc... The thing I always notice though is that when using the analytical side of the brain(abx testing) only certain parts of the music is being focused and the emotional side of the music isn't being analyzed, therefore the goosebump factor of the sound the way the music delivers emotion cannot be analyzed! Its very hard to have the left and right side of the brain working at the same time.

My Example for this is when doing an abx of one particular song, I passed the test in foobar with flying colors(100% on abx test) but thought the differences were not really significant enough to make me keep the wav files from the cds and kept only the mp3s. After a few weeks of listening to the mp3s and really getting to know and love the songs better, I tried just popping the cd in for a listen... wow, goosebumps.... The parts I loved in the songs i was listening to gave me goosebumps for the first time. Now thats music! The feeling is lost on some parts of the mp3. And that was with my pc using sennheisers, not even my high end home rig.

Its not totally reliable to trust abx testing for determining the enjoyment one gets from his music because human memory can only remember only a certain number of seconds at a time like in an abx test. Its good for making codecs for eliminating artifacts but abx testing a few seconds of one song does not determine the accuracy of the dynamics of the whole piece. All the buildup of sound, the emotion! Bash me now but I have been an audiophile for more than 15 years and I am only 31, and have been a music lover since 5 years old. I know what I'm talking about. Listening to a bad stereo system, I can hear differences between different files for example but I don't really tend to care whether I am listening to the mp3 or the wav version. But with a very involving music system, the mp3 can sometimes put a damper on the fun factor of the song.

Also, stereophile loves posting "gray area" letters. I love that magazine. They exaggerate things sometimes but overall they are very accurate the way they subjectively describe the audio quality of equipment.
*


The point of double-blind testing is to make sure that you're getting goosebumps over something you actually hear, and not something you expect to hear. The whole point is to try to evaluate what you're hearing without knowing whether it's the original or the lossy encode. That shouldn't remove the "emotional" part of it, just make sure that you're reacting based upon something that is really there, and not what you want to hear or what you expect to hear.
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Donunus
post Oct 20 2005, 01:51
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QUOTE (Danimal @ Oct 20 2005, 03:20 AM)
QUOTE (Donunus @ Oct 19 2005, 05:00 AM)
The writer of the letter in stereophile is incorrect in saying double blind tests are unreliable but he has a point. I do abx tests in foobar to compare different files a lot but there just are too many songs to abx to make sure all of one formats files are as good as the other ex. mp3 vs aac vs wav, etc... The thing I always notice though is that when using the analytical side of the brain(abx testing) only certain parts of the music is being focused and the emotional side of the music isn't being analyzed, therefore the goosebump factor of the sound the way the music delivers emotion cannot be analyzed! Its very hard to have the left and right side of the brain working at the same time.

My Example for this is when doing an abx of one particular song, I passed the test in foobar with flying colors(100% on abx test) but thought the differences were not really significant enough to make me keep the wav files from the cds and kept only the mp3s. After a few weeks of listening to the mp3s and really getting to know and love the songs better, I tried just popping the cd in for a listen... wow, goosebumps.... The parts I loved in the songs i was listening to gave me goosebumps for the first time. Now thats music! The feeling is lost on some parts of the mp3. And that was with my pc using sennheisers, not even my high end home rig.

Its not totally reliable to trust abx testing for determining the enjoyment one gets from his music because human memory can only remember only a certain number of seconds at a time like in an abx test. Its good for making codecs for eliminating artifacts but abx testing a few seconds of one song does not determine the accuracy of the dynamics of the whole piece. All the buildup of sound, the emotion! Bash me now but I have been an audiophile for more than 15 years and I am only 31, and have been a music lover since 5 years old. I know what I'm talking about. Listening to a bad stereo system, I can hear differences between different files for example but I don't really tend to care whether I am listening to the mp3 or the wav version. But with a very involving music system, the mp3 can sometimes put a damper on the fun factor of the song.

Also, stereophile loves posting "gray area" letters. I love that magazine. They exaggerate things sometimes but overall they are very accurate the way they subjectively describe the audio quality of equipment.
*


The point of double-blind testing is to make sure that you're getting goosebumps over something you actually hear, and not something you expect to hear. The whole point is to try to evaluate what you're hearing without knowing whether it's the original or the lossy encode. That shouldn't remove the "emotional" part of it, just make sure that you're reacting based upon something that is really there, and not what you want to hear or what you expect to hear.
*



Well, with mp3, even 320. I have passed foobar abx with many samples from my own cds compared to the original with flying colors. What I am saying is I cannot get goosebumps while I am in the analyzing mode cause I am not really listening to the music but to different aspects of the sound while doing the abx test. I do hear the differences and although they are not really that big from an analysis standpoint, they become bigger when listening for enjoyment. Some songs will just lose some life when encoded to mp3.
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stephanV
post Oct 20 2005, 08:48
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QUOTE (Donunus @ Oct 20 2005, 02:51 AM)
Well, with mp3, even 320. I have passed foobar abx with many samples from my own cds compared to the original with flying colors. What I am saying is I cannot get goosebumps while I am in the analyzing mode cause I am not really listening to the music but to different aspects of the sound while doing the abx test. I do hear the differences and although they are not really that big from an analysis standpoint, they become bigger when listening for enjoyment. Some songs will just lose some life when encoded to mp3.
*

What you are saying is contradictional. You say that when you are paying close attention to the music you hear less difference than when you do casual listening. That is very odd and seems to be more related to expectation.


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bryant
post Oct 20 2005, 18:11
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QUOTE (stephanV @ Oct 19 2005, 11:48 PM)
QUOTE (Donunus @ Oct 20 2005, 02:51 AM)
Well, with mp3, even 320. I have passed foobar abx with many samples from my own cds compared to the original with flying colors. What I am saying is I cannot get goosebumps while I am in the analyzing mode cause I am not really listening to the music but to different aspects of the sound while doing the abx test. I do hear the differences and although they are not really that big from an analysis standpoint, they become bigger when listening for enjoyment. Some songs will just lose some life when encoded to mp3.
*

What you are saying is contradictional. You say that when you are paying close attention to the music you hear less difference than when you do casual listening. That is very odd and seems to be more related to expectation.
*



It turns out that the science of perception is rich with results that run counter to common sense. Think how wrong common sense is when trying to understand quantum mechanics! Well, it is equally bad when trying to understand cognitive psychology and perception. To tell you the truth, I cannot understand how someone could read and understand the two papers I linked to in the following thread and still be convinced that DBT can be the final word on music reproduction. In any event, it is a very interesting field of science that I suspect is not well known to many HA members:

http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....ndpost&p=321782
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Pio2001
post Oct 20 2005, 20:48
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QUOTE (bryant @ Oct 20 2005, 07:11 PM)
To tell you the truth, I cannot understand how someone could read and understand the two papers I linked to in the following thread and still be convinced that DBT can be the final word on music reproduction. In any event, it is a very interesting field of science that I suspect is not well known to many HA members:

http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....ndpost&p=321782
*


I have not read them. It seems that they deal with the effect of unconcious stimuli. Your point would be that sounds unconciously perceived might affect our perception of music.

But I don't see how this could explain the disparition of all "audiophile effects" under blind listening conditions. The unconcious stimuli don't disappear when the test is blind, so why should their effects disappear ?
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duff
post Oct 20 2005, 22:52
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QUOTE (Pio2001 @ Oct 20 2005, 07:48 PM)
QUOTE (bryant @ Oct 20 2005, 07:11 PM)
To tell you the truth, I cannot understand how someone could read and understand the two papers I linked to in the following thread and still be convinced that DBT can be the final word on music reproduction. In any event, it is a very interesting field of science that I suspect is not well known to many HA members:

http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....ndpost&p=321782
*


I have not read them. It seems that they deal with the effect of unconcious stimuli. Your point would be that sounds unconciously perceived might affect our perception of music.

But I don't see how this could explain the disparition of all "audiophile effects" under blind listening conditions. The unconcious stimuli don't disappear when the test is blind, so why should their effects disappear ?
*



It's not that any information disappears. The problem is that the ABX paradigm relies on cognitive processes that might not be directly affected by subtle differences between two presented stimuli, but other aspects of the listening experience might be. Because of the increased effort required of perceptual processes, due to compressed information that must be resolved, listening experiences might have an uncomfortable element associated with them that uncompressed stimulus perception doesn't. An ABX paradigm might not be able to tap into that very well, if at all (because the effort is perceptual, not in a decision processs). But there are other methodologies that could measure whatever processing differences might exist.
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stephanV
post Oct 20 2005, 23:11
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QUOTE (duff @ Oct 20 2005, 11:52 PM)
It's not that any information disappears. The problem is that the ABX paradigm relies on cognitive processes that might not be directly affected by subtle differences between two presented stimuli, but other aspects of the listening experience might be.

Might be... or might be not. You can't conclude or even suggest that based on the articles mentioned above. They only prove that subconcious stimuli can influence our behaviour. But when and where that happens is not mentioned. There is no reason to assume that we are more sensitive to subconsious stimuli during casual listening than during an ABX test.

QUOTE
Because of the increased effort required of perceptual processes, due to compressed information that must be resolved,

Is that so? Does listening to MP3 require more effort than listening to PCM?


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duff
post Oct 20 2005, 23:36
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QUOTE
Might be... or might be not. You can't conclude or even suggest that based on the articles mentioned above. They only prove that subconcious stimuli can influence our behaviour. But when and where that happens is not mentioned. There is no reason to assume that we are more sensitive to subconsious stimuli during casual listening than during an ABX test.


I'm not really referring to implications of just those articles. But the articles are quite specific about when and where unconscious information affects our behavior. In fact, there are five experiments in that second paper that show quite clearly how phase correction occurred in synchronized motor movements as a function of unconsciously perceived elements in an auditory stimulus. Anyway, as I described in my last post, the idea is that the ABX task relies on processing that has no direct access to the relevant parameters that are manipulated in some compression schemes.

QUOTE
Is that so? Does listening to MP3 require more effort than listening to PCM?


I think it goes without saying that compressed audio information is more difficult to resolve for auditory perceptual systems. In the case of a 128kbps mp3, your auditory processes must derive a waveform from a signal that has 90% less information than its 16bit/44.1 counterpart.

You might be confusing conscious effort from processing effort (the latter of which you have no conscious access to, and might only be revealed through implicit measurements like reaction time data to auditory stimuli).

This post has been edited by duff: Oct 20 2005, 23:49
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KikeG
post Oct 21 2005, 00:00
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QUOTE (duff @ Oct 20 2005, 11:36 PM)
I think it goes without saying that compressed audio information is more difficult to resolve for auditory perceptual systems. In the case of a 128kbps mp3, your auditory processes must derive a waveform from a signal that has 90% less information than its 16bit/44.1 counterpart.
*

Our ear doesn't work that way. Our auditory processes don't derive any kind of waveform. They are more like a realtime frequency analyzer, from which only part of the data is sent to the brain. Lossy compression just tries to discard that information that is not audible, just that.

As to the process of having to take a decision being different from just listening, well, that should apply too to sighted listening tests, don't you think so?

Also, psychoacoustic research already found that quick switch, short length stimuli, blind listening tests have proved to be more much more sensitive that casual listening.

This post has been edited by KikeG: Oct 21 2005, 00:03
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duff
post Oct 21 2005, 00:29
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QUOTE (KikeG @ Oct 20 2005, 11:00 PM)
QUOTE (duff @ Oct 20 2005, 11:36 PM)
I think it goes without saying that compressed audio information is more difficult to resolve for auditory perceptual systems. In the case of a 128kbps mp3, your auditory processes must derive a waveform from a signal that has 90% less information than its 16bit/44.1 counterpart.
*

Our ear doesn't work that way. Our auditory processes don't derive any kind of waveform. They are more like a realtime frequency analyzer, from which only part of the data is sent to the brain. Lossy compression just tries to discard that information that is not audible, just that.

As to the process of having to take a decision being different from just listening, well, that should apply too to sighted listening tests, don't you think so?

Also, psychoacoustic research already found that quick switch, short length stimuli, blind listening tests have proved to be more much more sensitive that casual listening.
*



The auditory system must derive, from a waveform, the characteristics that are relevant to any number of functions. In speech and music, the generated representation has all the characteristics of a waveform. From the stimulus, the auditory cortex represents spectral and temporal features, so for all intents and purposes, this is a waveform. Lossy compression tries to discard information that is not audible, but that doesn’t speak to the acoustic deficits in the original signal that the system must handle.

Take for instance your pitch perception system. It generates a pitch percept based on information in a waveform. The system sends a percept to your conscious awareness, but the effort required to derive that information might not be revealed in the percept. For example, there is a phenomenon called the ‘missing fundamental’ where people perceive pitch (fundamental frequency, or F0) in a high band pass filtered segment that does not contain enough information to calculate a proper F0 through Fourier analysis (e.g., F1-F4 is missing). But the percept is there because the system can make an unconscious inference using limited information. Of course to the listener, it just seems like there’s a pitch. Degraded signals require more effort to process. I think that is a rather uncontroversial point.

I'm not sure what you mean by a sighted listening test?

This post has been edited by duff: Oct 21 2005, 00:35
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rjamorim
post Oct 21 2005, 01:03
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QUOTE (duff @ Oct 20 2005, 09:29 PM)
I'm not sure what you mean by a sighted listening test?
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The opposite of "blind", I suppose. I.E, a test where placebo can take effect.

This post has been edited by rjamorim: Oct 21 2005, 01:04


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Posts in this topic
- mirrorsawlljk   What's the problem with double-blind testing?   Oct 19 2005, 03:03
- - bubka   some people can actually detect specific codecs by...   Oct 19 2005, 03:07
- - TheQat   QUOTE (mirrorsawlljk @ Oct 18 2005, 06:03 PM)...   Oct 19 2005, 03:27
|- - singaiya   QUOTE (TheQat @ Oct 18 2005, 06:27 PM)QUOTE (...   Oct 19 2005, 04:31
|- - Yaztromo   QUOTE (TheQat @ Oct 19 2005, 03:27 AM)Edit: H...   Oct 19 2005, 23:05
- - Tahnru   The closest thing I have seen to a legitimate crit...   Oct 19 2005, 04:29
- - Axon   The Audio Critic is notably pro-DBT.   Oct 19 2005, 07:06
|- - PoisonDan   QUOTE (Axon @ Oct 19 2005, 08:06 AM)The Audio...   Oct 19 2005, 12:18
- - onthejazz   Interesting publication. I like it, too bad its no...   Oct 19 2005, 10:03
|- - Donunus   The writer of the letter in stereophile is incorre...   Oct 19 2005, 11:00
|- - Danimal   QUOTE (Donunus @ Oct 19 2005, 05:00 AM)The wr...   Oct 19 2005, 20:20
|- - Donunus   QUOTE (Danimal @ Oct 20 2005, 03:20 AM)QUOTE ...   Oct 20 2005, 01:51
|- - stephanV   QUOTE (Donunus @ Oct 20 2005, 02:51 AM)Well, ...   Oct 20 2005, 08:48
||- - bryant   QUOTE (stephanV @ Oct 19 2005, 11:48 PM)QUOTE...   Oct 20 2005, 18:11
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||- - Woodinville   QUOTE (bryant @ Oct 22 2005, 02:32 PM)The onl...   Oct 24 2005, 21:51
|- - Lyx   QUOTE (duff @ Oct 21 2005, 05:48 PM)QUOTE See...   Oct 21 2005, 17:35
|- - krabapple   QUOTE (duff @ Oct 21 2005, 10:48 AM)QUOTE See...   Oct 21 2005, 22:01
- - duff   QUOTE It sounds counterintuitive that my brain wou...   Oct 22 2005, 00:30
|- - ChiGung   QUOTE (duff @ Oct 22 2005, 12:30 AM)Frankly, ...   Oct 22 2005, 00:47
||- - duff   QUOTE (ChiGung @ Oct 21 2005, 11:47 PM)QUOTE ...   Oct 22 2005, 01:14
||- - ChiGung   QUOTE (duff @ Oct 22 2005, 01:14 AM)The reduc...   Oct 22 2005, 01:26
|- - Woodinville   QUOTE (duff @ Oct 21 2005, 03:30 PM)Filtering...   Oct 22 2005, 08:07
- - ChiGung   A simplistic example - a sine wave of exactly 3122...   Oct 22 2005, 00:59
|- - Woodinville   QUOTE (ChiGung @ Oct 21 2005, 03:59 PM)A simp...   Oct 22 2005, 08:08
|- - ChiGung   QUOTE (Woodinville @ Oct 22 2005, 08:08 AM)QU...   Oct 22 2005, 14:09
- - ChiGung   -Sorry for flooding a bit there. Tasty subject   Oct 22 2005, 01:01
- - duff   So sorry for the long delay. I didn't forget a...   Nov 10 2005, 20:10
|- - Woodinville   QUOTE (duff @ Nov 10 2005, 11:10 AM)Woodinsid...   Nov 10 2005, 20:23
- - duff   I don't understand why you would want to maint...   Nov 11 2005, 00:41
|- - Woodinville   QUOTE (duff @ Nov 10 2005, 03:41 PM)Somehow, ...   Nov 11 2005, 21:52
|- - Pio2001   QUOTE (duff @ Nov 11 2005, 01:41 AM)The ABX p...   Nov 12 2005, 03:00
|- - Woodinville   QUOTE (Pio2001 @ Nov 11 2005, 06:00 PM)I can ...   Nov 12 2005, 09:33
|- - user   There aren't theoretical flaws with abx or DB ...   Nov 12 2005, 10:52
- - KikeG   Sorry, you still have provided no evidence that wh...   Nov 11 2005, 14:34
|- - Woodinville   QUOTE (KikeG @ Nov 11 2005, 05:34 AM)Sorry, y...   Nov 11 2005, 21:56
|- - Pio2001   QUOTE (Woodinville @ Nov 11 2005, 10:56 PM)Su...   Nov 12 2005, 02:32
- - duff   Let's back up a moment... There are at least ...   Nov 11 2005, 18:37
- - KikeG   About the first point, your degraded examples are ...   Nov 11 2005, 19:57
- - duff   QUOTE Well, if it's inaudible, there's a g...   Nov 11 2005, 21:19
- - Woodinville   QUOTE (duff @ Nov 11 2005, 12:19 PM)In other ...   Nov 11 2005, 21:59
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