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Article: Why We Need Audiophiles, The subjective perspective
2tec
post Apr 16 2009, 14:55
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I'm interested in what the HA community thinks about this new Gizmodo article, or blog, about Michael Fremer, an audio reviewer from Stereophile, which clearly goes completely against the grain around here. For instance:

"We play my solid 256kbps VBR MP3 of "Heroes" off my iPod; it sounds like shit. Free of pops and crackles, yes, but completely lifeless, flat in every way. This is the detail that matters: Audiophiles are basically synesthesiacs. They "see" music in three-dimensional visual space. You close your eyes in Fremer's chair, and you can perceive a detailed 3D matrix of sound, with each element occupying its own special space in the air. It's crazy and I've never experienced anything like it." ~ Why we need audiophiles


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Axon
post Apr 16 2009, 23:45
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I think it's abundantly clear that Fremer is all about emotion rather than audio quality in any meaningful sense (that we are concerned about). That vinyl has such noises doesn't matter, because he asserts it evokes emotion that CDs do not.

More generally, many audiophiles believe that audio quality is intrinsically tied to emotional responses. The two concepts are more or less inseperable to them. That such and such component has a terrible frequency response or high distortion may not matter to them, because quite simply, the "sound quality" is still top class. Just look at the emotions it conveys! And look at Fremer's comments on the first CD listening - "it made me feel horrible!". And Atkinson's comments on the emotions experienced with different amps that ABX'd the same.

There's a really subtle logical fallacy at play here, that, truth be told, I first saw popped by Ayn Rand (!). I forget the exact quote, but it was to the effect that, while happiness is a measure of human success, it cannot be optimized as a parameter. That is, making decisions based on how happy they will make you can lead to short-sighted or counterproductive results, because happiness is simply too complex and inscrutable to be reduced down to mere buying decisions. (Anybody who's actually read her crap knows that "optimized" isn't even in her vocabulary IIRC so I'm probably getting something wrong).

Applied here: there are significant gaps in our knowledge of music and emotion; emotion can feed back upon itself in positive feedback loops; all of this is being ignored by audiophiles. While we listen to music for entirely emotional reasons, concluding that equipment should be evaluated on an emotional basis - that is, the best equipment lets the user experience the "best" emotions - presupposes a kind of simplistic "filter" model of emotion, where flaws in the component prevent the full emotion of the music to be experienced by the listener. That presupposition, and that whole notion of evaluating equipment in such a fashion, is illogical.

I think that us ABXers and skeptics are also arguing fallaciously when we decry all high end audio as placebo, and/or highly corrupted by observer bias due to price/shiny knobs/etc. I think audiophiles can toss those sorts of things aside rather easily and it makes us look bad. Really, we don't have a very good scientific understanding of how sighted testing actually works. If we did, we could predict it. And we can't! We can make educated guesses, based on all sorts of sighted factors like cost etc, but nobody's actually argued these correlations with any degree of accuracy whatsoever. The guesses are plausible to us but laughably hypothetical to others.

Rather, the problem here is that the whole notion of trusting some touchy psychiatrist fourty/fiftysomething's emotions when it comes to your music purchase decisions, or even your audio worldview, is batshit crazy - golden ears or not. And that's even before we get to the problem of trusting one's own emotions on the matter. I mean no offense to Mikey on professional grounds, insofar as his "profession" is concerned - he's not crazy, not evil, and not stupid - but he is elitist. I do believe he is grossly disrespectful to how normal people in this country listen to their music, and how they should be listening to their music. And taking him at his word on a great many topics will not save you money and will not make you a happier or better person. It only lets you perceive yourself as of a higher class for entirely specious reasons.

--

That said, he is a passionate promoter of music as something that is to be studied with interest and full attention. I think that's really important, really positive, and not elitist. If that requires people to junk their CDs and listen to vinyl on f*cking Regas, I'll shed a few tears, but they will be bittersweet.
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hybris
post Apr 19 2009, 10:10
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QUOTE (Axon @ Apr 16 2009, 23:45) *
I think that us ABXers and skeptics are also arguing fallaciously when we decry all high end audio as placebo, and/or highly corrupted by observer bias due to price/shiny knobs/etc. I think audiophiles can toss those sorts of things aside rather easily and it makes us look bad. Really, we don't have a very good scientific understanding of how sighted testing actually works. If we did, we could predict it. And we can't! We can make educated guesses, based on all sorts of sighted factors like cost etc, but nobody's actually argued these correlations with any degree of accuracy whatsoever. The guesses are plausible to us but laughably hypothetical to others.


If you look at the Harman listening test quoted elsewhere on this forum, there's a graph displaying the differences in loudspeaker grading in a sighted vs blind listening test. They showed mostly the same general rating (the same speakers where the best, I think with one exception) - but in the sighted test the listeners rated the loudspeakers much higher. So there you have it, the guy who're embracing the fact that he is listening to "high end" components actually enjoy higher quality audio (imagined or not). I think the most dedicated sceptics on this forum (and I know they'll disagree) that scoff at anything resembling high end (as all correctly designed [insert audio component] sound the same anyway) are missing out on some of the listening experience.

I consider myself a sceptic, I know I can't really tell the difference between 192kbps MP3 and FLAC, or between two loudspeaker cables. Still, I know I enjoy music more on a high end system.

Is this actually negative, as "other people" have the same enjoyment on a low end system? or have I possibly added something(percieved audio quality, pride in ownership, appreciation of high quality craftmanship, etc) to the experience that the regular listener don't have? Music is all about feelings and emotions, and the hobby of being an audiophile is too.

It's like enjoying cognac from an expensive, carefully crafted glass sitting in a large leather chair. Does it make the cognac taste better? Maybe a little bit. Does it add something to the total experience? Most certainly. smile.gif

EDIT: To clarify - I don't think it's anything wrong with enjoying music on a lower end system, just wanted to state that high end equipment isn't necessarily totally pointless (and I'm not talking 350,000 dollar stuff) - it will actually add something to the experience

This post has been edited by hybris: Apr 19 2009, 10:38


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Posts in this topic
- 2tec   Article: Why We Need Audiophiles   Apr 16 2009, 14:55
- - lvqcl   QUOTE Audiophiles are basically synesthesiacs. Ne...   Apr 16 2009, 15:29
- - nig nig the conqueror   I just got through reading that and I HAD to come ...   Apr 16 2009, 15:31
- - Fandango   Hey , nig nig! How can you say that! They ...   Apr 16 2009, 15:44
|- - Nick.C   QUOTE (Fandango @ Apr 16 2009, 15:44) The...   Apr 16 2009, 19:46
- - Bodhi   If I had a $350,000 stereo system I wouldn...   Apr 16 2009, 16:03
- - krabapple   Sad to read how many commenters there thought it w...   Apr 16 2009, 16:16
|- - nig nig the conqueror   QUOTE (krabapple @ Apr 16 2009, 11:16) Sa...   Apr 16 2009, 16:39
- - Arnold B. Krueger   Unlike most people who post here, I've had the...   Apr 16 2009, 16:32
|- - pdq   QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Apr 16 2009, 11...   Apr 16 2009, 16:54
||- - krabapple   IIRC (and I may not) in his 'real life' Fr...   Apr 16 2009, 17:02
|- - cpchan   QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Apr 16 2009, 10...   Apr 16 2009, 21:24
|- - shenzi   Elsewhere on the site someone posted a link to an ...   Apr 17 2009, 11:47
|- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (shenzi @ Apr 17 2009, 06:47) Elsew...   Apr 17 2009, 16:32
- - skelly831   I've been a Gizmodo reader for a while, but al...   Apr 16 2009, 16:41
- - 2Bdecided   I don't think it's that bad. If you want t...   Apr 16 2009, 16:44
|- - nig nig the conqueror   QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Apr 16 2009, 11:44) So...   Apr 16 2009, 16:50
- - Ron Jones   QUOTE (Bodhi @ Apr 16 2009, 07:03) If I h...   Apr 16 2009, 17:04
|- - krabapple   QUOTE (Ron Jones @ Apr 16 2009, 12:04) I...   Apr 16 2009, 18:03
- - kornchild2002   QUOTE (2tec @ Apr 16 2009, 06:55) They ...   Apr 16 2009, 18:04
|- - rpp3po   In the context of synesthesia the 3D metaphor is r...   Apr 16 2009, 19:06
||- - kornchild2002   QUOTE (rpp3po @ Apr 16 2009, 11:06) But i...   Apr 16 2009, 23:31
||- - benski   QUOTE (kornchild2002 @ Apr 16 2009, 18:31...   Apr 17 2009, 00:40
||- - kornchild2002   QUOTE (benski @ Apr 16 2009, 16:40) The 4...   Apr 17 2009, 04:13
|- - Linux Zealot Troll   QUOTE (kornchild2002 @ Apr 16 2009, 18:04...   Apr 18 2009, 22:29
- - caligae   This might finally give some insight to their obje...   Apr 16 2009, 18:35
- - 2Bdecided   But good systems with excellently matched speakers...   Apr 16 2009, 18:41
|- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Apr 16 2009, 13:41) Bu...   Apr 16 2009, 21:49
|- - 2Bdecided   QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Apr 16 2009, 20...   Apr 17 2009, 13:16
|- - krabapple   QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Apr 17 2009, 08:16) Le...   Apr 17 2009, 17:37
|- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Apr 17 2009, 08:16) QU...   Apr 17 2009, 20:16
- - zipr   Has there ever been any studies where vinyl, CD, a...   Apr 16 2009, 19:30
|- - krabapple   QUOTE (zipr @ Apr 16 2009, 14:30) Has the...   Apr 17 2009, 16:45
|- - Kees de Visser   QUOTE (krabapple @ Apr 17 2009, 16:45) QU...   Apr 17 2009, 17:09
|- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (krabapple @ Apr 17 2009, 11:45) QU...   Apr 17 2009, 23:47
- - timcupery   synesthesia is a real thing, and the comparison ma...   Apr 16 2009, 20:22
- - HotshotGG   QUOTE I'm interested in what the HA community ...   Apr 16 2009, 21:17
- - Axon   I'm not really sure Fremer and Mahoney actuall...   Apr 16 2009, 21:24
|- - krabapple   QUOTE (Axon @ Apr 16 2009, 16:24) QUOTE (...   Apr 17 2009, 17:02
- - Axon   Nope. According to Mejias, Fremer's a Jersey m...   Apr 16 2009, 21:51
- - SnTholiday   Do you think Fremer really gets into the music wit...   Apr 16 2009, 22:05
- - DVDdoug   2tec, Thanks for that post & link. Good stuf...   Apr 16 2009, 23:08
|- - carpman   QUOTE It's like when you go to the symphony, a...   Apr 17 2009, 08:30
- - Axon   I think it's abundantly clear that Fremer is a...   Apr 16 2009, 23:45
|- - /mnt   So if I upgrade my crappy PC speakers and my cheap...   Apr 17 2009, 02:01
|- - krabapple   QUOTE (Axon @ Apr 16 2009, 18:45) I think...   Apr 17 2009, 17:14
|- - hybris   QUOTE (Axon @ Apr 16 2009, 23:45) I think...   Apr 19 2009, 10:10
|- - cpchan   QUOTE (hybris @ Apr 19 2009, 04:10) Is th...   Apr 19 2009, 12:01
|- - hybris   QUOTE (cpchan @ Apr 19 2009, 12:01) QUOTE...   Apr 19 2009, 12:43
|- - cpchan   QUOTE (hybris @ Apr 19 2009, 06:43) Eatin...   Apr 19 2009, 13:20
|- - hybris   QUOTE (cpchan @ Apr 19 2009, 13:20) QUOTE...   Apr 19 2009, 18:55
- - B0RK   From what I have read , I have to say I see no pro...   Apr 17 2009, 00:56
|- - krabapple   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 16 2009, 19:56) From wh...   Apr 17 2009, 17:16
- - Axon   Calm down B0RK. (B0RK B0RK.) None of us are arguin...   Apr 17 2009, 01:11
- - greynol   Like the suggestion that an expensive hi-fi system...   Apr 17 2009, 01:18
- - Ron Jones   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 16 2009, 15:56) He is a...   Apr 17 2009, 02:38
- - shakey_snake   We need audiophools about as much as we need AIDS....   Apr 17 2009, 05:12
- - B0RK   Well fine thoughts expressed indeed . But I still...   Apr 17 2009, 05:13
|- - cpchan   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 16 2009, 23:13) I Still...   Apr 17 2009, 05:29
|- - kornchild2002   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 16 2009, 21:13) So I fe...   Apr 17 2009, 05:32
|- - greynol   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 16 2009, 21:13) Oh ...   Apr 17 2009, 06:35
|- - Ron Jones   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 16 2009, 20:13) Many of...   Apr 17 2009, 06:40
|- - Axon   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 16 2009, 23:13) I Still...   Apr 17 2009, 07:18
|- - krabapple   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 17 2009, 00:13) Oh ...   Apr 17 2009, 17:24
- - Dracaena   Hilarious. For $350k you could spend a good f...   Apr 17 2009, 07:36
- - MichaelW   @carpman One day you'll be old, fat, and in th...   Apr 17 2009, 09:11
|- - carpman   QUOTE (MichaelW @ Apr 17 2009, 08:11) One...   Apr 17 2009, 09:57
- - HotshotGG   QUOTE There is a cottage industry in the audiophil...   Apr 17 2009, 13:58
|- - cpchan   QUOTE (HotshotGG @ Apr 17 2009, 07:58) I ...   Apr 17 2009, 14:38
- - B0RK   First, @2Bdecided ,Thanks you for bringing some mu...   Apr 17 2009, 21:14
|- - rpp3po   A post's length often inversely correlates wit...   Apr 17 2009, 21:53
|- - kornchild2002   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 17 2009, 13:14) Some vi...   Apr 17 2009, 23:12
|- - Ron Jones   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 17 2009, 12:14) for all...   Apr 17 2009, 23:23
- - pdq   This is very disappointing. Year after year the me...   Apr 17 2009, 21:40
- - Axon   QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Apr 17 2009, 10...   Apr 18 2009, 04:22
|- - Ron Jones   QUOTE (Axon @ Apr 17 2009, 19:22) The dis...   Apr 18 2009, 05:50
- - B0RK   @Ron Jones well ...Now in your post you switched t...   Apr 18 2009, 06:15
|- - kornchild2002   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 17 2009, 22:15) So afte...   Apr 18 2009, 17:39
||- - chelgrian   QUOTE (kornchild2002 @ Apr 18 2009, 16:39...   Apr 18 2009, 17:48
||- - Fandango   QUOTE (chelgrian @ Apr 18 2009, 18:48) So...   Apr 18 2009, 17:50
|- - Ron Jones   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 17 2009, 21:15) You...   Apr 18 2009, 20:17
|- - krabapple   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 18 2009, 01:15) This is...   Apr 19 2009, 06:07
- - botface   Just thought I'd throw in a couple of observat...   Apr 18 2009, 12:35
|- - [JAZ]   QUOTE (botface @ Apr 18 2009, 12:35) On t...   Apr 18 2009, 16:14
- - ShowsOn   QUOTE (2tec @ Apr 16 2009, 22:55) I'm...   Apr 18 2009, 13:40
|- - Axon   QUOTE (ShowsOn @ Apr 18 2009, 07:40) QUOT...   Apr 18 2009, 17:13
||- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (Axon @ Apr 18 2009, 12:13) QUOTE (...   Apr 18 2009, 23:42
||- - B0RK   QUOTE (kornchild2002 @ Apr 18 2009, 10:39) B0RK, y...   Apr 19 2009, 01:41
||- - Frumious B   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 18 2009, 20:41) That we...   Apr 19 2009, 04:05
||- - pdq   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 18 2009, 20:41) To trul...   Apr 19 2009, 04:55
|||- - B0RK   QUOTE (pdq @ Apr 18 2009, 21:55) It truly...   Apr 19 2009, 06:22
|||- - krabapple   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 19 2009, 01:22) But We ...   Apr 19 2009, 06:42
|||- - pdq   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 19 2009, 01:22) QUOTE (...   Apr 19 2009, 13:15
||- - kornchild2002   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 18 2009, 18:41) What...   Apr 19 2009, 06:36
||- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (B0RK @ Apr 18 2009, 20:41) To trul...   Apr 19 2009, 12:21
||- - Frumious B   QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Apr 19 2009, 07...   Apr 19 2009, 14:10
|- - Fandango   QUOTE (ShowsOn @ Apr 18 2009, 14:40) Frem...   Apr 18 2009, 17:43
|- - kornchild2002   QUOTE (Fandango @ Apr 18 2009, 09:43) Isn...   Apr 18 2009, 19:07
- - Frumious B   What I find ridiculous about this article is the c...   Apr 18 2009, 17:22
- - ShowsOn   QUOTE (Frumious B @ Apr 19 2009, 01:22) W...   Apr 19 2009, 04:58
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