Originally Posted by ehlarson
How do you think the Electrical Engineer designs these devices?. Hint, it's done based on a fundamental understanding of the perceptual importance of various specifications. Pick up a copy of the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society and you will see that it's full of articles discussing how objectively measured parameters affect perception.
Dr. Sean Olive, head of R&D at Harman International publishes an excellent blog describing some of their work along these lines.
Sure, users often buy based on subjective impressions. But there is no particular reason to believe these buying decisions are anything close to optimal. And there is the fact that audio equipment marketing and the sales process is often designed to take advantage of emotional response and discourage analytical thinking.
This subjective buying process is why we get products like Shatiki stones, LP demagnetizers and audiophile fuses.
First, I won't post again on this topic. Second, I fully respect everyone's decision on how they buy equipment. Good for you!
OK, so two things here I want to comment on.
"Pick up a copy of the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society and you will see that it's full of articles discussing how objectively measured parameters affect perception."
Have never picked up a copy of AES, it's great to hear that they are doing this
This is what science can do to provide an interpretation of the music that connects with people. I hope they succeed. My view is that this is not easy to do and just looking at the standard specs is no guarantee of great sound. Again, my take is that each component is the chain is important. There is a reason a Steinway is preferred by many pianists. I doubt they insist on playing one because it has great specs... even though there is tremendous technology to build a piano. Rather, they play it because it allows them to express themselves musically better than an upright Yamaha. So moving from the source side to the output side, I follow the same paradigm. Each component in the playback chain must be able to impart the feel of the music. The specs are important to a point, but ultimately, if it cannot convey the intent of the performance, well, the specs don't matter. Now, we don't actually play a BDP-105, but we do integrate it into our systems, pick the coat hanger, er cables, speakers, speaker placement, cross-over, and of course the music - all for me, my ears, and my brain interpreting the sound. All of these things build into a system synergy that, when it's right, is just an unbelievable joy. My experience is that specs alone will not give you joy.
"Sure, users often buy based on subjective impressions. But there is no particular reason to believe these buying decisions are anything close to optimal."
Nor should they be. We are talking about people buying a component to listen to art. How does one optimize that? If someone enjoys the presentation more because they just love the jewel like look of their deck, than that is fantastic. If they enjoy it more because they know they saved thousands of dollars and looks don't affect the sound, that, too, is fantastic. What colour and intensity of light should you use to illuminate your pictures in your art gallery? Is it the optimal one, or the one that brings out the feeling and speaks best to you? Does a Selmer sound better than a Vito? How does one optimize that? People are different and enjoy different aspects of their art collection. Please, oh please, let us not optimize artistic expression and interpretation.
As we go more and more digital, I suppose there will be less and less need for building a synergistic system. That will be a phenomenal accomplishment by the AES as they'll have designed the average system purchased at Walmart to be capable of bringing a person great joy and/or tears. Until then, I'll be buying great sounding components, like the BDP-105, because they convey the essence of the music and not because they're either optimal or have great specs.