Op-Ed: Why High-End Audio is Riddled with Snake Oil - Page 12 - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #331 of 592 Old 02-15-2018, 06:56 PM
 
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Originally Posted by jsrtheta View Post
Then provide some evidence. Where is this "plenty of science"? Where is this "common sense"? (You do know, right, that common sense is called "common" because it's so rare?)

Your plethora of posts boil down to "you're wrong!" and "anyone can tell the difference!" Not exactly persuasive.

The reason people respond the way they do is because you are saying nothing that hasn't been claimed before, and nothing that is supported by evidence. Simply put, you have provided nothing to dispute what years of research and testing have shown.

I mean, seriously, people like Robert Harley, and Michael Fremer, and Harry Pearson are a joke. Harley spent years at Stereophile performing jitter tests incorrectly. Fremer, aside from a loathsome person, spent pages trying to convince people that their CDs were going to "rot" after a few years. (My CDs from the '80s still play flawlessly.) Pearson was another nasty character.

For Harley's "expertise" go to the original page 67 here: http://www.biline.ca/audio_critic/ma...ritic_19_r.pdf

For Pearson's "expertise," original page 53 will do: http://www.biline.ca/audio_critic/ma...ritic_17_r.pdf

Anyone can say anything. Proving it is a different matter entirely.
I've already given plenty of examples, from Nelson Pass to an AES study, hit your back button. It really isn't worth my time to provide any more. If I'm wrong, at least I'll be in good company with one of the most respected guys in the industry whose been doing this for 40 years.

My opinion is that careful comparison over a healthy period of time in your own home listening environment is the best way to evaluate all types of gear for how they sound, not double blind testing. It is also much more practical.
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post #332 of 592 Old 02-15-2018, 07:17 PM
 
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Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
My opinion is that careful comparison over a healthy period of time in your own home listening environment is the best way to evaluate all types of gear for how they sound, not double blind testing. It is also much more practical.
Careful would have to include carefully matching levels. Not doing it would disqualify from being such.
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post #333 of 592 Old 02-15-2018, 07:23 PM
 
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Careful would have to include carefully matching levels. Not doing it would disqualify from being such.
In a quick A/B test, absolutely. That's not what I'm referring to though.
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post #334 of 592 Old 02-15-2018, 08:42 PM
 
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Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
In a quick A/B test, absolutely. That's not what I'm referring to though.
Careful would have to include accounting for human aural memory span. Not doing it would disqualify from being such.
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post #335 of 592 Old 02-15-2018, 08:49 PM
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Originally Posted by torii View Post
well when it comes to proof...I would like to see the proof of all the items that measure exactly the same?
But they won't MEASURE the same!

Even with the Denon / Yamaha AV receiver example I made. On a modern AP analyzer there will be measurable differences. The point is the MAGNITUDE of these differences. If one measures 0.05% distortion and the other 0.08%, yes there is a difference. But that will hardly be audible, hence they still sound the same.

This is a common trick in audiophile rags. Showing a difference on a waveform picture but leaving out the scaling data. Any minute difference can be magnified to ridiculous margins. Only with the measurement scale shown and the understanding of the technology can a proper determination be made.

This fact just further proves modern test equipment is capable of detecting differences that are far below human hearing thresholds.
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post #336 of 592 Old 02-15-2018, 11:06 PM
 
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Careful would have to include accounting for human aural memory span. Not doing it would disqualify from being such.
Only by your definition.
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post #337 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 03:47 AM
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And I could not measure any change in response even remotely close to that large when comparing 4 feet of 14-gauge speaker cable to about 25 feet of crumpled aluminum foil. Aside from a measurable increase in resistance, that is.






https://www.avsforum.com/forum/91-aud...able-test.html
Thanks. This is scientific proof that you cannot quantify sound quality with charts and calculators. This actually proves the measurements are not accurate. Otherwise everyone would just buy the cheapest aluminum foil and gear they could find.
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post #338 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 03:50 AM
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Originally Posted by LFEer View Post
Sound familiar... One play pattern is missing though, the system isn't resolving enough to reveal the difference.
Cool. You keep enjoying your Bluetooth boom box from Big Lots. Cause you’ve measured and all gear and wire sound the same.
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post #339 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 04:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by funky54 View Post
Cool. You keep enjoying your Bluetooth boom box from Big Lots. Cause you’ve measured and all gear and wire sound the same.
I don't believe anyone said all speakers measure and sound the same. Indeed, there's plenty of solid, documented evidence this is not the case.
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post #340 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 04:56 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by funky54 View Post
Thanks. This is scientific proof that you cannot quantify sound quality with charts and calculators. This actually proves the measurements are not accurate. Otherwise everyone would just buy the cheapest aluminum foil and gear they could find.
It's absurd for you to draw that conclusion, which is false to the core, since you are just looking at a picture and then trying to deny a documented fact about how the system sounds when I swap a four-foot copper cable for this:



My measurements are accurate and repeatable.

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post #341 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 05:40 AM
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Since I read Stereo Review's famous amplifier comparison back in the late 80's and saw the vehement response to it, I knew these debates on various audio components would never be resolved. But the question for (for lack of a better term) subjectivists, that always peaked my curiousity was: What evidence would change your mind?
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post #342 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 05:44 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by SmittyJS View Post
Since I read Stereo Review's famous amplifier comparison back in the late 80's and saw the vehement response to it, I knew these debates on various audio components would never be resolved. But the question for (for lack of a better term) subjectivists, that always peaked my curiousity was: What evidence would change your mind?
Do you mean Stereophile's "The Carver Challenge": https://www.stereophile.com/content/carver-challenge (edit - no, they meant Stereo Review, now I know)

The issue with changing minds is that presenting evidence is not all that effective a tactic, and that's regardless of the topic. (At least according to some psychologist on NPR radio that I overheard while riding in an Uber.)

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post #343 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 06:08 AM
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Originally Posted by imagic View Post
I suspect you mean Stereophile's "The Carver Challenge": https://www.stereophile.com/content/carver-challenge

The issue with changing minds is that presenting evidence is not all that effective a tactic, and that's regardless of the topic. (At least according to some psychologist on NPR radio that I overheard while riding in an Uber.)
No, he means Stereo Review. Somewhere about 1985, they did a massive double blind test of a number of amplifiers of broadly varying prices. Statistically speaking, no one could hear any differences.

There is no link to the original article, though you might still find scanned copies of the magazine.
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post #344 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 06:26 AM
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Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
Every post I make contrary to the popular opinion has been refuted. I haven't been granted an inch, no matter the argument, so what is the point?

The vast majority here are operating on the premise that a double blind test is the end all be all in audio. There is plenty of science and common sense to refute that claim.
I thought you were leaving Mr. science denier?

I think you're not here for the audio talk, you just like to argue. Not matter what tests or evidence people post you dismiss it all and revert to anecdote.
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post #345 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 06:45 AM - Thread Starter
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No, he means Stereo Review. Somewhere about 1985, they did a massive double blind test of a number of amplifiers of broadly varying prices. Statistically speaking, no one could hear any differences.

There is no link to the original article, though you might still find scanned copies of the magazine.
Ah, cool, thank you. Seems it will gather dust in libraries, that would be a shame. If that's how it was then, today's amp should be even tougher to tell apart would be my guess.

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An equally ad supported consumer magazine.

If the test was done as you say, where is the technical paper submitted for peer review? This is also a requirement in scientific research.
Love that you presuppose that magazines are biased based on ad revenue. Most of the companies who’s products are tested are not advertisers.

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Most of the companies who’s products are tested are not advertisers.
That's not really true, but assume that it is. Doesn't matter because the real goal of magazines like that is to promote the idea that in general more expensive products sound better. Advertisers of high end gear benefit from that impression even if their particular products don't get reviewed.
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Love that you presuppose that magazines are biased based on ad revenue. Most of the companies who’s products are tested are not advertisers.
Are you absolutely sure their distributors aren't advertisers?

But there are also many other reasons, why reviews might not be objective.
Some intentional, others unintentional.
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post #349 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 07:55 AM
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so if wires are all similar...can snake oil be used for cd/dvd/br players? amps sounding same, has to be some measurements we are not taking into consideration...do subwoofers sound the same if level matched? I just feel like alot of stuff sounds different. cant afford most of it, but everything in a system is important or contributes to the sound.

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Originally Posted by rnsound View Post
That's not really true, but assume that it is. Doesn't matter because the real goal of magazines like that is to promote the idea that in general more expensive products sound better. Advertisers of high end gear benefit from that impression even if their particular products don't get reviewed.
I subscribe to TAS and don't think the editors are corrupt. Many of the editors, in fact most of them are not direct employees but are contracted to write reviews. They are enthusiasts of high end hifi and are very experienced and knowledgeable. Perhaps I'm not as cynical as some here in this regard. The same claim has been made about enthusiast car magazines, especially about their love for BMW autos. But how do they explain the lack of enthusiasm for BMW cars over the last 6-7 years since the products became less interesting to enthusiasts?
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post #351 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 08:23 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by rnsound View Post
That's not really true, but assume that it is. Doesn't matter because the real goal of magazines like that is to promote the idea that in general more expensive products sound better. Advertisers of high end gear benefit from that impression even if their particular products don't get reviewed.
The goal of all magazines at this point is to stay in business long enough for the veterans to collect pensions.
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post #352 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 08:36 AM
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The goal of all magazines at this point is to stay in business long enough for the veterans to collect pensions.
Most have online versions which also require a subscription. I am old school and prefer a hard copy, but them again I drive a manual transmission car and my hifi electronics are powered by tubes. And.....vinyl rules .
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post #353 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 08:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Most have online versions which also require a subscription. I am old school and prefer a hard copy, but them again I drive a manual transmission car and my hifi electronics are powered by tubes. And.....vinyl rules .
Yes, but let's take two examples: Stereophile and Sound and Vision. Both reserve their content for the print issue, it won't show up on the web until it hits newsstands. It's simple self-preservation, namely to keep the print advertisers happy, but it's a death-spiral in the sense that web-only properties can get an unboxing/hands-on/review of a brand-new product up a lot faster. We're talking a gap of weeks at the absolute minimum, maybe months.
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post #354 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 08:45 AM
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Originally Posted by MSchott View Post
I subscribe to TAS and don't think the editors are corrupt. Many of the editors, in fact most of them are not direct employees but are contracted to write reviews. They are enthusiasts of high end hifi and are very experienced and knowledgeable. Perhaps I'm not as cynical as some here in this regard. The same claim has been made about enthusiast car magazines, especially about their love for BMW autos. But how do they explain the lack of enthusiasm for BMW cars over the last 6-7 years since the products became less interesting to enthusiasts?

Less corrupt now, thinking of a few car mags such as Motor Twit back in the day. And thinking specifically of something like the ad buy proposed to Pontiac in exchange for the car of the year award in 1965. Went on every year with some manufacture/brand. Don't think it's as true today. Also don't think it's particularly true of TAS and Stereophile for the reasons you state, plus the mags erect a pretty strong firewall between reviewers and advertising. Are there attempt to influence, you bet.

Mark can probably speak to the above. I also wouldn't be at all surprised if Mark also gets pressure from corporate to 'create' page views to get ad revenue up, hence a topic like this one.

Anyway, I buy audio (what little I buy these days) based on extended listening in my system, in my room(s), with my music, but do consult current or back issues of TAS and Stereophile plus a few other syndicated reviewers such as someone like Steve Guttenberg before buying. They listen to far more pieces of equipment than I ever can so their opinion (of many of the reviewers, but not all) is valuable. I'm cheap so I try to buy right so if I make a mistake, I can get out of it. My issue is that I just don't get around to selling much of anything ..... or these dreadful B&W 685 S2s wouldn't be staring me in the face as I sit here in my home office. I had a big bunch of credit card reward points about to roll off and I could exchange them for Best Buy gift cards so I wasted them.

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I subscribe to TAS and don't think the editors are corrupt.
Isn't that the magazine which the Editor-In-Chief is Robert Harley?
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post #356 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 10:06 AM
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I certainly can't speak for the entire audiophile magazine industry, but what I *do* know suggests that some of the viewpoints on the motives of audio writers can veer into the too-cynical.

When I was writing reviews for an on-line mag (Stereotimes), I was never pressured either in what to review, or in what to write. It was simply call 'em as you see 'em. Similarly, a friend of mine writes for Soundstage and he says the same. No pressure write glowing reviews for any product he is sent (or chooses to write about). And when I was more connected in the industry, that was generally the theme among other writers that I knew.

So at least from a writers point of view, my experience isn't a cynical one. Which has led me to a fair amount of eye-rolling over the years when I read over the top conspiracy-minded posts that you just can't trust any high end magazine reviews because they are all in the pocket or beholden to advertisers, and therefore craft reviews to that end.

I'm certainly not saying such things don't happen. But generally speaking magazines are run and staffed by audio enthusiasts who just love listening to and writing about gear. And most often, because there are so many products out there, the sifting method is essentially having heard a product somewhere (e.g. audio show, showroom, manufacturer's place, friend's home, etc) that showed promise or grabbed one's fancy. So there is to some degree a selection bias for products that already appeal, and hence are more likely to end up getting a good review. This is essentially a method of audio writers stalking the gear landscape and selecting out items they think are worth writing about, to let readers know about. That was exactly my approach too "Hey, I heard this speaker and I think it's worth more people knowing about this product, so I'll write about it."
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post #357 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by imagic View Post
Ah, cool, thank you. Seems it will gather dust in libraries, that would be a shame. If that's how it was then, today's amp should be even tougher to tell apart would be my guess.
I wish I had kept the original, but I downloaded this scanned article a while ago. I'm not 100% sure this is the original article. It may be a story about the original article, but the results are here.
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post #358 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by torii View Post
so if wires are all similar...can snake oil be used for cd/dvd/br players? amps sounding same, has to be some measurements we are not taking into consideration...do subwoofers sound the same if level matched? I just feel like alot of stuff sounds different. cant afford most of it, but everything in a system is important or contributes to the sound.
Subwoofers typically measure different enough that one can know that some will sound different before one listens to them. This is because there has been research into the question of what types of differences tend to be audible, and how much of a difference it takes. Of course, if something is on the edge, so to speak, of what has been proven to be noticeable, then one may not know if there will be an audible difference or not.

The same idea applies to other speakers. They commonly measure sufficiently different that one would expect to be able to hear a difference. This is not just frequency response and distortion, but with speakers, there is also the issue of dispersion, which will affect how the sounds bounce around in a room.

And the same idea applies to many analog sources, like cassette decks, with significant differences in frequency response and wow & flutter. (Thinking about this is reminding me of why I switched over to CDs back in the 1980's.)


Now, if you do not properly level match two pieces of equipment, then you will likely hear a difference between them, as one can hear differences in volume, if they are different enough. And because human hearing is not linear, a difference in volume will be perceived as tonally different, with the louder one seeming to have more bass and a little more treble. (This is what those "loudness compensation" controls deal with on old stereo equipment, to boost the bass and treble for listening at low volumes, to make it sound more natural than it would if one just has the volume low.) And, of course, one will be able to hear more details in the one that is slightly louder.

So, sure, if you go into a stereo shop and hook up two amplifiers, or two CD players, or two of almost anything that affects the level, you will likely hear a difference. But if just turning up the volume control will make up the difference, then paying extra for one over the other would be a waste of money.

And, because humans are not test equipment, one needs to be careful about how to deal with human bias, which is where the double blind testing comes in. Of course, most people are not going to do this for themselves, but it is the sort of thing that has been done, and so there is scientific information about how much of a difference matters, and what kind of a difference matters, for actually hearing a difference.


In the case of well-made modern amplifiers, with them sounding the same when operated within their design parameters, that still does not mean that there is no reason to pick one over the other. For one thing, the design parameters are often different, with one being more suitable for a wider range of speaker impedances, one may be capable of putting out vastly more power, etc. Plus there are unexciting things, like reliability, as some brands have gotten too sloppy in their manufacturing and sometimes make a receiver that is unreliable (which should never happen these days, given the state of knowledge of how to make such things, and how reliable these things can be). But, of course, companies want to maximize profits, so they like to make the things as cheaply as possible.


In my case, I have some nominally 3 ohm Apogee ribbon speakers, and so (when I first got them) I decided to buy an amplifier rated for such a low impedance, instead of just using what I had that was rated for 4 ohms minimum. I might have been able to get away with using what I had (I think I probably could have), but I do sometimes listen at fairly high volumes for extended periods of time, and I did not want my amplifier to go up in a puff of smoke (possibly also destroying the speakers in the process). It may have been okay, but I did not want to take the chance, and so I purchased a more capable amplifier. At least at low volume, I noticed no difference in sound whatsoever. Of course, I did not buy the amplifier to improve the sound; I bought it to prevent damage from using an amplifier in a manner not consistent with the warnings on the back. Since I could afford buying a better amplifier (though I saved a lot of money by buying it used), I figure it is better to be safe than sorry, as the trite old saying goes.

So when one pays attention to the science of what is going on, one still often has reason to not buy the cheapest piece of equipment one can find. (In fact, the science will tell you not to, when one finds things that are very cheap that measure very badly.)
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post #359 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 10:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R Harkness View Post
I certainly can't speak for the entire audiophile magazine industry, but what I *do* know suggests that some of the viewpoints on the motives of audio writers can veer into the too-cynical.

When I was writing reviews for an on-line mag (Stereotimes), I was never pressured either in what to review, or in what to write. It was simply call 'em as you see 'em. Similarly, a friend of mine writes for Soundstage and he says the same. No pressure write glowing reviews for any product he is sent (or chooses to write about). And when I was more connected in the industry, that was generally the theme among other writers that I knew.

So at least from a writers point of view, my experience isn't a cynical one. Which has led me to a fair amount of eye-rolling over the years when I read over the top conspiracy-minded posts that you just can't trust any high end magazine reviews because they are all in the pocket or beholden to advertisers, and therefore craft reviews to that end.

I'm certainly not saying such things don't happen. But generally speaking magazines are run and staffed by audio enthusiasts who just love listening to and writing about gear. And most often, because there are so many products out there, the sifting method is essentially having heard a product somewhere (e.g. audio show, showroom, manufacturer's place, friend's home, etc) that showed promise or grabbed one's fancy. So there is to some degree a selection bias for products that already appeal, and hence are more likely to end up getting a good review. This is essentially a method of audio writers stalking the gear landscape and selecting out items they think are worth writing about, to let readers know about. That was exactly my approach too "Hey, I heard this speaker and I think it's worth more people knowing about this product, so I'll write about it."
I'm not familiar with Stereotimes, but Soundstage publishes glowing reviews of products like DACs and cables among other things. So how seriously can you take them? They may not pressure reviewers to favor particular brands or products, but they select reviewers who are predisposed to buy into the "expensive gear sounds better" thing. As I said before, it's not always important which particular products they hype, just that they give credence to the notion that over priced gear is "worth it". That serves their advertisers.
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post #360 of 592 Old 02-16-2018, 10:22 AM
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Talk about snake oil...Let's see some double blind tests of atmos in 5.4.1 vs atmos folded down to 7.1. I'd love to see if your results match my own double blind tests which show atmos performs just as well without the overheads if the room is acoustically engineered for proper reflection.
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