These are the steps to conducting a truly reliable listening test - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 07:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Let's share so we can all learn from one another's expertise and experience in hopes that we can make the audio world a responsible and unbiased place. cool.gif

Let's outline the requirements of a listening test to ensure that the results are unbiased and reliable. I will edit the list when we agree on its content.

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post #2 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 07:46 AM
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Listening test or measurement test?

If measurement, what are we measuring (FR, ETC, Bass Decay, ...) ?

For either, it would seem the speaker(s) and listening position are already established?

Are we talking about pre or post room treatment?

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post #3 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 08:21 AM
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Rec. ITU-R BS.1116-1

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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post #4 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 08:28 AM
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What, no popcorn emoticon?

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post #5 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 09:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jim19611961 View Post

Listening test or measurement test?
If measurement, what are we measuring (FR, ETC, Bass Decay, ...) ?
For either, it would seem the speaker(s) and listening position are already established?
Are we talking about pre or post room treatment?

I said listening test because I presume that the large majority of users here are not equipped to conduct a measurement test with industry standard equipment. However, most of us have ears. smile.gif
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post #6 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 09:29 AM
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The know-it-alls will be checking in soon, especially the half dozen who usually take over a simple idea and beat the living crap out of it until it turns into a cage fight.

Greg, if you get a half dozen ideas agreed upon, you'll be my hero, and definitely the man. Hang in there!

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post #7 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 10:28 AM
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I have never used a listening test... but it seems the requirements would be relatively easy.

 

1) Source device

2) Speakers to test

3) Source splitter, i.e. speaker selector(preferably with no delay or lag)

4) A third party(person) who switches between speakers and records the listeners preference.

 

I assume that a sound meter would be used somewhere, or a the very least the source material should sound the same(relatively) through each speaker.

 

This is all conjecture, but it seems like it makes sense

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post #8 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 10:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Rec. ITU-R BS.1116-1

I've only skimmed this so far but I can't pinpoint the authors of the article. Is it a culmination of efforts from the ITU, or is there a single author? I ask because you linked it and I suspect you would have a fair level of understanding of this article's source and credibility.

I'm thinking a simplified version of this source may be a good fit for the users of this forum. Rather than going through an exhaustive procedure with many steps, is there a way that we can agree on something more simple so EVERYONE will want to participate? This will remove the tendency for some to avoid making rational and educated decisions if they feel that such a procedure would prove too "difficult" or unobtainable for their purposes. This may also avoid some explosions of negativity, arguing, and generally useless banter that has occurred in threads of the past. It seems several of us can refute any given argument, but too few of us are offering viable solutions.
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post #9 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 11:04 AM
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I've only skimmed this so far but I can't pinpoint the authors of the article. Is it a culmination of efforts from the ITU, or is there a single author? I ask because you linked it and I suspect you would have a fair level of understanding of this article's source and credibility.
It' not an article; it's a standard, drafted under the aegis of the ITU, which is a pretty high-powered international professional association. (I believe the immediate purpose was to set up rules of the road for testing lossy codecs, so nobody could do a phony test and claim their version of MP3 sounded better.)
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Rather than going through an exhaustive procedure with many steps, is there a way that we can agree on something more simple so EVERYONE will want to participate?
Who wants to participate? There are people who understand and accept what's been found in the past, and people who really do not want to know. I'm not sure there's a third category.

For what it's worth, it's not a question of steps, but of conditions. I'd say the basic conditions of any reliable listening test would be:

1) Double-blind, meaning that neither the subject(s) nor anyone coming in contact with the subject(s) during the test knows which unit is which.

2) Level-matching to within 0.1 dB, which requires a voltmeter at the speaker terminals, preferable checking multiple frequencies.

3) For tests of source units, time-synching of the units.

To maximize the chances of getting a positive result, I'd add two further requirements:

4) The switch is controlled by the test subject.

5) The switch between presentations is instantaneous.

And finally:

6) There must be enough trials and enough correct answers to achieve statistical significance.

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post #10 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 11:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg121986 View Post

I said listening test because I presume that the large majority of users here are not equipped to conduct a measurement test with industry standard equipment.
Though this is a sidebar to your original question, you don't actually need a lot of expensive gear to make measurements of electronics or acoustics.

For acoustics you need a decent mic, eg Cross Spectrum ($100) a mic premap (Behringer Xenyx -$50) and REW (free) and a decent soundcard.

For electronics, you need the soundcard, RMAA and/or REW, both free, although ARTA for $120 gives some added capability, and some resistors to set levels.

Both require a bit of effort and work to set up and understand how to do it, but it need not be difficult, nor expensive and the potential for learning is there for those sufficiently interested. It's been my personal experience though, that most aren't interested.
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post #11 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 11:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Who wants to participate? There are people who understand and accept what's been found in the past, and people who really do not want to know. I'm not sure there's a third category.

A third category certainly exists, a category of users who come to AVSForum with a willingness to learn and are simply looking for direction. This direction exists on AVSForum but its presentation is often a manner that appears condescending, rude, and unhelpful. The objective of this thread is to provide a unified list of requirements to validate information that is shared with members new and old. I suspect this will help to alleviate some of the derailments of threads caused by the exchange of information assumed to be biased, wrong, or refutable that ultimately leads only to arguments.

For instance, "Did you do a double-blind test?" may be a valid question, but an even better response might consist of "Check out _this link_ for a procedure to help you decide which is the best component without having to succumb to potential bias, whether intentional or unintentional." Providing an external link might be ok, but why not keep it local and have an AVSForum approved procedure?
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post #12 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 12:12 PM
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A third category certainly exists, a category of users who come to AVSForum with a willingness to learn and are simply looking for direction. This direction exists on AVSForum but its presentation is often a manner that appears condescending, rude, and unhelpful.
Fair enough. I suspect that most people who are curious would decide not to bother with it once they see the challenges involved, however. Then they join either of the first two categories.
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The objective of this thread is to provide a unified list of requirements to validate information that is shared with members new and old. I suspect this will help to alleviate some of the derailments of threads caused by the exchange of information assumed to be biased, wrong, or refutable that ultimately leads only to arguments.
Well, I think I just did that, but I don't really believe it'll change anyone's behavior here. The anti-objective crowd isn't anti-objective because they don't know what an objective test is. They're anti-objective because they don't like the results that objective tests produce. Having the conditions laid out clearly isn't going to change their minds.

But thanks for the opportunity to lay those conditions out clearly for anyone who was curious.

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post #13 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Greg121986 View Post

A third category certainly exists, a category of users who come to AVSForum with a willingness to learn and are simply looking for direction.
. . . and I'm a member of this third category.
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post #14 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 12:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Fair enough. I suspect that most people who are curious would decide not to bother with it once they see the challenges involved, however. Then they join either of the first two categories.
Well, I think I just did that, but I don't really believe it'll change anyone's behavior here. The anti-objective crowd isn't anti-objective because they don't know what an objective test is. They're anti-objective because they don't like the results that objective tests produce. Having the conditions laid out clearly isn't going to change their minds.
But thanks for the opportunity to lay those conditions out clearly for anyone who was curious.

I think we can provide a synopsis that will present itself in a way that nobody will be afraid to try it, at the very least. There won't be a way to ensure everyone does it but that's not a failure of this objective either. Criticism is only constructive when its followed with a potential solution. I think we all are capable of contributing to a viable solution here.
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post #15 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 12:55 PM
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I think we can provide a synopsis
Who's this "we," white man? smile.gif

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post #16 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 01:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Who's this "we," white man? smile.gif

Any poster who wishes to contribute to this thread with insightful, helpful, and on-topic comments that he or she believes will add to the overall objective of the discussion and ultimately help other users of AVSForum in their search for information and knowledge relating to A/V (What does the S stand for?).
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post #17 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 01:27 PM
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Any poster who wishes to contribute to this thread with insightful, helpful, and on-topic comments that he or she believes will add to the overall objective of the discussion and ultimately help other users of AVSForum in their search for information and knowledge relating to A/V
IOW, not you? wink.gif
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(What does the S stand for?)
eek.gif

Click.

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post #18 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 01:57 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

IOW, not you? wink.gif
eek.gif
Click.

Which of these three categories do you think I fall under based on my creation of this thread?
Quote:
There are people who understand and accept what's been found in the past, and people who really do not want to know.
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A third category certainly exists, a category of users who come to AVSForum with a willingness to learn and are simply looking for direction.
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post #19 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 02:14 PM
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Which of these three categories do you think I fall under based on my creation of this thread?
I think you fall into the category of people who really do not want to know.

Because if you wanted to know, you would have acknowledged the fact that I've answered your question already.

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post #20 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

. . . you would have acknowledged the fact that I've answered your question already.
I don't believe you have answered the question, but have given some good requirements that the answer should adhere to. I think that Greg is looking for a proceedure that can be followed to insure that those requirements are met. Something like:

5) Select each device in turn, and measure the voltage at the speaker terminals. Write down the voltage for each device.
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post #21 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 02:53 PM
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Greg, i admire what you are trying to do, but in my experience you need measurements and testing, which means $150 - $300 (meager imo compared to what most spend on gear) for a mic and software.

When listening, its common to notice something is off, or something isnt quite right. Measurement equipment is designed to give you the tools to troubleshoot this. Without them, you have really no way to run and test hypothesis. You may stumble into the solution or you may spend countless weekends climbing the wrong tree. More likely the later.

Sure, there is some basic things having to do with speaker placement and listening location that do not depend on test equipment. But this alone isnt sufficient if you have come to the realization that room treatment is necessary and in most cases vital to good sound.

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post #22 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 03:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

I think you fall into the category of people who really do not want to know.
Because if you wanted to know, you would have acknowledged the fact that I've answered your question already.

You have given one viewpoint, you have not provided an answer. Your viewpoint will definitely be part of the final answer to the question, however.
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post #23 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 03:14 PM
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I don't believe you have answered the question, but have given some good requirements that the answer should adhere to. I think that Greg is looking for a proceedure that can be followed to insure that those requirements are met. Something like:

5) Select each device in turn, and measure the voltage at the speaker terminals. Write down the voltage for each device.
IOW, he wants Objective Listening Tests for Dummies. How big an advance is he paying? smile.gif

Seriously, even a book wouldn't cover the field. It depends on what you're testing, what you're using to match levels, how many people are involved, how you're "blinding" them, etc. There are nearly infinite permutations of ways to do these tests. As I said, it's not a simple set of steps.

IIRC, somebody recently asked for some advice on how to do level-matching, and Arny or somebody posted a couple of devices he could use for the purpose. I don't remember the thread; maybe somebody else does. But that's the way to get information like this: Ask a specific question about what you're actually trying to do. Don't expect people to write a textbook for you that you and I both know you're never going to use.

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post #24 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 03:16 PM
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You have given one viewpoint, you have not provided an answer. Your viewpoint will definitely be part of the final answer to the question, however.
And who is going to be the arbiter of what is merely a "viewpoint" and what is fact? Please tell me it isn't going to be you!

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post #25 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

IOW, he wants Objective Listening Tests for Dummies. How big an advance is he paying? smile.gif

Seriously, even a book wouldn't cover the field. It depends on what you're testing, what you're using to match levels, how many people are involved, how you're "blinding" them, etc. There are nearly infinite permutations of ways to do these tests. As I said, it's not a simple set of steps.

Agreed. But I don't think we would need to cover the entire field.

Quote:
IIRC, somebody recently asked for some advice on how to do level-matching, and Arny or somebody posted a couple of devices he could use for the purpose. I don't remember the thread; maybe somebody else does. But that's the way to get information like this: Ask a specific question about what you're actually trying to do. Don't expect people to write a textbook for you that you and I both know you're never going to use.
Yeah, I remember that thread as well, but couldn't find it either.

So maybe a single example would do. Since I believe this question grew from the DAC thread, I would propose this question:

How would you go about comparing two DACs, using a CD player with S/PDIF as the source?

It would start with the required materials, which would include a multi-meter and a CD with test tones to level-match, and some sort of A/B switch at the analog outputs. That is some of what I've picked up so far, that I wasn't aware of a few months ago.

It may be daunting, but I don't think we should dismiss it as being too difficult. And I think it could go a long way in educating us.
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post #26 of 38 Old 08-07-2012, 04:34 PM
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So maybe a single example would do. Since I believe this question grew from the DAC thread, I would propose this question:

How would you go about comparing two DACs, using a CD player with S/PDIF as the source?

It would start with the required materials, which would include a multi-meter and a CD with test tones to level-match, and some sort of A/B switch at the analog outputs. That is some of what I've picked up so far, that I wasn't aware of a few months ago.

It may be daunting, but I don't think we should dismiss it as being too difficult. And I think it could go a long way in educating us.
Well, you might get a taker. I will pass.

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post #27 of 38 Old 08-09-2012, 02:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Greg121986 View Post

Let's share so we can all learn from one another's expertise and experience in hopes that we can make the audio world a responsible and unbiased place. cool.gif
Let's outline the requirements of a listening test to ensure that the results are unbiased and reliable. I will edit the list when we agree on its content.
  1. a falsifiable hypothesis.
  2. appropriate testing methodology.
  3. appropriate test environment including program material, items being tested and supporting systems.
  4. appropriate listeners .
  5. careful execution of actual testing methodology .
  6. relevant analysis of test data .
  7. conclusion .
  8. .
  9. .
  10. .
  11. .
  12. .
  13. .
  14. .
  15. .
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post #28 of 38 Old 08-09-2012, 03:37 AM
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

How would you go about comparing two DACs, using a CD player with S/PDIF as the source?

It would start with the required materials, which would include a multi-meter and a CD with test tones to level-match, and some sort of A/B switch at the analog outputs. That is some of what I've picked up so far, that I wasn't aware of a few months ago..

You would also need something to actually accomplish the level matching as required. That would usually be some kind of analog volume control including separate adjustments for each channel. Since fairly fine adjustments (tenths of a dB) would be required, a custom product might make the job easier.

Back in the day, we made our own. One had 10-turn pots including spinner-type knobs for fine and course adjustements. It was called "The Fishing Reels". We used it to fish for good sound! ;-)
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post #29 of 38 Old 08-09-2012, 03:44 AM
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Originally Posted by jim19611961 View Post

Greg, i admire what you are trying to do, but in my experience you need measurements and testing, which means $150 - $300 (meager imo compared to what most spend on gear) for a mic and software.

Mics and software means acoustical testing which is pretty difficult to use to get needed levels of accuracy for tests where the acoustics domain can be easily avoided.

Today one can do pretty well with either the better audio interfaces built into computers, or higher grade stuff sold in the professional audio marketplace. Since this hardware has a relatively limited signal voltage range, some kind of outboard dummy load and signal level reduction circuitry may be needed.
Quote:
When listening, its common to notice something is off, or something isnt quite right. Measurement equipment is designed to give you the tools to troubleshoot this. Without them, you have really no way to run and test hypothesis.

Sure there is - properly done subjective testing.

This is particularly useful in those cases where people are adamant about there being an audible difference, but all known forms of technical testing say there's nothing big enough to hear.
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post #30 of 38 Old 08-09-2012, 03:49 AM
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

IOW, he wants Objective Listening Tests for Dummies. How big an advance is he paying? smile.gif

I must argue that books titled like the one above make no sense in this case.

Subjective testing remains subjective as long as listening by people is involved. This is consistent with similar testing in the food industry, etc.

All we do is try to make subjective testing less biased (all testing is inherently biased) and more reliable.
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