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ARSCLIST  January 2008

ARSCLIST January 2008

Subject:

Re: Ampex ATR-102 opinion (was MD5 Hash Generators

From:

Bruce Kinch <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 13:42:37 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (78 lines)

On Jan 23, 2008, at 6:28 AM, Jerry Hartke wrote:

> Some writers have technical skills, while others spin out profitable 
> junk
> for acceptance by gullible editors and readers.

Full disclosure, I have been an a occasional reviewer for both print 
and on-line audio journals. It is not a profitable avocation, and I 
have never claimed technical expertise beyond that available to any 
informed consumer. I don't consider anyone who investigates any issue 
gullible per se, which is unfortunately the frequent opinion of many 
who claim special knowledge in any field. That seems arrogant to me. 
However, having access to CES and other venues, I have not infrequently 
heard effects I cannot easily explain. Not all such changes seemed to 
be improvements, and some that were hardly seemed worth the cost. But 
then I drive a Mazda, not a Porsche for the same reason. I have friends 
who disagree and preferred to pay the difference. Are they gullible, or 
just happy?

>  De-gaussing (there are no
> ferromagnetic materials in a disc), polishing (introduces millions of
> microscratches that distort the laser beam), and trimming (can worsen 
> track
> eccentricity or unbalance), have the potential to degrade, but not 
> improve,
> CD or DVD disc quality.

The underlying assumption here is that a class of objects produced by 
multiple agents at the lowest possible cost will have no functional 
flaws that can be remediated after market. The only other consumer 
category I can think of that makes such claims would be the purveyors 
of religious texts - the Bible, the Qur'an, and whatever the 
Scientologists keep by bedside and toilet.


> If this remains an issue, Media Sciences would be
> glad to participate in a controlled test on a few discs, both before 
> and
> after the "improvements", at no charge and then publish the results 
> online.
> Please contact me if you wish to participate.

The logical fallacy here is to equate "disc quality" with the 
perception of music. I switched from physics to psychology as an 
undergrad because the girls in class were prettier. But I quickly 
realized that while the physics lab experiments were straightforward, 
experimental psych projects in perception had a lot of independent 
variables that could not be controlled. I appreciate that in itself can 
drive some people crazy.

Again, there is ample documentation that some but not all auditioners 
can and will hear a change from a variety of treatments, tweaks, and 
widgets. Some perceive the change as a worthwhile improvement, others 
don't. That is normal, not something to get huffy about. If you are 
curious about such things, please do look into them.

That this topic keeps re-surfacing, I suspect, is the result of a 
certain lingering dissatisfaction among listeners familiar with the 
sound of acoustic music in real space with the electronic and and 
particularly digital reproduction of that music. The response is 
essentially a desire to find something - anything -  that will ease 
that disappointment. Tom Fine started the discussion by blaming the 
engineering, not the technology, for the the problem. I take a broader 
view, as I believe the limitations of CD reproduction are obvious in 
comparison to higher definition digital as well as analog, to say 
nothing of the real thing.

Conversely, many folks (like my kids) who grew up listening to 
amplified instruments and entirely digital media have different 
criteria. They prize the loud, the clean, and the convenient. Here the 
iPod trumps even the CD. The logical extension of a "bits iz bits"  
definition of  perfect sound is to have the marketplace decide how much 
more data can be thrown out and still fool a listener into thinking it 
is music.


Bruce

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