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"Audiophile" listening event @ Definitive Audio in Seattle, Atkinson to demonstrate "evils of MP3"
greynol
post Feb 9 2011, 23:42
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QUOTE (dv1989 @ Feb 9 2011, 14:32) *
I hope it wasn't unclear that I was quoting Mr Atkinson?

You were clear; it was I who wasn't.

Please allow me to rephrase...
Am I correct in interpreting this as a perpetuation of the unproven myth on the part of John Atkinson that someone needs to spend four figures in order to hear the deficiencies in lossy encoding?

This post has been edited by greynol: Feb 9 2011, 23:43


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Josh358
post Feb 10 2011, 00:24
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QUOTE (greynol @ Feb 9 2011, 17:24) *
QUOTE (dv1989 @ Feb 9 2011, 14:19) *
Only to visit the shops, but rest assured that you'll be sufficiently served by "a system with a total cost of <$4k", so "you don't need megabucks systems to appreciate the benefits." wink.gif

Am I correct in interpreting this as a perpetuation of the unproven myth that someone needs to spend four figures in order to hear the deficiencies in lossy encoding?


Maybe I'm missing something, but where did he say that? AFAIK, he said only that you can hear it on systems under $4k. Aren't there ABX tests here and elsewhere that demonstrate the audibility of lossy encoding on fairly inexpensive equipment, e.g., headphones? In fact, I recall an interesting discussion here to the effect that under certain circumstances, loudspeakers with poor frequency response make lossy encoding more rather than less audible by interfering with psychoacoustic masking.
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greynol
post Feb 10 2011, 00:37
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He didn't say that, at least not directly and perhaps not at all. Nevertheless, I thought it was a provocative and worthwhile question.


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Josh358
post Feb 10 2011, 02:20
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QUOTE (greynol @ Feb 9 2011, 18:37) *
He didn't say that, at least not directly and perhaps not at all. Nevertheless, I thought it was a provocative and worthwhile question.


It's certainly an interesting question, and one with an answer that's at least partly counterintuitive -- at least, I didn't know about the relationship between the audibility of lossy compression and ragged frequency response until I read about it here. I think I was bothered by the fact that the question seemed to take JA's assertion, which is that you don't need expensive equipment to hear the difference, and transmute it into the opposite one, that you do. I guess I'm bothered by the personal nature of the entire thread. I don't know the details of the comparison so I don't know whether confirmation bias is a concern here. But if they're such as to be controversial, wouldn't it be more productive to ask John to post compressed and uncompressed excerpts so that people can ABX them in Foobar?
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greynol
post Feb 10 2011, 02:57
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People on this forum have invested time urging John Atkinson be more objective in his presentation on the subject and he has essentially thumbed his nose at us as a response. All one needs to to is read the previous discussions and read his articles (not to mention articles he doesn't write but approves to be published) to get the impression that he is not the least bit interested in presenting the topic in an objective and unbiased way.

I suppose <$4k might be reasonable for a great home system assuming that the majority is spent on speakers, though one might be able to spend considerably less provided the speakers chosen are still adequate. Objective evidence that one needs to spend extra money on the equipment and cables to provide an analog source and drive these speakers beyond regular consumer-grade equipment in order to improve audible sound quality simply does not exist. I am not including money spent ensuring a great listening environment, and I doubt JA is either.

This post has been edited by greynol: Feb 10 2011, 03:33
Reason for edit: grammar


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Josh358
post Feb 10 2011, 05:09
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QUOTE (greynol @ Feb 9 2011, 20:57) *
People on this forum have invested time urging John Atkinson be more objective in his presentation on the subject and he has essentially thumbed his nose at us as a response. All one needs to to is read the previous discussions and read his articles (not to mention articles he doesn't write but approves to be published) to get the impression that he is not the least bit interested in presenting the topic in an objective and unbiased way.

I suppose <$4k might be reasonable for a great home system assuming that the majority is spent on speakers, though one might be able to spend considerably less provided the speakers chosen were still adequate. Objective evidence that one needs to spend extra money on the equipment and cables to provide an analog source and drive these speakers beyond regular consumer-grade equipment in order to improve audible sound quality simply does not exist. I am not including money spent ensuring a great listening environment, and I doubt JA is either.


Hmmm . . . as far as I know, there's no objective evidence that esoteric cables improve audio quality; tests in the AES Journal indicate that they can affect frequency response, but the curves don't seem to be of a magnitude that would be audible in an AB test according to existing psychoacoustic data. However, since response errors are cumulative, it is possible that any response aberrations would be audible under limited circumstances. A very marginal improvement at best. There is objective evidence that amplifiers of a certain size are required to reproduce music at natural levels, depending of course on the efficiency of loudspeakers, room size, radiation pattern, and listening distance. So that sets a practical lower limit on amplifier cost, albeit one that will vary depending on circumstance. IIRC, op amps are audible on ABX tests; that might set an objective lower limit on the cost of audibly transparent electronics.

I'm not aware of any objective evidence that analog sources are generically superior to digital sources. On the contrary, objective evidence would seem to suggest that high quality digital sources are superior (high quality since ABX tests in the AES Journal and here suggest that under some circumstances, a 44.1 kHz sampling rate is audible, and it's been demonstrated that in some circumstances, 16 bits is inadequate to transparently reproduce the full dynamic range of acoustical music in the absence of noise shaping).

Alas, there doesn't seem to be a very good library of blind tests for converters and loudspeakers. Loudspeakers in particular are difficult for anyone without the resources of a manufacturer to compare in bind tests. It's possible to establish objective criteria to some extent, e.g., for bass extension and SPL, and these could potentially set a lower limit for the minimum cost of a loudspeaker. But how is one to judge, objectively, whether a $60,000 Magico is audibly superior to a $30,000 Wilson? Unlike cables or amplifiers, there's no controversy over the fact that loudspeakers sound different, but by the same token, we know from Floyd Toole's research that subjective judgments of loudspeaker quality are distorted by confirmation bias.

All of which leads me to think that your assertion is correct, give or take a few thousand dollars -- we have little or no objective evidence that spending more than $4000 will buy better sound -- but that there's also no objective evidence that spending more won't. My ears tell me that, in the case of loudspeakers anyway, spending more can, but of course my ears are affected by bias, so no firm conclusion is possible. I for one would love to see more blind tests in Stereophile, though I recognize that a meaningful testing regime could be difficult to arrange. (I also think that there are theoretical reasons to believe that some relatively costly loudspeaker technologies can have audible benefits, e.g., line sources have several advantages, multiple subwoofers produce reduce the effect of room modes, etc. These characteristics are measurable and sufficient psychoacoustic data exists to demonstrate objectively that they can have audible benefits. In other cases, measurements are easy but the psychoacoustic data is inadequate to draw firm conclusions.)
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Stereoeditor
post Feb 10 2011, 08:37
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QUOTE (Josh358 @ Feb 9 2011, 18:24) *
QUOTE (greynol @ Feb 9 2011, 17:24) *
QUOTE (dv1989 @ Feb 9 2011, 14:19) *
Only to visit the shops, but rest assured that you'll be sufficiently served by "a system with a total cost of <$4k", so "you don't need megabucks systems to appreciate the benefits." wink.gif

Am I correct in interpreting this as a perpetuation of the unproven myth that someone needs to spend four figures in order to hear the deficiencies in lossy encoding?


Maybe I'm missing something, but where did he say that? AFAIK, he said only that you can hear it on systems under $4k.


That's correct. The system I used this evening cost $4200 (the amplifier-D/A converter was $300 more that I anticipated). I felt it fully up to the task of allowing listeners to appreciate what they were hearing. The context for my comment was the fact that the average price of a Stereophile reader's system is $15,000, BTW.

Was anyone there from HA? No-one identified themselves as such.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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odyssey
post Feb 10 2011, 09:00
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QUOTE (Stereoeditor @ Feb 10 2011, 08:37) *
Was anyone there from HA? No-one identified themselves as such.

What do you mean "from HA"? - This is a forum, I guess you'd understand the concept...


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greynol
post Feb 10 2011, 09:08
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QUOTE (Josh358 @ Feb 9 2011, 20:09) *
I'm not aware of any objective evidence that analog sources are generically superior to digital sources.

BTW, when I said analog source I meant whatever device provides the analog signal including DACs. My mistake.


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Cavaille
post Feb 10 2011, 13:24
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QUOTE (odyssey @ Feb 10 2011, 09:00) *
QUOTE (Stereoeditor @ Feb 10 2011, 08:37) *
Was anyone there from HA? No-one identified themselves as such.

What do you mean "from HA"? - This is a forum, I guess you'd understand the concept...
That was unnecessary. Not to take sides here but Mr. Atkinson asked a valid question considering that he offered for HA-members to take part in discussions at said event yesterday.


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odyssey
post Feb 10 2011, 13:34
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QUOTE (Cavaille @ Feb 10 2011, 13:24) *
QUOTE (odyssey @ Feb 10 2011, 09:00) *
QUOTE (Stereoeditor @ Feb 10 2011, 08:37) *
Was anyone there from HA? No-one identified themselves as such.

What do you mean "from HA"? - This is a forum, I guess you'd understand the concept...
That was unnecessary. Not to take sides here but Mr. Atkinson asked a valid question considering that he offered for HA-members to take part in discussions at said event yesterday.

Was it? The way I see it, he asked for people responsible for this forum (I'd guess, admin and maybe mods) - Not as an open invitation where he invited all participants in HA.

And that's my point - This is a forum where anyone with interest in audio can participate. That doesn't make a member any less than the admins that created the forum, at least in terms of said discussions.


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krabapple
post Feb 10 2011, 15:55
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QUOTE (Stereoeditor @ Feb 10 2011, 02:37) *
QUOTE (Josh358 @ Feb 9 2011, 18:24) *
QUOTE (greynol @ Feb 9 2011, 17:24) *
QUOTE (dv1989 @ Feb 9 2011, 14:19) *
Only to visit the shops, but rest assured that you'll be sufficiently served by "a system with a total cost of <$4k", so "you don't need megabucks systems to appreciate the benefits." wink.gif

Am I correct in interpreting this as a perpetuation of the unproven myth that someone needs to spend four figures in order to hear the deficiencies in lossy encoding?


Maybe I'm missing something, but where did he say that? AFAIK, he said only that you can hear it on systems under $4k.


That's correct. The system I used this evening cost $4200 (the amplifier-D/A converter was $300 more that I anticipated). I felt it fully up to the task of allowing listeners to appreciate what they were hearing. The context for my comment was the fact that the average price of a Stereophile reader's system is $15,000, BTW.


Notwithstanding audiophile orthodoxy, the gear as specified above was irrelevant to the audience's take-home message compared to:

1) whether or not you told the listeners what format they were hearing
and
2) whether you used high or low lossy codec bitrates and good or poor lossy encoders, and whether or not you use 'killer' audio clips to demo
and
3) whether or not you performed a 'difference' demo and offered it as evidence of audible inferiority of mp3, without an explanation of how mp3 actually works

I wasn't there, and from your replies to date on this thread I can't glean what you actually did re points 1,2, and 3. Care to fill us in?

Btw, should you ever bring this road show to NYC, I will do my best to attend.

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krabapple
post Feb 10 2011, 16:00
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QUOTE (odyssey @ Feb 10 2011, 07:34) *
QUOTE (Cavaille @ Feb 10 2011, 13:24) *
QUOTE (odyssey @ Feb 10 2011, 09:00) *
QUOTE (Stereoeditor @ Feb 10 2011, 08:37) *
Was anyone there from HA? No-one identified themselves as such.


What do you mean "from HA"? - This is a forum, I guess you'd understand the concept...



That was unnecessary. Not to take sides here but Mr. Atkinson asked a valid question considering that he offered for HA-members to take part in discussions at said event yesterday.


Was it? The way I see it, he asked for people responsible for this forum (I'd guess, admin and maybe mods) - Not as an open invitation where he invited all participants in HA.


That's not how I interpreted it at all.

QUOTE
And that's my point - This is a forum where anyone with interest in audio can participate. That doesn't make a member any less than the admins that created the forum, at least in terms of said discussions.


I think you're over-interpreting. We're all 'from HA' to people from other forums.
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Stereoeditor
post Feb 10 2011, 16:41
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QUOTE (odyssey @ Feb 10 2011, 07:34) *
QUOTE (Cavaille @ Feb 10 2011, 13:24) *
QUOTE (odyssey @ Feb 10 2011, 09:00) *
QUOTE (Stereoeditor @ Feb 10 2011, 08:37) *
Was anyone there from HA? No-one identified themselves as such.

What do you mean "from HA"? - This is a forum, I guess you'd understand the concept...
That was unnecessary. Not to take sides here but Mr. Atkinson asked a valid question considering that he offered for HA-members to take part in discussions at said event yesterday.

Was it? The way I see it, he asked for people responsible for this forum (I'd guess, admin and maybe mods) - Not as an open invitation where he invited all participants in HA.


To clarify, by "anyone. . . from HA" I meant literally _anyone_: members, guests, lurkers, moderators, etc. I had conversations with many people last night but if there was anyone who had been reading this thread, no-one said so.

When I next do a presentation like this, i will post the news well in advance to this forum in case any form HA will be able to attend.

John Atkinson
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Notat
post Feb 10 2011, 17:04
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QUOTE (krabapple @ Feb 10 2011, 07:55) *
Notwithstanding audiophile orthodoxy, the gear as specified above was irrelevant to the audience's take-home message compared to:

1) whether or not you told the listeners what format they were hearing, and
2) whether you used high or low lossy codec bitrates and good or poor lossy encoders, and whether or not you use 'killer' audio clips to demo, and
3) whether or not you performed a 'difference' demo and offered it as evidence of audible inferiority of mp3, without an explanation of how mp3 actually works

I wasn't there, and from your replies to date on this thread I can't glean what you actually did re points 1,2, and 3. Care to fill us in?

I wasn't there either. I would be very interested in seeing Krabapple's questions answered. Do you seek to give listeners opportunity to draw their own conclusions? Do you seek to demonstrate best-of-breed audio encoders or is it primarily your intent to make listeners aware that encoders can produce audible artifacts? Do you do 'difference' demos on encoded audio?
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odyssey
post Feb 10 2011, 20:39
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QUOTE (Stereoeditor @ Feb 10 2011, 16:41) *
To clarify, by "anyone. . . from HA" I meant literally _anyone_: members, guests, lurkers, moderators, etc. I had conversations with many people last night but if there was anyone who had been reading this thread, no-one said so.

When I next do a presentation like this, i will post the news well in advance to this forum in case any form HA will be able to attend.

Ok, then I'm sorry about that. I was just confused about why you wanted anyone to identify themselves as you mention here:
QUOTE
Was anyone there from HA? No-one identified themselves as such.


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Stereoeditor
post Feb 11 2011, 13:47
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QUOTE (odyssey @ Feb 10 2011, 14:39) *
I was just confused about why you wanted anyone to identify themselves as you mention here:
"Was anyone there from HA? No-one identified themselves as such."


Because, as evidenced by the postings to this thread - and even the very existence of this thread - some people at HA have questions about what I do and say, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss things in person. For example, in 2005, following many confrontational postings Arny Krueger had made on Usenet, I invited him to debate me at Home Entertainment 2005, in order to clear the air.

John Atkinson
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Stereoeditor
post Feb 11 2011, 14:05
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QUOTE (Notat @ Feb 10 2011, 11:04) *
I wasn't there either. I would be very interested in seeing Krabapple's questions answered.


Had you been there - had _anyone_ from HA been there - you would have known what happened at my presentation. I am puzzled by the fact that there exists simultaneously much curiosity about my Seattle presentation but not enough curiosity for anyone to attend. The same phenomenon occurred when I gave a similar presentation in Colorado 2 years ago. As I said, the next time I give a presentation like this, I'll give HA plenty of notice in case someone wishes to and is able to attend.

John Atkinson
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Notat
post Feb 11 2011, 17:28
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QUOTE (Stereoeditor @ Feb 11 2011, 06:05) *
QUOTE (Notat @ Feb 10 2011, 11:04) *
I wasn't there either. I would be very interested in seeing Krabapple's questions answered.

Had you been there - had _anyone_ from HA been there - you would have known what happened at my presentation. I am puzzled by the fact that there exists simultaneously much curiosity about my Seattle presentation but not enough curiosity for anyone to attend. The same phenomenon occurred when I gave a similar presentation in Colorado 2 years ago. As I said, the next time I give a presentation like this, I'll give HA plenty of notice in case someone wishes to and is able to attend.

I am in Colorado but was not on HA 2 years ago and did not hear about your presentation.

From reading this thread, I would say that there exists much hostility but not enough curiosity to compel HA members to attend. Unless you enjoy hostility, I'd be relieved that none of the posters in this thread came. Low curiosity because people here assume your presentation relies on some familiar methods which non-audiophiles believe adversely affect listener objectivity and audiophiles believe are essential to the pleasure of audio. That's what Krabapple was looking for in asking his questions. They're not difficult or trick questions. I'd still be interested in answers.
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spoon
post Feb 11 2011, 17:53
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QUOTE (Stereoeditor @ Feb 11 2011, 13:05) *
QUOTE (Notat @ Feb 10 2011, 11:04) *
I wasn't there either. I would be very interested in seeing Krabapple's questions answered.


Had you been there - had _anyone_ from HA been there - you would have known what happened at my presentation. I am puzzled by the fact that there exists simultaneously much curiosity about my Seattle presentation but not enough curiosity for anyone to attend. The same phenomenon occurred when I gave a similar presentation in Colorado 2 years ago. As I said, the next time I give a presentation like this, I'll give HA plenty of notice in case someone wishes to and is able to attend.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile


John,

Are there reasons for you not wanting to answer the questions regarding which encoder, bitrate, etc was used to create the mp3 files? You can see that if someone had an agenda against mp3 it would be fairly easy to demonstrate the short comings of mp3 at 96kbps, when in reality there is a world of difference between 96kbps and 320kbps.

The difference question is also pertinent.

This post has been edited by spoon: Feb 11 2011, 18:09


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Stereoeditor
post Feb 11 2011, 20:12
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QUOTE (spoon @ Feb 11 2011, 11:53) *
QUOTE (Stereoeditor @ Feb 11 2011, 13:05) *
QUOTE (Notat @ Feb 10 2011, 11:04) *
I wasn't there either. I would be very interested in seeing Krabapple's questions answered.


Had you been there - had _anyone_ from HA been there - you would have known what happened at my presentation. I am puzzled by the fact that there exists simultaneously much curiosity about my Seattle presentation but not enough curiosity for anyone to attend. The same phenomenon occurred when I gave a similar presentation in Colorado 2 years ago. As I said, the next time I give a presentation like this, I'll give HA plenty of notice in case someone wishes to and is able to attend.


Are there reasons for you not wanting to answer the questions regarding which encoder, bitrate, etc was used to create the mp3 files?


Only that I did answer at length on HA the same questions, including those put to me by"krabapple," when I did the same demonstration in Colorado 2 years ago. See, for example, http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/lofive...p/t71245-0.html . See also http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....72446&st=25 .

QUOTE
You can see that if someone had an agenda against mp3 it would be fairly easy to demonstrate the short comings of mp3 at 96kbps, when in reality there is a world of difference between 96kbps and 320kbps.


Of course. But even 320kbps AAC has shown not to be transparent to all listeners under all circumstances, as appeared to be suggested at http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....mp;#entry743201 . The musical examples I played in Seattle were the same as in Colorado: a single-blind presentation, perfectly level-matched, of 24-bit/88.2kHz, 16-bit/44.1kHz, 44.1kHz AAC at 320kbps, 44.1khz MP3 at 44.1kHz.

QUOTE
The difference question is also pertinent.


Of course. I regard allowing listeners to audition the difference signal as being part of the training process, whereby an artefact that might go unnoticed by a naive listener will become audible when he has learned what it sounds like. In this, I don't appear to differ from engineering orthodoxy. See, for example, http://ff123.net/training/training.html , as well as the existence of the AES training CD.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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greynol
post Feb 11 2011, 20:27
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QUOTE (Stereoeditor @ Feb 11 2011, 11:12) *
Of course. I regard allowing listeners to audition the difference signal as being part of the training process, whereby an artefact that might go unnoticed by a naive listener will become audible when he has learned what it sounds like. In this, I don't appear to differ from engineering orthodoxy. See, for example, http://ff123.net/training/training.html , as well as the existence of the AES training CD.

The ff123 link you've provided does not prescribe listening to difference signals as part of the training process.


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Stereoeditor
post Feb 11 2011, 20:39
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QUOTE (greynol @ Feb 11 2011, 14:27) *
QUOTE (Stereoeditor @ Feb 11 2011, 11:12) *
Of course. I regard allowing listeners to audition the difference signal as being part of the training process, whereby an artefact that might go unnoticed by a naive listener will become audible when he has learned what it sounds like. In this, I don't appear to differ from engineering orthodoxy. See, for example, http://ff123.net/training/training.html , as well as the existence of the AES training CD.

The ff123 link you've provided does not prescribe listening to difference signals as part of the training process.


This is correct. My apologies if I was unclear. I was referring to the general topic of training listeners to identify the artefacts introduced by lossy codecs as being something with which I was in agreement.

John Atkinson
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mixminus1
post Feb 11 2011, 22:18
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Single-blind still leaves a lot of room for outside influences to have an effect on the listener(s) - the whole point of ABX is to eliminate those influences so that only the possible differences in the two things being compared remain.

Despite the sarcastic remarks in my original post, I actually was unable to attend due to my work schedule. However, the description of the event on the Stereophile website, and in particular the line "Stereophile editor John Atkinson will be demonstrating the benefits of high-resolution audio and the evils of MP3" left me with the distinct impression that it would not be an evening of fact-finding, but of witch hunting. As such, even if I had been able to attend, I didn't see the point.

John, IIRC you've been doing your recording at 24/88.2 for awhile now, and I know that Stereophile has sold CDs through at least one third-party vendor, Acoustic Sounds. How about making your high-res recordings available through HD Tracks? They've got quite an impressive high-res catalog - you'd certainly be in good company. I'd buy at least one Cantus album as 24/88.2 FLACs, both because I do enjoy a capella choral music every now and then, and also to do my own ABX testing vs. 16/44 PCM and MP3 (and perhaps even AAC @ 96 kHz, which can technically support sample rates that high, although I've never tried to see if the QuickTime and/or Nero encoders will actually do so).

As an alternative, would you be willing to post <30 sec. FLACs of what you consider to be the most "challenging" or "revealing" passages of the tracks you used? I understand if legal issues prevent you from doing so, but I really would like to be able to try my own ABX of at least some of the material you used, and I suspect others on this forum would, as well.


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spoon
post Feb 11 2011, 23:06
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Reading the old threads...a real can of worms, the way I see it unless samples are posted (either publically, or privately to a select trusted few) the exact same will be discussed again in 2013. Any step of signal processing could introduce the artefacts, such as the resampling.


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