Why ABX tests in HiFI are silly - Twittering Machines - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 274 Old 06-26-2019, 11:39 AM - Thread Starter
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Why ABX tests in HiFI are silly - Twittering Machines



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ABX tests in audio are simply silly because short-term memory, which is what we’re actually testing in an ABX test, is short—it has a finite capacity, about ~18 seconds, depending on the person taking the test and the material used. [footnote 2] At best, ABX test results will tell us something about the abilities of each tester under the specific conditions of the test. Nothing more, nothing less.
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Also, tests are boring. Music is supposed to be fun.
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post #2 of 274 Old 06-26-2019, 12:29 PM
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This seems like a whole lot of chum in the waters...

Perhaps tests are boring to you, there are plenty around here that seem to really like them.

Some guys are anti measurement, personally i love the measurements because it helps me understand what I am hearing, some people only care that the measurement tells them it sounds good.

Some guys love expensive anything, other people only care how cheap it is, other people want to find a 'value leader'.

All DAC's sound the same to some and totally different to others. I have heard the argument that if you cant hear the difference then your system isnt resolving enough, I have also heard the argument that its so obvious that any laptop speakers will do.

Speaker cables are all the same, they are all different but cost is irrelevant, or they are all different and you get what you pay for.

I could go on and on and on... Point is enjoy the hobby the way you want to, but perhaps telling others they are wrong for enjoying it differently than you do is whats boring.
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post #3 of 274 Old 06-26-2019, 12:39 PM
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I found testing under pressure is totally useless. People tend to hone in and listen to very specific things. They listen so closely they miss the moon. I am not going to say ABX or DBT test is useless, but the ultimate is living with it for a few days. It's when you are relax, not even concentrating on judging, that's when good or bad stands out.


My experienced in comparison testing and from that I chose one particular amp that I felt was the best. I put it in the system and use it. Two days later, I switched it out. I thought I like the sound stage surrounding me in the testing. But in regular use, I don't like it at all. It took me two days to decide that and I am never happier that I switched it out.


Point is you judge by living with it for a few days. DBT and ABX is not accurate.
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post #4 of 274 Old 06-26-2019, 12:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emcdade View Post




https://twitteringmachines.com/the-f...ifi-are-silly/

Also, tests are boring. Music is supposed to be fun.
You can have fun with music, and still like testing. Not mutually exclusive.
After all, setting up your system for the best sound involves testing speaker placement, if nothing else.
In my case, I will let others that enjoy the testing do it, and I will reap the benefits and enjoy my music.
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post #5 of 274 Old 06-26-2019, 12:48 PM - Thread Starter
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Didn’t know “tests are boring” was such an offensive opinion.
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post #6 of 274 Old 06-26-2019, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
Didn’t know “tests are boring” was such an offensive opinion.
Come on, dude, you start these threads to be provocative. Nothing wrong with that, but it's pretty obvious.
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post #7 of 274 Old 06-26-2019, 01:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emcdade View Post




https://twitteringmachines.com/the-f...ifi-are-silly/

Also, tests are boring. Music is supposed to be fun.
Many with very little knowledge of Audio, rely on tests and measurements. Some times it is just to inflate their own ego some how. Some times
it is to attract attention, and make money on hits, because of testing, combined with a desire to be popular on the forums an internet.
The fact is there is too much focus on tests and measurements, as this is the way the industry has decided to SELL product. Especially with all the
sales online, its not like you can demo stuff, so in comes the measurements. This is especially true with newer AVRS with Auto EQ. etc.

Fact is while there is some merit to measurements, ie. SN. THD etc, as one wants to be able to buy what level of sound they want, There is very little validity in blind testing. It is not just memory............. We hear with our Brains not our ears. Our brains then tell us what we hear. At best our hearing is no where near flat. It gets worse with Age. It gets worse depending on how attentive out brains are at the moment. Many will hear better after 5 hours break after work , then immediately after a hectic noisy day. In the end we must adjust the sound to OUR EARS.

Auto equalization, is a way to get a quick starting point. After that you have to fine tune anyway. Most of the time I can do a better job with my ears the first time.

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post #8 of 274 Old 06-26-2019, 01:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnplayerson View Post
Many with very little knowledge of Audio, rely on tests and measurements. Some times it is just to inflate their own ego some how. Some times
it is to attract attention, and make money on hits, because of testing, combined with a desire to be popular on the forums an internet.
The fact is there is too much focus on tests and measurements, as this is the way the industry has decided to SELL product. Especially with all the
sales online, its not like you can demo stuff, so in comes the measurements. This is especially true with newer AVRS with Auto EQ. etc.

Fact is while there is some merit to measurements, ie. SN. THD etc, as one wants to be able to buy what level of sound they want, There is very little validity in blind testing. It is not just memory............. We hear with our Brains not our ears. Our brains then tell us what we hear. At best our hearing is no where near flat. It gets worse with Age. It gets worse depending on how attentive out brains are at the moment. Many will hear better after 5 hours break after work , then immediately after a hectic noisy day. In the end we must adjust the sound to OUR EARS.

Auto equalization, is a way to get a quick starting point. After that you have to fine tune anyway. Most of the time I can do a better job with my ears the first time.

Second that.

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post #9 of 274 Old 06-26-2019, 01:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plasma_fan View Post
This seems like a whole lot of chum in the waters...

Perhaps tests are boring to you, there are plenty around here that seem to really like them.

Some guys are anti measurement, personally i love the measurements because it helps me understand what I am hearing, some people only care that the measurement tells them it sounds good.

Some guys love expensive anything, other people only care how cheap it is, other people want to find a 'value leader'.

All DAC's sound the same to some and totally different to others. I have heard the argument that if you cant hear the difference then your system isnt resolving enough, I have also heard the argument that its so obvious that any laptop speakers will do.

Speaker cables are all the same, they are all different but cost is irrelevant, or they are all different and you get what you pay for.

I could go on and on and on... Point is enjoy the hobby the way you want to, but perhaps telling others they are wrong for enjoying it differently than you do is whats boring.
You’re straw-manning. I never said anything about hobbies or how people are supposed to enjoy them, or that they are “wrong”. That is all made up by you. Audio tests are boring FOR ME.

People can enjoy taking audio tests till their heart's are content.
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post #10 of 274 Old 06-26-2019, 01:42 PM
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Blind listening tests are only boring if there are no differences between the items being tested. This is especially true if some of the listeners struggle to find differences, when there aren't any.

On the other hand, if the tests are properly designed they can be highly entertaining.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
Didn’t know “tests are boring” was such an offensive opinion.
It is because you dare to go against them.

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post #13 of 274 Old 06-26-2019, 10:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plasma_fan View Post
This seems like a whole lot of chum in the waters...

Perhaps tests are boring to you, there are plenty around here that seem to really like them.

Some guys are anti measurement, personally i love the measurements because it helps me understand what I am hearing, some people only care that the measurement tells them it sounds good.

Some guys love expensive anything, other people only care how cheap it is, other people want to find a 'value leader'.

All DAC's sound the same to some and totally different to others. I have heard the argument that if you cant hear the difference then your system isnt resolving enough, I have also heard the argument that its so obvious that any laptop speakers will do.

Speaker cables are all the same, they are all different but cost is irrelevant, or they are all different and you get what you pay for.

I could go on and on and on... Point is enjoy the hobby the way you want to, but perhaps telling others they are wrong for enjoying it differently than you do is whats boring.

That's all and good except there are people here keep telling others that you don't know what you are listening until you have DBT, ABX and all that. That sound stage is all in our heads, that all amps sounds the same as long as it's not clipped, that all expensive stuffs are snake oil.



Maybe you should tell them the same thing too as they sound very judgemental to me.
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post #14 of 274 Old 06-27-2019, 03:05 AM
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Sometimes, when I see a person get told that their new $5,000 equipment likely sounds no different from a $50 option, I envision the host of that show "Adam Ruins Everything" hanging over them as they listen to their music.
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post #15 of 274 Old 06-27-2019, 05:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alan0354 View Post
That's all and good except there are people here keep telling others that you don't know what you are listening until you have DBT, ABX and all that. That sound stage is all in our heads, that all amps sounds the same as long as it's not clipped, that all expensive stuffs are snake oil.



Maybe you should tell them the same thing too as they sound very judgemental to me.

Like measuring distotrion levels of cable terminations types? BTW..how did you isolate the test to only the termination and eliminate all the components in your test?
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Why are ABX tests in HIFI silly? The quesstion was never answered.
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post #17 of 274 Old 06-27-2019, 06:36 AM
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Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
Didn’t know “tests are boring” was such an offensive opinion.
Ah yes the ole' "subjective opinions are more valid than science" perspective.

Bagging on ABX test results is one way to con bored old men into buying wickedly overpriced audio gear and making them think there are magical powers associated with fancy power cords and aftermarket little rubber feet, and all that associated nonsense.

Even if something is boring does not mean it is not beneficial. It would benefit some of the magic-believers to gain an objective perspective on the limits of their senses. But I get it... if someone does not like the results, it's easy enough to attack the test itself.
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post #18 of 274 Old 06-27-2019, 07:12 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3db View Post
Why are ABX tests in HIFI silly? The quesstion was never answered.
"ABX tests in audio are simply silly because short-term memory, which is what we’re actually testing in an ABX test, is short—it has a finite capacity, about ~18 seconds, depending on the person taking the test and the material used. [footnote 2] At best, ABX test results will tell us something about the abilities of each tester under the specific conditions of the test. Nothing more, nothing less."

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Originally Posted by imagic View Post
Ah yes the ole' "subjective opinions are more valid than science" perspective.

Bagging on ABX test results is one way to con bored old men into buying wickedly overpriced audio gear and making them think there are magical powers associated with fancy power cords and aftermarket little rubber feet, and all that associated nonsense.

Even if something is boring does not mean it is not beneficial. It would benefit some of the magic-believers to gain an objective perspective on the limits of their senses. But I get it... if someone does not like the results, it's easy enough to attack the test itself.
And the "blind testing for audibility is the only thing that's valid" perspective is a great way to trick the people with no experience in the hobby into thinking that their AVR and $50 Chinese speakers sound as good as high-end gear bought by "Audio-fools". Anything more would be a waste, until a blind test proves it.

I've even seen it posted here that since one person didn't identify differences in an amplifier in a blind test back in the 80's, that that must mean they all sound the same. It is truly laughable how "science" is spun to promote pure fiction here.
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Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
"[I]
And the "blind testing for audibility is the only thing that's valid" perspective is a great way to trick the people with no experience in the hobby into thinking that their AVR and $50 Chinese speakers sound as good as high-end gear bought by "Audio-fools". Anything more would be a waste, until a blind test proves it.

I've even seen it posted here that since one person didn't identify differences in an amplifier in a blind test back in the 80's, that that must mean they all sound the same. It is truly laughable how "science" is spun to promote pure fiction here.
Cut the propaganda. Nobody said $50 speakers sound as good as a properly-designed, (necessarily) higher priced but also higher-performance speakers. Well, you said it, but you are making that up.

As for amplification, that's a real issue with the high-end guys, they don't seem to understand what it means for an amp to offer flat response and distortion below audible thresholds as long as it's not driven to clipping. Instead there's a belief that amps and magic cables should be used to "tune" systems which is fairy-tale BS.

A good AVR, a high performance sub and some well-designed speakers that don't cost a fortune, with a bit of EQ and proper placement and attention to the room, and you are golden.
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post #20 of 274 Old 06-27-2019, 07:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
"ABX tests in audio are simply silly because short-term memory, which is what we’re actually testing in an ABX test, is short—it has a finite capacity, about ~18 seconds, depending on the person taking the test and the material used. [footnote 2] At best, ABX test results will tell us something about the abilities of each tester under the specific conditions of the test. Nothing more, nothing less.".

The fault with this premise is that hearing memory accuracy is only good for 30 seconds or so. After that it drops rapidly and becomes highly innaccurate. That fact has been proven many times over. That being said, I don't doubt that there errors made under pressure while being subjected to blind listening tests. However, the error is much larger if one relies on long term auditory memory.




Some enlightenment for you



https://opentextbc.ca/introductionto...and-cognition/


https://news.nationalgeographic.com/...earch-science/






https://hearinghealthmatters.org/pat...sing-disorder/
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post #21 of 274 Old 06-27-2019, 07:48 AM - Thread Starter
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The fault with this premise is that hearing memory accuracy is only good for 30 seconds or so. After that it drops rapidly and becomes highly innaccurate. That fact has been proven many times over. That being said, I don't doubt that there errors made under pressure while being subjected to blind listening tests. However, the error is much larger if one relies on long term auditory memory.
I don't follow your argument. Aren't you saying the same thing that the author did but changing 18 seconds to 30 seconds?

Are you saying that if you hear a speaker that was very bright, you would forget that 30 seconds later? Lol, surely not.
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post #22 of 274 Old 06-27-2019, 08:01 AM
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I don't follow your argument. Aren't you saying the same thing that the author did but changing 18 seconds to 30 seconds?

Are you saying that if you hear a speaker that was very bright, you would forget that 30 seconds later? Lol, surely not.
First thing you'd want to do is figure out why it's bright. Anechoic measurements would reveal if it's intrinsic to the speaker (a treble hump) or related to how the speaker interacts with the room and listener.

The thing is, there's a good chance a speaker sounds the way it does because of issues with the room and placement. Judging it to be bright without some point of reference makes no sense.

Also, the response of all tweeters varies by axis, that's why experimenting with toe-in and applying room treatment judiciously is a clear path to getting a nice, balanced sound.

18 seconds? 30 seconds? Whatever. The propaganda campaign against ABX is something the "high-end" folks had to come up with because facts are very inconvenient when you are trying to sell a $30,000 power cord to make your yacht payment.

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post #23 of 274 Old 06-27-2019, 08:01 AM
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I don't follow your argument. Aren't you saying the same thing that the author did but changing 18 seconds to 30 seconds?

What I;m saying is the author's premise is dead wrong. Hearing memory accuracy is most accute for no longer than 30 seconds and drops off significantly after that. Why would one use innacurate long term memory to make a judgement call if the recalled information is wrong?


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Are you saying that if you hear a speaker that was very bright, you would forget that 30 seconds later? Lol, surely not.


I'm not saying that all. You will remember it as bright....but after30 seconds or so you won't remember accurately how bright it was..... was the speaker bright becuase mids and bass were rolled off or was it a high frequency bump? Was the listening environment highly refective or did the speaker beamcits high becuase of poor dispersion characterisitics? One can't recall with accuracuy how bright it was unless comparing within 30 seconds or so to another speaker.
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post #24 of 274 Old 06-27-2019, 08:03 AM
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Originally Posted by alan0354 View Post
That's all and good except there are people here keep telling others that you don't know what you are listening until you have DBT, ABX and all that. That sound stage is all in our heads, that all amps sounds the same as long as it's not clipped, that all expensive stuffs are snake oil.



Maybe you should tell them the same thing too as they sound very judgemental to me.
I agree with you, my comment above is directed at everyone and not intended to be a negative.

I posted what I did where I did because of the downward spiral of the CCA & external DAC thread and the subsequent posting of this 'provocative' thread. This 'subjectivist vs objectivist' / 'science vs I trust my ears' stuff is fun to read sometimes, BUT it usually degrades into two people that will never listen to each other talking to a wall. Where it gets truly toxic is when people come looking for advice on limited budgets and get directed into the wrong gear.
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Originally Posted by alan0354 View Post
That's all and good except there are people here keep telling others that you don't know what you are listening until you have DBT, ABX and all that.*1 That sound stage is all in our heads, that all amps sounds the same as long as it's not clipped*2, that all expensive stuffs are snake oil*3.


Maybe you should tell them the same thing too as they sound very judgemental to me.
1. Those folks have a point.

2. Basically correct. Next...

3. That's hyperbole right there.

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post #26 of 274 Old 06-27-2019, 08:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by imagic View Post
Cut the propaganda. Nobody said $50 speakers sound as good as a properly-designed, (necessarily) higher priced but also higher-performance speakers. Well, you said it, but you are making that up.

As for amplification, that's a real issue with the high-end guys, they don't seem to understand what it means for an amp to offer flat response and distortion below audible thresholds as long as it's not driven to clipping. Instead there's a belief that amps and magic cables should be used to "tune" systems which is fairy-tale BS.

A good AVR, a high performance sub and some well-designed speakers that don't cost a fortune, with a bit of EQ and proper placement and attention to the room, and you are golden.
I've seen many posts about "cheap chinese speakers" and accompanying in room response graphs after EQ that showed them measuring flat. That was proof in their eyes that their speakers must sound as good as any. So no, I'm not actually making it up. Granted this is not the majority opinion but I've seen it here often.

As far as amplifiers go, I'm of the opinion that at a certain quality level (linear response, low distortion as you note) most amplifiers sound more similar than different. However the subtleties matter a lot to audiophiles. Amplifiers (as well as your other electronics) have an affect on things like soundstage, imaging, transient response, low level resolution, etc. Many of those are harder to suss out in both measurements and in short ABX clips. And small subtleties like soundstage positioning (forward vs. back) that are very minor in a small bookshelf system manifest as quite large on a full range system in a large room.

Then there's a whole other argument about whether chasing low distortion levels and absolute linearity is even the right goal to have for re-creating a musical event. Most tube lovers would beg to differ.

I think my real problem is that even when you do show measurable differences in the gear, the old ABX blind testing crutch comes out. "Even though it measures different, you must prove it audibly by blind test!". Once it goes into the ABX black hole, all bets are off. I'll just quote the article again here: "At best, ABX test results will tell us something about the abilities of each tester under the specific conditions of the test. Nothing more, nothing less."
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post #27 of 274 Old 06-27-2019, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
Then there's a whole other argument about whether chasing low distortion levels and absolute linearity is even the right goal to have for re-creating a musical event. Most tube lovers would beg to differ.

No one is arguing over the preference of some listeners for tube distortion. If they like it, mor epower to them but don't say its a cleaner representattion of the amplified signal because its not.


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Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
I think my real problem is that even when you do show measurable differences in the gear, the old ABX blind testing crutch comes out. "Even though it measures different, you must prove it audibly by blind test!". Once it goes into the ABX black hole, all bets are off. I'll just quote the article again here: "At best, ABX test results will tell us something about the abilities of each tester under the specific conditions of the test. Nothing more, nothing less."

How was it measured? If the test was accurately conducted and measured, there is no need for ABX.

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post #28 of 274 Old 06-27-2019, 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
I've seen many posts about "cheap chinese speakers" and accompanying in room response graphs after EQ that showed them measuring flat. That was proof in their eyes that their speakers must sound as good as any. So no, I'm not actually making it up. Granted this is not the majority opinion but I've seen it here often.

As far as amplifiers go, I'm of the opinion that at a certain quality level (linear response, low distortion as you note) most amplifiers sound more similar than different. However the subtleties matter a lot to audiophiles. Amplifiers (as well as your other electronics) have an affect on things like soundstage, imaging, transient response, low level resolution, etc. Many of those are harder to suss out in both measurements and in short ABX clips. And small subtleties like soundstage positioning (forward vs. back) that are very minor in a small bookshelf system manifest as quite large on a full range system in a large room.

Then there's a whole other argument about whether chasing low distortion levels and absolute linearity is even the right goal to have for re-creating a musical event. Most tube lovers would beg to differ.

I think my real problem is that even when you do show measurable differences in the gear, the old ABX blind testing crutch comes out. "Even though it measures different, you must prove it audibly by blind test!". Once it goes into the ABX black hole, all bets are off. I'll just quote the article again here: "At best, ABX test results will tell us something about the abilities of each tester under the specific conditions of the test. Nothing more, nothing less."
First off, people should be reading Sean Olive if they want to be educated on this topic: http://seanolive.blogspot.com/2009/0...o-product.html

That claim Micheal makes about ABX is complete, un-scientific nonsense. But it does ring a bell. I believe that notion comes from the brain trust at Stereophile, a magazine that was in crisis when its founder had this to say: https://www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/1107awsi/

But somehow those guys rallied and created a new audiophile religion where the laws of physics don't apply and where science may be dismissed as boring and subjective, while subjective bloviating is regarded as gospel truth.

Pays the bills, I guess.

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post #29 of 274 Old 06-27-2019, 08:34 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by 3db View Post
What I;m saying is the author's premise is dead wrong. Hearing memory accuracy is most accute for no longer than 30 seconds and drops off significantly after that. Why would one use innacurate long term memory to make a judgement call if the recalled information is wrong?






I'm not saying that all. You will remember it as bright....but after30 seconds or so you won't remember accurately how bright it was..... was the speaker bright becuase mids and bass were rolled off or was it a high frequency bump? Was the listening environment highly refective or did the speaker beamcits high becuase of poor dispersion characterisitics? One can't recall with accuracuy how bright it was unless comparing within 30 seconds or so to another speaker.
Another strawman argument.

"A straw man is a form of argument and an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not presented by that opponent.[1] One who engages in this fallacy is said to be "attacking a straw man.""

The author's position is that ABX tests are fundamentally a test of the subjects short term memory and the results can only be applied to tell us something about that tester's abilities on that day under those conditions. It says nothing of what you're talking about.

Also I don't need to remember how accurately bright something is, ever. I listen to a speaker in my room and decide: "this sounds great, the tonal balance is to my taste!" Or I decide "get it out of here, too much treble!".
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post #30 of 274 Old 06-27-2019, 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
Another strawman argument.

"A straw man is a form of argument and an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not presented by that opponent.[1] One who engages in this fallacy is said to be "attacking a straw man.""

The author's position is that ABX tests are fundamentally a test of the subjects short term memory and the results can only be applied to tell us something about that tester's abilities on that day under those conditions. It says nothing of what you're talking about.

Also I don't need to remember how accurately bright something is, ever. I listen to a speaker in my room and decide: "this sounds great, the tonal balance is to my taste!" Or I decide "get it out of here, too much treble!".
Kind of like Gladiator, but for speakers, eh? "Too bright, thumbs down, feed those speakers to the lions."

Treating the room instead of hunting for speakers that happen to work in the room as-is does not sound reasonable to you?

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