$1M Stradivarius vs. modern violin blind test - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 48 Old 03-08-2020, 11:42 AM - Thread Starter
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$1M Stradivarius vs. modern violin blind test

When I first heard that some people claimed they could identify the sound of different brands of good quality violins I was skeptical. I didn't discount it as being totally impossible, however I thought it was unlikely. @Ethan Winer [musician and engineer] and others in the forum were confident differences existed but I needed proof. There were some studies out there but the results were mixed/inconclusive from my perspective. Just because you can measure a difference doesn't prove you can hear a difference in a blind test.

Then one day I found a site based on a radio broadcast which posted actual examples! Woo-hoo! "Now I can apply the Foobar ABX double blind test to the files once I download, precisely synchronize, and level match them.", I exclaimed.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Foobar ABX test I've made a tutorial which explains how to download, install, and use it, here:


So it turns out I can actually hear a difference. Can you? Take the test and post your score sheet to prove it.
Download and install Foobar here: https://www.foobar2000.org/download
Once installed and open, then download the ABX Comparator component here: https://www.foobar2000.org/components/view/foo_abx

Here are the two FLAC files to download and insert into Foobar for the ABX double blind test. If Dropbox asks if you want to start an account don't think it is necessary in order to download the files. Just click "No thanks, continue to download" at the bottom/side to proceed to the direct download option. In the download box click "Save file".

Violin A Modern:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/3w6tz5aoje...aded.flac?dl=0

Violin B Stradivarius:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/hplu3jtix3...aded.flac?dl=0

I dedicate this thread to Scott so he can show the younger generation who visit his listening room how incredibly resolving his setup is.

UPDATE: Psst: I give a tip on what to listen for in post 31.
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post #2 of 48 Old 03-08-2020, 12:40 PM
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I will do this as soon as I have time...just wanted to say that the one person who always denounced others that hear differences actually HEARS differences.

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post #3 of 48 Old 03-08-2020, 12:48 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by josh6113 View Post
I will do this as soon as I have time...just wanted to say that the one person who always denounced others that hear differences actually HEARS differences.
You have mischaracterized my position. [edit: left off "mis". OOPS]

If I say "Reindeer can't fly" that doesn't mean I don't believe that some other animals can.

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post #4 of 48 Old 03-08-2020, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
You have characterized my position.



If I say "Reindeer can't fly" that doesn't mean I don't believe that some other animals can.
Anyway I appreciate your post and honesty.

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post #5 of 48 Old 03-08-2020, 12:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by josh6113 View Post
I will do this as soon as I have time.
I look forward to your testing when you have a chance.
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post #6 of 48 Old 03-08-2020, 12:56 PM
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Is it the same violinist, playing the same song, in the same studio using the same recording equipment with the modern and Strad?
Is this to prove there's no audible difference between a modern vs. Strad or that a person's playback equipment won't make a difference?



If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough – Albert Einstein
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post #7 of 48 Old 03-08-2020, 12:57 PM - Thread Starter
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For me the sound difference is one is "sweeter" and the other more nasal. I also hear more "soundbox" from one but not the other.

If not for the great analytical capability of Foobar ABX, especially its ability to isolate whatever section you want, I'm not sure I ever would have ID'd the distinction.

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post #8 of 48 Old 03-08-2020, 01:02 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ratman View Post
Is it the same violinist, playing the same song, in the same studio using the same recording equipment with the modern and Strad?
Yes. And on top of all that the violinist himself does not know which he is holding because that may influence his playing style. He wore darkened goggles and they even scented the chin rests so there was no smell difference to the player either!

https://dnan0fzjxntrj.cloudfront.net...fan-avalos.png

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ratman View Post
Is this to prove there's no audible difference between a modern vs. Strad or that a person's playback equipment won't make a difference?
This tests if a listener, with their gear, can hear a difference between these two violins, in these recordings, on that day of the test, and if so with what level of statistical certainty.
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post #9 of 48 Old 03-09-2020, 07:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
Yes. And on top of all that the violinist himself does not know which he is holding because that may influence his playing style. He wore darkened goggles and they even scented the chin rests so there was no smell difference to the player either!

https://dnan0fzjxntrj.cloudfront.net...fan-avalos.png



This tests if a listener, with their gear, can hear a difference between these two violins, in these recordings, on that day of the test, and if so with what level of statistical certainty.

OH! That was clever!

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https://www.thestrad.com/blind-teste...ts/994.article
https://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/20121/13039/



If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough – Albert Einstein

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post #11 of 48 Old 03-09-2020, 11:01 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by FargateOne View Post
OH! That was clever!
There is no "perfect test". A detractor could argue that because the violin was scented it's possible the smell distracted the player, or perhaps reminded them of some previous event in their life which was unpleasant and this distraction put them off their game, so they didn't play with their best ability. [Just to play devil's advocate.]
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post #12 of 48 Old 03-09-2020, 01:44 PM
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I may try this, but I'll be honest, I don't think I have the musical knowledge or audio memory to find the difference assuming once found I could even pick it out reliably on my gear.

It's like those picture games where I have to look at two pictures (in this case they aren't side-by-side either...maybe left ear right ear, lol, brain would not handle it) and find a difference -- yeah, I'm not the best at those games. I get distracted too easily and my brain starts running away with something else it cares more about.

So, I'll give it a shot (probably I'll make my brother do it, lol), but I'm not hopeful of my outcome.
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post #13 of 48 Old 03-09-2020, 01:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DreamWarrior View Post
I may try this, but I'll be honest, I don't think I have the musical knowledge or audio memory to find the difference assuming once found I could even pick it out reliably on my gear.

It's like those picture games where I have to look at two pictures (in this case they aren't side-by-side either...maybe left ear right ear, lol, brain would not handle it) and find a difference -- yeah, I'm not the best at those games. I get distracted too easily and my brain starts running away with something else it cares more about.

So, I'll give it a shot (probably I'll make my brother do it, lol), but I'm not hopeful of my outcome.
Memory? Foobar ABX is an "open book test". You have two buttons to instantly replay the openly identified music, A and B, as often as you'd like and at any time you want.

Instead of hearing, here is a visual test using the exact same principle:

This "A" color is called "red".

This "B" color is called "green."

Using the information above, you are allowed to consult at any time, can you tell us which of the two colors, listed above, this mystery color "X" is:

Mystery color X

Choose one:

1. Red
2. Green

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post #14 of 48 Old 03-09-2020, 01:58 PM
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
Memory? Foobar ABX is an "open book test". You have two buttons to instantly replay the openly identified music, A and B, as often as you'd like and at any time you want.

Instead of hearing, here is a visual test using the exact same principle:

This "A" color is called "red".

This "B" color is called "green."

Using the information above, you are allowed to consult at any time, can you tell us what this color is:

mystery color X

Choose one:

1. Red
2. Green
I have to find the needle in the haystack first...right? To do that, I either need to know where it is or find it myself. To find it, I have to be able to remember the two tracks (up to the extent of my memory) and then pick it out. If my memory is too short, I have to micro-analyze every, e.g., second of them, back-to-back, until I find the precise moment that helps me reliably detect the difference (i.e., find a good needle within the capacity of my acoustic memory). I don't have the time or patience for that.

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post #15 of 48 Old 03-09-2020, 02:11 PM
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Let Itzhak Perlman do the test. I would bet he'd know the difference just by holding each violin.
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post #16 of 48 Old 03-09-2020, 02:14 PM - Thread Starter
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There was some concern at one point that the musicians might be able to accidentally ID the violins, a "tell", by their physical flex.
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post #17 of 48 Old 03-09-2020, 02:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
There was some concern at one point that the musicians might be able to accidentally ID the violins, a "tell", by their physical flex.
Variables, variables, variables -- got to catch 'em all (and then discredit them as having no impact or deal with them).

I say we just have a mechanical turk play the violins, lol.
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post #18 of 48 Old 03-09-2020, 02:29 PM - Thread Starter
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I brought that up in the original thread too.
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post #19 of 48 Old 03-09-2020, 02:33 PM - Thread Starter
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We've had robots playing real instruments for well over a century.
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post #20 of 48 Old 03-09-2020, 02:43 PM
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It's enough for me just to recognize that modern code, what I steep my life in, originated back with the bloody loom...the LOOM! Weaving fabrics to create decorative wares prompted creation of "code" (to "program" the loom)! Crazy! Now we create proverbial soft wares, lol.
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post #21 of 48 Old 03-09-2020, 02:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DreamWarrior View Post
I have to find the needle in the haystack first...right? To do that, I either need to know where it is or find it myself.
The entire musical work is a grand total of only 7 seconds in length. I could give it away but isn't the fun in finding it yourself? Give it a go.
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post #22 of 48 Old 03-09-2020, 02:46 PM - Thread Starter
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And once you understand how ABX works you can take a 16 trial test in under 2 minutes:

foo_abx 2.0.6d report
foobar2000 v1.5.2
2020-03-09 14:40:57

File A: Violin A Modern level matched faded.flac
SHA1: 55255ae26c325d50bd8197efaec5d0e612c3204a
File B: Violin B Stradivarius level matched faded.flac
SHA1: b295b25601bbb2ff7c15a4e0deada50046098334

Output:
DS : Primary Sound Driver
Crossfading: NO

14:40:57 : Test started.
14:41:26 : 01/01
14:41:31 : 02/02
14:41:37 : 03/03
14:41:42 : 04/04
14:41:47 : 05/05
14:41:53 : 06/06
14:41:58 : 07/07
14:42:06 : 08/08
14:42:10 : 09/09
14:42:16 : 10/10
14:42:21 : 11/11
14:42:25 : 12/12
14:42:30 : 13/13
14:42:35 : 14/14
14:42:39 : 15/15
14:42:44 : 16/16
14:42:44 : Test finished.

----------
Total: 16/16
p-value: 0 (0%)

-- signature --
00c6048ec24991af372c7374c34ba17b185db4b8
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post #23 of 48 Old 03-09-2020, 02:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
We've had robots playing real instruments for well over a century.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aseMAEctM1s
There's a lot more than that, there are fairground organs, orchestrions, etc, etc which I have been listening to a lot on youtube recently.
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post #24 of 48 Old 03-09-2020, 02:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
The entire musical work is a grand total of only 7 seconds in length. I could give it away but isn't the fun in finding it yourself? Give it a go.
Alright, I'll see if I have time before the weekend. I still have less than zero percent faith in myself, haha. But, I guess it'll depend how "obvious" the tell is. I will only post back if I manage to pass, lol, and only because I'll be amazed I managed to pay sufficient attention to detect the difference (in all seven seconds, lol). I highly doubt, in any case, it'd be a limitation of my gear -- if I feel that's the case, I'll get my little brother to do it for me...and if he can't tell, then I'll start investigating more...maybe I'll start with his ears, lol.
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post #25 of 48 Old 03-09-2020, 03:46 PM - Thread Starter
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To test if gear quality is relevant I just did another test in about one minute through my laptop speakers [very junky] and with the TV on in the background at normal use volume level. [Whitehouse news conference, so speech.]

foo_abx 2.0.6d report
foobar2000 v1.5.2
2020-03-09 15:43:55

File A: Violin A Modern level matched faded.flac
SHA1: 55255ae26c325d50bd8197efaec5d0e612c3204a
File B: Violin B Stradivarius level matched faded.flac
SHA1: b295b25601bbb2ff7c15a4e0deada50046098334

Output:
DS : Primary Sound Driver
Crossfading: NO

15:43:55 : Test started.
15:44:09 : 01/01
15:44:14 : 02/02
15:44:21 : 03/03
15:44:27 : 04/04
15:44:32 : 05/05
15:44:38 : 06/06
15:44:42 : 07/07
15:44:46 : 08/08
15:44:51 : 09/09
15:44:59 : 10/10
15:45:06 : 11/11
15:45:13 : 12/12
15:45:18 : 13/13
15:45:24 : 14/14
15:45:30 : 15/15
15:45:34 : 16/16
15:45:34 : Test finished.

----------
Total: 16/16
p-value: 0 (0%)

-- signature --
734ecd5b0719a1b97f50b2c5f3c27157e86e9044

16 correct out of 16 trials, going quickly, with a junky system. Of course I know exactly what to zero in on at this point though.

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post #26 of 48 Old 03-10-2020, 05:57 AM
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This is just an anecdote from my past, it may or may not be relevant to this specific test and is not intended to be evidence for either side in this debate. I just thought it might be an interesting addition to the discussion.

Several years ago I had the chance to meet with a few concert violinists (from a Philharmonic Orchestra based here in the UK, not the London Philharmonic of course) after a concert. Mostly we discussed the different acoustics of the venues they played in and how it affected the sound of the instruments and the mood of the performers and the audience.

Eventually we moved onto the topic of Stradivarius violins. Every single one of these violinists was 100% certain they could identify a Stradivarius from a modern violin by the sound alone when listening in person. They claimed this was a well-accepted fact amongst professional violinists and there had been tests to prove it (I didn't press them to produce evidence there and then).

And it makes perfect sense to me, if you spend much of your life playing and listening to violins you will become very well accustomed to their particular timbre (scientifically speaking, the particular distribution and relative intensity of harmonics among other things).

That a non-trained-violinist (I'm assuming nobody here is a professional violinist?) can detect a difference through speakers with great success finally proves to me that those violinists were telling the truth (not that I doubted them but I always like to have evidence).

I will have a go at this test when I get chance, although I may well not be able to hear difference on my budget system.

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post #27 of 48 Old 03-10-2020, 09:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ormy View Post

That a non-trained-violinist (I'm assuming nobody here is a professional violinist?) can detect a difference through speakers with great success finally proves to me that those violinists were telling the truth (not that I doubted them but I always like to have evidence).

I will have a go at this test when I get chance, although I may well not be able to hear difference on my budget system.
I am not a musician and I can hear the difference through the lowest quality system I own, my laptop's internal, perhaps 1 inch diameter speakers, so I'm pretty sure anyone can.

The fun of this challenge is that by placing the two 7-second segments into the ABX comparator you can prove that you can actually hear a difference and that it is not simply your imagination.

The downloads are tiny files and download in a flash. Give it a go. It can't hurt to try.
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post #28 of 48 Old 03-12-2020, 11:17 AM - Thread Starter
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My friend says he can ID a Strad based on its specific "taste" and "texture". https://i.pinimg.com/originals/d1/6f...00bfa7d693.jpg
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post #29 of 48 Old 03-12-2020, 11:42 AM
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My friend says he can ID a Strad based on a specific "taste" and "texture". https://i.pinimg.com/originals/d1/6f...00bfa7d693.jpg
Looks like he likes wood....
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I think he's detecting the same thing I do: a difference in the sound box.
m. zillch is offline  
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