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Do Audio Measurements Correlate With Sound Quality?

Poll Results: Do Audio Measurements Correlate With Sound Quality?

 
  • 35% (100)
    Yes, they are strongly correlated
  • 18% (51)
    Yes, but they are only weakly correlated
  • 4% (13)
    No, they are not correlated at all
  • 42% (119)
    It depends on the type of product, testing, and environment
283 Total Votes  
post #1 of 219
Thread Starter 

As anyone with an interest in audio products knows, manufacturers always provide a spec sheet with measurements of various parameters, which most savvy consumers know to take with a grain of salt. And presumably unbiased reviewers often take their own measurements and publish the results with their reviews.

 

But how are those measurements, which use test signals, related to the sound quality of a given product playing music? I've certainly observed that poor measurements do not necessarily mean poor subjective performance, and that good measurements do not necessarily reflect good performance. On the other hand, measurements sometimes support—and even explain—a reviewer's subjective impressions.

 

Do you think that objective measurements of an audio product using test signals correlate with the subjective sound quality of that product playing music? If so, how strong is that correlation? On what do you base your position?

post #2 of 219
Klipsch speakers measure well and have terrific efficiency. But to many, including myself, they cause ear bleeding. End of argument, period.

Measurements are one tool to evaluate a product and a good one, but there is no substitute for dealing with room issues and listening in one's own environment and comparing carefully.

Finally, the emotion of music has no graph.
post #3 of 219
Floyd Toole and others have devoted many years of research to the subject of obtaining and interpreting objective measurements that can accurately predict subjective preference. And they succeeded for the most part.

No component will please all of the people all of the time, but a component that objectively measures well will please most of the people most of the time. Of course, this assumes all bias removed from the listening (blind) and all volumes precisely matched.
post #4 of 219
That's a yes and no question. Measurements are one thing, you like the sound that comes out the speaker or you don't.
post #5 of 219
It definitely depends on the conditions of the environment you're listening in and the equipment used as I have fine-tuned everything from 5 different car stereo's to Home theater receivers.

No setting is the same (as goes for TV's) and Equipment I'd say is the first thing that matters before environment since the equipment needs to be capable of adapting to its surroundings.
post #6 of 219
All else being the same, I would want a component that faithfully reproduces, transmits or outputs (depending on the component function) the audio signal that was presented at the input. So yes, it absolutely matters how a component measures.

Unfortunately, "all else" is not always the same - and this is where reviewer bias, room effects, treatments used to modify them and even the vagaries of the human listening experience come into play.
post #7 of 219
I voted on "it depends" because no matter how well a speaker may measure it does not take into account the room effects on the sound. Also, there is something else to consider that is not shown in a graph.

How is the speaker making the sound?

Coaxial drivers, full range drivers, synergy horns all act more like a point sources while your more conventional speaker may simply be time aligned.

So even though both may be creating a flat frequency response, the way a speaker is making it may be entirely different.

Look at the work of Linkwitz and how he compares a planar speaker to his dipole designs. Sure, he is promoting his own designs but there have been others that have shown how planar speakers have more of a "star"' shaped dispersion while the LX521 and Orion are more of a figure 8.
post #8 of 219
Quote:
Originally Posted by grasswaiting View Post

Klipsch speakers measure well and have terrific efficiency. But to many, including myself, they cause ear bleeding. End of argument, period.

Measurements are one tool to evaluate a product and a good one, but there is no substitute for dealing with room issues and listening in one's own environment and comparing carefully.

Finally, the emotion of music has no graph.

Not that I like Klipsch speakers at all, efficiency has no correlation to audio quality.
post #9 of 219
Quote:
Originally Posted by adupree View Post

Not that I like Klipsch speakers at all, efficiency has no correlation to audio quality.
I have no opinion on Klipsch speakers as I have not spent enough time listening to them to form an opinion, but I disagree. Efficiency can have profound effects on audio quality. The amplifier does not have to provide as much power for a particular SPL and therefore is able to stay within it's operating limits even when called upon for sudden increases in volume with dynamic sources. With high efficiency speakers, it is very likely that both the amplifier and the speaker are well within their limits when outputting reference level sound. With low efficiency speakers, it may be impossible to achieve the listening experience of a high efficiency design because the speaker reaches the limits of its power handling or begins to distort before it reaches SPL's that high efficiency speakers reach with ease. I am sure that there are plenty of low efficiency speakers out there that can perform well with enough power behind them, but many can't Many people to not have the money or wiring in their house to support high powered amps, even if that particular low efficiency speaker could handle the extra power. If given the choice between a low efficiency speaker with a perfect frequency response and a high efficiency speaker with a pretty good frequency response, I would take the high efficiency design every time. There is really no comparison to the listening experience.
post #10 of 219
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jedirun View Post

I have no opinion on Klipsch speakers as I have not spent enough time listening to them to form an opinion, but I disagree. Efficiency can have profound effects on audio quality. The amplifier does not have to provide as much power for a particular SPL and therefore is able to stay within it's operating limits even when called upon for sudden increases in volume with dynamic sources. With high efficiency speakers, it is very likely that both the amplifier and the speaker are well within their limits when outputting reference level sound. With low efficiency speakers, it may be impossible to achieve the listening experience of a high efficiency design because the speaker reaches the limits of its power handling or begins to distort before it reaches SPL's that high efficiency speakers reach with ease. I am sure that there are plenty of low efficiency speakers out there that can perform well with enough power behind them, but many can't Many people to not have the money or wiring in their house to support high powered amps, even if that particular low efficiency speaker could handle the extra power. If given the choice between a low efficiency speaker with a perfect frequency response and a high efficiency speaker with a pretty good frequency response, I would take the high efficiency design every time. There is really no comparison to the listening experience.

This is one of the reasons it seems JTR speakers sound so good. Of course that paired with the quality components and build help to. It does seem natural to arrive at the conclusion that you have explained here smile.gif. A burst in the dynamic range of a song now has absolute minimal levels of distortion as less power is needed to achieve the spl. My short experience with JTR's and what many owners say is that they are very pleasing to the ears and that all high levels in the dynamic range of a track are never anywhere near harsh. All while another speaker may be at the same spl but sound terrible and all you can think is turn it down please!!!
post #11 of 219
Some do and some don't. A measurement ofr 5% harmonic distortion in an amplifier will certainly be audible. The difference between .1 and .01% will not.
post #12 of 219
I voted it depends on the type of product, testing and environment. Some testing can be useful but I do think some take the testing and measurements to extremes and try to correct for every little thing. This would drive me nuts and take away a lot of the enjoyment for me. YMMV.
Edited by comfynumb - 9/7/13 at 3:04am
post #13 of 219
If measurement graphs were the end all be all, tubes and vinyl would no longer exist. That would be a sad day indeed.
post #14 of 219
Tubes and vinyl are still around for emotional reasons, not critical reasons. Its like owning a 67 Corvette Stingray or 74 Porsche 911S - they are desireable for their aesthetic charms, but by modern performance standards, they are seriously lacking.

BTW, I do own and still use my tube amp and turntable sometimes.
Edited by palmfish - 9/7/13 at 9:11am
post #15 of 219
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jedirun View Post

I have no opinion on Klipsch speakers as I have not spent enough time listening to them to form an opinion, but I disagree. Efficiency can have profound effects on audio quality. The amplifier does not have to provide as much power for a particular SPL and therefore is able to stay within it's operating limits even when called upon for sudden increases in volume with dynamic sources. With high efficiency speakers, it is very likely that both the amplifier and the speaker are well within their limits when outputting reference level sound. With low efficiency speakers, it may be impossible to achieve the listening experience of a high efficiency design because the speaker reaches the limits of its power handling or begins to distort before it reaches SPL's that high efficiency speakers reach with ease. I am sure that there are plenty of low efficiency speakers out there that can perform well with enough power behind them, but many can't Many people to not have the money or wiring in their house to support high powered amps, even if that particular low efficiency speaker could handle the extra power. If given the choice between a low efficiency speaker with a perfect frequency response and a high efficiency speaker with a pretty good frequency response, I would take the high efficiency design every time. There is really no comparison to the listening experience.

post #16 of 219
LOL
Edited by palmfish - 9/7/13 at 9:15am
post #17 of 219
Hmmm
Quote:
Poll Results: Do Audio Measurements Correlate With Sound Quality?


45% (24)
Yes, they are strongly correlated
9% (5)
Yes, but they are only weakly correlated
1% (1)
No, they are not correlated at all
43% (23)
It depends on the type of product, testing, and environment

Q: Do Audio Measurements Correlate With Sound Quality?

I take it these are NOT DIY measurement, like I've taken for my tweaking, but Manuf of equipment.

Follow-up;
-are the said measurements done "correctly"
-according to std testing guidelines?
-In controlled and known environment?

If yes to above, then one should be able to compare them, knowing their baseline is same and true apple-apples

Hence I picked the last one. "it depends..." That is the Engineer in me....
post #18 of 219
Obviously, it depends. There are many measurements taken and displayed that are known to correlate very weakly to perception. Most measurements taken on DACs and amplifiers, for instance, or THD measurements on anything. I honestly think most such measurements are taken to keep up an appearance of scientific rigor.

However, there are measurements that we know to correlate very well with human perception. The two most obvious ones are design-axis frequency response and horizontal polars for loudspeakers.

Another measurement known to correlate with sonic differences (because it affects the frequency response of the system) is output (aka source) impedance in amplifiers. "Tube sound" is mostly just midrange boost caused by high output impedance. Stereophile's simulated speaker load shows the EQ curves that high source impedance applies on a fairly easy-to-drive speaker.
Quote:
Originally Posted by grasswaiting View Post

If measurement graphs were the end all be all, tubes and vinyl would no longer exist. That would be a sad day indeed.

Vinyl will be around so long as there is good music encoded in pits dug in black round disks designed to be extracted with a rock, that has not migrated to a modern format. Also, unfortunately a modern trend is to release a crappy version on a modern format and a cleaner version on an inferior format. See e.g. the Pearl Jam Ten Legacy Edition, which is compressed all to hell on digital and has considerably more dynamic range on vinyl. The limitation there is certainly not technical, as digital is capable of far superior dynamic range. The issue is probably more record label paranoia about digital rights than anything else, with elitism perhaps coming in second.

Tubes exist mostly to satisfy retro-fetishists, though...
post #19 of 219
I am not sure there is a clear answer to this question... Interesting to debate though.
post #20 of 219
Quote:
Originally Posted by PlexMulti View Post


You disagree with that info? Or something else?
post #21 of 219
Quote:
Originally Posted by palmfish View Post

Floyd Toole and others have devoted many years of research to the subject of obtaining and interpreting objective measurements that can accurately predict subjective preference. And they succeeded for the most part.
Yup, after doing enough objective measurements paired with subjective listening tests they were able to see a pattern linking the two, which now allows them now to look at measurements and predict listener preference. If preference is a metric of sound quality, then measurements do correlate well.
post #22 of 219
Quote:
Originally Posted by PlexMulti View Post

Can you elaborate on why I am wrong, rather than just insulting me. I would like to learn.
post #23 of 219
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jedirun View Post

Can you elaborate on why I am wrong, rather than just insulting me. I would like to learn.



Don't sweat it, your entitled to your opinion smile.gif
I've had both inefficient speakers- PSB original golds and my more efficient Revel F52's. In the end with the right power going to them they both sounded great.
Edited by comfynumb - 9/7/13 at 3:35pm
post #24 of 219
I think we have to differentiate between carefully measured specs carried out by thoughtful and unbiased people and published specs from the OEMs. Too many people shop by numbers, and having been burned doing such I shun the practice. I audition gear in the store two or three times with material I know. If it survives I bring it home and listen critically after allowing for setup and tweaking.

Frequently I find gear that does really well with some recordings or scenes, but not so well on others. The best I can get is a strong average with emphasis on what I like to watch and listen to -- can't peak everything all of the time.

So for me, I don't even look at the specs when shopping except to gauge the class of machine -- 25 watts or 500 watts, etc..
post #25 of 219
Quote:
Originally Posted by palmfish View Post

Floyd Toole and others have devoted many years of research to the subject of obtaining and interpreting objective measurements that can accurately predict subjective preference. And they succeeded for the most part.

But what Floyd did was simply a statistical study at best. If you read any statistics book, it will clearly telll you there is a "HUGE" difference between correlation and causation. It is just too easy to dismiss some cases as outliers or even call them "exception" in a statistical study. Haven't we learnt enough from Merk? It was a fresh look at the problem when things are grosssly wrong. But even as Toole has said in the paper: there is no new surprise from the study. All the metrics he used were all known ideas. He didn't invent new mesasurement methods. What we need is new ideas and new measurement methods.
post #26 of 219
My ML prodigy's are not super efficient, but combined with tubes and a good source; the large diaphragm recreates music differently (at least to my ears) than anuthing else that I've heard. I wouldn't use them in my theater though.
post #27 of 219
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jedirun View Post

Can you elaborate on why I am wrong, rather than just insulting me. I would like to learn.

I cant speak for plexmulti (who posted the facepalm), but my response would be that the scenario you describe (pairing an inefficient loudspeaker with a lesser amp) is really not the topic of this discussion.

For example, while its true that a lesser amp may not be able to drive inefficient loudspeakers thus causing them to sound bad, it's also true that thick wool blankets draped over the drivers will cause a speaker to sound bad.

Neither case has anything to do with how measurements correlate to sound quality.
post #28 of 219
How do you built a speaker without measurement? It's the voicing that may not need measurement but I'm unsure of that.
post #29 of 219
Quote:
Originally Posted by palmfish View Post

I cant speak for plexmulti (who posted the facepalm), but my response would be that the scenario you describe (pairing an inefficient loudspeaker with a lesser amp) is really not the topic of this discussion.

For example, while its true that a lesser amp may not be able to drive inefficient loudspeakers thus causing them to sound bad, it's also true that thick wool blankets draped over the drivers will cause a speaker to sound bad.

Neither case has anything to do with how measurements correlate to sound quality.

But thats not simply cut and dry what he said. He was stating how efficient speakers have an effect on SQ in response to a comment that stated efficiency has nothing to do with SQ. The inefficient speaker with the lesser power amp was a side example to his main point as they have power limits and driver limits that don't allow them to play as loud, or in some cases, even at reference with good SQ because they have already hit their limits. And I believe this generated from some comments about some aspects of SQ are immeasurable. But it's all good:D
post #30 of 219
Quote:
Originally Posted by jlpowell84 View Post

But thats not simply cut and dry what he said. He was stating how efficient speakers have an effect on SQ in response to a comment that stated efficiency has nothing to do with SQ. The inefficient speaker with the lesser power amp was a side example to his main point as they have power limits and driver limits that don't allow them to play as loud, or in some cases, even at reference with good SQ because they have already hit their limits. And I believe this generated from some comments about some aspects of SQ are immeasurable. But it's all good:D

Well yes, I see your point. But the problem is he doesn't define what he means by "efficient." Is it "inefficient" because it is low impedance or low "sensitivity" (or both)?
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