A Brief Guide to Audio for the Skeptical Consumer - AVS Forum
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Old 10-11-2013, 09:26 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello,

I had a lot of fun writing and researching this, and I'd definitely appreciate any feedback or even criticism.

A Brief Guide to Audio for the Skeptical Consumer

Cheers!

- Peter
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Old 10-11-2013, 01:32 PM
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That's all excellent Peter. Only two comments:
Quote:
“Burn in” factor—the idea that speakers or electronics sound better after X hours or use—is likely a delusion.

Remove "likely" and you got it. biggrin.gif

However, speaker drivers do settle and their self-resonant frequency shifts lower, but it's too minor and short-term to bother with.
Quote:
Analog is not inherently superior to high-quality digital formats.

Vinyl is inferior to modern digital in every way one could assess fidelity. So it's not that analog isn't better, it's actually much worse. That vinyl and analog tape sound as good as they do is a testament to decades of engineering.

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Old 10-11-2013, 03:31 PM
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I enjoyed the piece, and I read two others you linked to. Good stuff.
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Old 10-11-2013, 03:37 PM
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Yeah, good job, but I doubt you'll change many minds.

I've thought about writing an article called, "How to Talk to Your Brother-in-Law About Audio."

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

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Old 10-11-2013, 05:25 PM
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Nice overview of frequently queried topics. The links to the quoted sources make this particularly useful, especially for newbies and tenderfoot enthusiasts.

Good, worthy effort.

hi-fidelity — why fight it?
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Old 10-12-2013, 08:41 AM
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I was just wondering - this morning, about 4 hours ago - whether someone had attempted to capture just this sort of thing. God works in mysterious ways.

I am not an engineer or scientist, but I appreciate learning from them. That's why I read these fora. Thanks for capturing (and citing) this in a well written article!
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Old 10-12-2013, 10:32 AM - Thread Starter
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Thank you for the kind words, everyone.

Ethan, it is a honor to be corrected by you. I've read most the articles on your website, and I've gotten a lot out of the ones that are within my current comprehension.
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Old 10-14-2013, 02:20 PM
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I don't care if your ear is untrained or not, a vast majority of people that have the opportunity to listen to a pair of speakers, in a blind test will notice the difference with such a gap in audio quality. I do agree that you'd be far harder pressed to find a large majority that would be able to tell the difference between a pair of $1000 speakers and say a $5000 or $10000 set of speakers, that tends to definitely require a trained ear.

I'm not saying there aren't speaker systems that play well outside their price category, as is evidenced by the jewels found if looking around on the good old www.

All of it is MOOT unless you are doing something that most people don't do. Which is play MP3's on their stereo system. Unless you have a good CD player and or SACD etc, you won't even get material that will make those speakers worth happening.

If your using it in a home theater system then something like DTS-MA HD and Dolby Digital + with the better quality tracks, ie; uncompressed then you'll be able to hear the differences between speaker sets. But most people never get to hear those differences either through screwups with their system, source material etc.

Then it comes down to whether or not your ears can even pick up those high frequencies. Most adults lose the ability to hear certain frequencies once they get past 30 or so. And most kids these days have either ruined their hearing because of blasting ipods into their ears, or simply have no baseline to measure audio performance against, again thanks to highly compressed low quality MP3 files.

I have decent speakers and while I can tell the difference between cheap speakers and quality speakers, once it gets beyond a certain price range I really can't tell the difference, not to mention living in an apartment pretty much means I can never turn the volume up that loudly anyway. 

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Old 10-15-2013, 06:28 PM
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The one thing I would add is that the primary benefit of the "hi-rez" formats is not their bit depth or sample rate, but rather their ability to encode in multiple discrete channels.

Going from good stereo to good multichannel is something everyone should experience. Or even from faux-stereo (mere 2 channel) to as-originally-intended-until-the-technological-limitations-of-vinyl-cutting-heads-mandated-compromise stereo (LCR channels), as on the Mercury Living Presence SACDs of 1950s era orchestral recordings.
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Old 10-15-2013, 10:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Good point, DS-21. I would like to do more multi-channel listening, though at this point I basically consider myself a two channel purist. My reasoning is that two channels is how the majority of the music I enjoy was intended by the recording engineer to be experienced. (But then I suppose much of the albums I love before the mid-sixties were originally released in mono, at least how I'm understanding things. So perhaps the fact that the majority of these albums are now released as stereo mixes could be considered a deviation of the original artistic vision.) I think especially for symphonic classical music I would like to hear more multichannel recordings. In my opinion, jazz and other kinds of music can sound excellent at home, but I always find symphonic recordings disappointing compared to the sonic complexity of sitting in front of an actual orchestra.
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Old 10-15-2013, 10:43 PM - Thread Starter
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Or maybe it was a bit before the mid-sixties. One source says that most major labels were recording/mixing in stereo by 1958.
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Old 10-16-2013, 05:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DS-21 View Post

The one thing I would add is that the primary benefit of the "hi-rez" formats is not their bit depth or sample rate, but rather their ability to encode in multiple discrete channels.

Going from good stereo to good multichannel is something everyone should experience. Or even from faux-stereo (mere 2 channel) to as-originally-intended-until-the-technological-limitations-of-vinyl-cutting-heads-mandated-compromise stereo (LCR channels), as on the Mercury Living Presence SACDs of 1950s era orchestral recordings.

You seem misinformed. Dolby digital encodes >2 discrete channels and has since 1992, and is not a hi-rez format.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolby_Digital
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Old 10-16-2013, 05:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greenwood Ave View Post

Or maybe it was a bit before the mid-sixties. One source says that most major labels were recording/mixing in stereo by 1958.

Confirmed. The Ampex 400 was an early stereo tape recorder for studios that was introduced in 1950.
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Old 10-16-2013, 06:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

You seem misinformed. Dolby digital encodes >2 discrete channels and has since 1992, and is not a hi-rez format.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolby_Digital

No, I just left out a word: "losslessly." The sentence to which you objected should have read: "The one thing I would add is that the primary benefit of the "hi-rez" formats is not their bit depth or sample rate, but rather their ability to encode losslessly in multiple discrete channels"

Now, one can argue whether or not that matters. You know more about listening tests with various codecs than I do, and probably have more listening experience with music encoded on DD or dts's contemporary lossy compression formats than I do.

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Old 10-18-2013, 04:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post

Vinyl is inferior to modern digital in every way one could assess fidelity.

Objection smile.gif There's a slight error in how intensity based stereo works. Blumlein was already aware of the issue some 80 years ago. It can be shown that this error is reduced with vinyl. Not that this error could not be removed from digital signals too smile.gif Here's an interesting link that explains the whole thing in more detail: http://www.phaedrus-audio.com/shuphler.htm

Markus

"In science, contrary evidence causes one to question a theory. In religion, contrary evidence causes one to question the evidence." - Floyd Toole
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Old 10-18-2013, 05:18 AM
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Outstanding article Greenwood.

It's bookmarked and I plan on sharing every chance the opportunity presents itself.
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Old 10-18-2013, 11:43 AM
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Green,

I was reading your other article:
http://numeralnine.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/amplifiers-cd-players-subwoofers/
Quote:
"My own experience with the subwoofers is that there’s hardly anything meaningful going on down there on the recordings I listen to, and I should add I generally don’t listen to much music that may be the most bass heavy like hip-hop or electronic dance music. 95% of the time the subwoofers seemed to be doing nothing even when I set the crossover as high as 50 or 60hz, and then much of the other 5% I found the subwoofer’s gurgles distracting. I have heard that some people insist that the subwoofer helps them to experience something esoteric like “the illusion of hall space,” but my understanding is that most of the frequencies in even chest thumping bass are in the 50hz – 80hz range, which should be achievable with decent floor-standers."

Let us help you with integrating your subwoofer.

I have enjoyed reading your well written articles immensely today. If you still have your sub laying around, give us the opportunity to help you with proper integration, as it may change your perception on what subwoofers can bring to the table.

Even at your preferred moderate (90db) listening levels, a properly integrated subwoofer should add something to the experience. In most cases I would say that "you can't miss what you have never experienced," but if your primary listening habits lean more towards classical recordings with little/no content below 40hz, I fully understand your stance.

I see you've been a member of AVS since March of this year, right around the same time as your first article. With that said, as an "objectivist," have you had the opportunity to take frequency response measurements within your listening/living room?

How much time have you spent in the DIY section of AVS? I ask because one of the biggest leaps I've taken in understanding the "science" behind our hobby was building my own gear and testing the results for myself. I firmly believe that the majority of people in the DIY area tend to lean heavily toward objectivism and (as you already know by the people who have responded to this thread) there are many extremely knowledgeable individuals that can help bring your understanding to the next level!

I know nothing about you or your background (except that you are a school teacher that has a part time job at a record store and you have children), so forgive me if I'm regurgitating anything that you have researched already. I applaud you for the extensive research you have done thus far, but please don't hesitate to ask questions. Especially if something (like subwoofer integration) seems off.
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Old 10-20-2013, 03:33 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you for your kind words and feedback, popalock. I do feel that frequency response measurements of my living space would be something I'd like to get into in the future. I'm glad that it came across in the blog that I'm not trying to present myself as an expert but more as an enthusiastic novice. And I would like to try a subwoofer again in the future. My motivation behind writing about the subwoofer thing was more to give an honest account of my research and experiences rather than to make any kind of authoritative statements about subwoofers. I have sold the subs I owned, and I'm not feeling too anxious to get into that again, but who knows where I'll be in a year. Right now I've been more fixated on researching different floorstanders that might be more on the neutral side of things (Ascend and Salk are two brands that I've been reading about on this forum). Still, right now I'm feeling a renewed enthusiasm for my B&W 683s after moving them another half-a-foot from the wall, so I'm starting to understand about how important placement is. (I think I convinced myself they didn't need as much room due since they are front ported.)

My own background is not technical, and I'm not sure if I would get too into the DIY side of things (but who knows). In my professional life, I have been influenced by working so long around vinyl and vinyl fetishists (love it/them, but I've long marveled that so many convince themselves that used, often scratched vinyl offers an improved sound quality over typically-cheaper CDs). Now I am a teacher in an autism classroom, and I've seen a totally different side of pseudoscience with the vaccine stuff and biomedical interventions. For me, getting more into the audio stuff has been largely a process of sussing out what legitimate engineers and professionals think, which as you can imagine, is way more difficult than it should be with all the junk science out there.
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Old 10-21-2013, 11:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markus767 View Post

Objection smile.gif There's a slight error in how intensity based stereo works. Blumlein was already aware of the issue some 80 years ago. It can be shown that this error is reduced with vinyl. Not that this error could not be removed from digital signals too smile.gif Here's an interesting link that explains the whole thing in more detail: http://www.phaedrus-audio.com/shuphler.htm

I don't see what any of that has to do with the fidelity of vinyl versus the fidelity of digital. Plus, just seeing a toob used in a piece of modern gear lowers credibility in my eyes.

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Old 10-21-2013, 01:18 PM
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^
You're questioning the credibility of Blumlein and the EMI guys which invented stereo?? The issue is real. Read the linked references.

P.S. What is "toob"?

Markus

"In science, contrary evidence causes one to question a theory. In religion, contrary evidence causes one to question the evidence." - Floyd Toole
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Old 10-21-2013, 02:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greenwood Ave View Post

Hello,

I had a lot of fun writing and researching this, and I'd definitely appreciate any feedback or even criticism.

A Brief Guide to Audio for the Skeptical Consumer

Cheers!

- Peter

Very nice and concise piece, though I think you could leave out "skeptical" regarding the consumer. This is applicable to anyone who has, is or will be spending money on equipment.

I also want to thank you for validating what were some of my "gut reactions" to equipment. I have found myself changing amplifiers hoping to upgrade, and upon listening......no real difference at normal levels. And I would always want to say "but the more expensive one should sound better!".

Again, great work.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I bought all this "stuff" to enjoy it!
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Old 10-21-2013, 03:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markus767 View Post

^


P.S. What is "toob"?

Pretty obvious from context, i.e., snarky version of tube.

Mourning the disappearing usage of the -ly suffix. Words being cut-off before they've had a chance to fully form, left incomplete, with their shoelaces untied and their zippers undone. If I quote your post (or post in your thread) without comment, please check your zipper.
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Old 10-22-2013, 12:43 AM
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^
Well, then Ethan missed the point and/or didn't read the linked page thoroughly. I wasn't talking about the device but the inherent localization error in intensity based stereo signals. There are references and links on that page which explain the issue in more detail.

If Ethan doesn't like tubes (which is just the equally simple-minded opposite of "I like tubes") then he might ask Uli Brueggemann what the "Flow" functionality in AcourateConvolver does. All software, no tubes.

Markus

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Old 10-22-2013, 01:17 AM
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Originally Posted by markus767 View Post

^
Well, then Ethan missed the point and/or didn't read the linked page thoroughly. I wasn't talking about the device but the inherent localization error in intensity based stereo signals. There are references and links on that page which explain the issue in more detail.

If Ethan doesn't like tubes (which is just the equally simple-minded opposite of "I like tubes") then he might ask Uli Brueggemann what the "Flow" functionality in AcourateConvolver does. All software, no tubes.

Good question. What does it do?
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Old 10-22-2013, 03:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markus767 View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post

Vinyl is inferior to modern digital in every way one could assess fidelity.

Objection smile.gif There's a slight error in how intensity based stereo works. Blumlein was already aware of the issue some 80 years ago. It can be shown that this error is reduced with vinyl. Not that this error could not be removed from digital signals too smile.gif Here's an interesting link that explains the whole thing in more detail: http://www.phaedrus-audio.com/shuphler.htm

You seem to have misinterpreted your reference. The correction of the presumed error in intensity stereo is clearly attributed in it to the non-tube matrixing circuit(s).

The tubes are in the circuit to provide amplification and buffering functions that could be easily, more economically and more accurately accomplished by other means, e.g. solid state.

There is no mention at all of LP or vinyl in the cited reference..

The reference itself is not a formal technical paper, but is instead just a piece of sales fluff that happens to reference some well-known authors and their papers.

It is well known that vinyl has numerous severe and audible technical failings which is why it fell out of favor except in tiny niches, more than 30 years ago. Tubes also have numerous severe failings that can be reduced to lower levels and may not always be audible. Claiming that Blumlein et al were proponents of tubes over SS or vinyl over digital seems disrespectful but is more surely fictional. Blumlein died in 1942 which was many decades before anybody had mature implementations of SS or digital audio technologies to compare with.
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Old 10-22-2013, 03:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FMW View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by markus767 View Post

^
Well, then Ethan missed the point and/or didn't read the linked page thoroughly. I wasn't talking about the device but the inherent localization error in intensity based stereo signals. There are references and links on that page which explain the issue in more detail.

If Ethan doesn't like tubes (which is just the equally simple-minded opposite of "I like tubes") then he might ask Uli Brueggemann what the "Flow" functionality in AcourateConvolver does. All software, no tubes.

Good question. What does it do?

It is a frequency-dependent matrixing circuit. It appears to slightly reduce separation at frequencies above approximately 700 Hz.

Since it is implemented using obsolete and excessively expensive circuitry whose function can be duplicated with far greater accuracy at a far lower cost, it almost seems designed to maximize the unnecessary addition of audible artifacts unrelated to its basic function. It seems to me to be more of a toy than a tool.
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Old 10-22-2013, 03:26 AM
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arnyk,

again, I was NOT talking about the device or tubes nor did I say "Blumlein et al were proponents of tubes over SS or vinyl over digital". I've linked the page because it contains information of an inherent problem in intensity stereophony. I was solely talking about the latter.

Markus

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Old 10-22-2013, 03:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FMW View Post

Good question. What does it do?

Please see http://www.audiosignal.co.uk/Resources/Stereo_shuffling_A4.pdf

P.S. No arnyk, I'm not saying that Gerzon was a "proponent of tubes over SS or vinyl over digital" rolleyes.gif

Markus

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Old 10-22-2013, 05:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FMW View Post

Good question. What does it do?

Please see http://www.audiosignal.co.uk/Resources/Stereo_shuffling_A4.pdf

P.S. No arnyk, I'm not saying that Gerzon was a "proponent of tubes over SS or vinyl over digital" rolleyes.gif

Please explain the following:

" It can be shown that this error is reduced with vinyl."
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Old 10-22-2013, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by markus767 View Post

I was NOT talking about the device or tubes nor did I say "Blumlein et al were proponents of tubes over SS or vinyl over digital". I've linked the page because it contains information of an inherent problem in intensity stereophony. I was solely talking about the latter.

So why did you post that in defense of vinyl? Below is my post you replied to.

--Ethan
Quote:
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Vinyl is inferior to modern digital in every way one could assess fidelity. So it's not that analog isn't better, it's actually much worse. That vinyl and analog tape sound as good as they do is a testament to decades of engineering.

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