Although this is a futile "argument" and digital WON the mass media decades ago, I'm feeling
masochistic today so I'll wade in ...
If you put most people in a room that is not their own with a sound system that is not their own,
ABX testing probably doesn't tell you much about anything but gross differences in sounds. Subtle
stuff like whether the 44.1/16 digital is correctly bringing out low-level ambience,
channel-to-channel sums and differences and "air and space" will be just about impossible for most
people to hear. Even if you're a trained aural expert with very good hearing, that's a tough
situation. The same reason why it's so hard to select sound source components that you like from
"comparing" in a showroom. Back in the day when phono cartridges sounded very different and some
Japanese equipment was full of transient distortions, yeah you could tell right away what sounds you
didn't like. It's different now, differences are subtle. You have to listen very carefully, to
material you know very well, then make your own decisions.
There have been reams of BS written on all sides of these "arguments." It tends to come down to
"chocolate or vanilla" with the subtle stuff -- some people will like one thing and others will like
As for absolute polarity, I only care about it in how it effects whether I like a total recording or
not. And, I can't tell you which I prefer. I just know when percussives sound "wrong" and when a
recording is "fighting" the speaker. Most stuff I like is mixed and complex, using several or many
microphones and often many tracks and overdubs, mixing effects, etc. Therefore, who knows what
polarity issues crop up and how they effect the ultimate product. I suspect it's that way with most
people. If you like listening to one drum from one mic, then the issue is much more simple. But if
you listen to a "produced" musical product that went through many stages from mics to mass media,
who knows what happened to polarity of any element at any time, and it doesn't matter unless it
doesn't sound "right." To my ears, a much bigger worry is dynamics crunching, digital clipping,
really bad mixing of the stereo sound-picture, etc.
One of the audiophillics mags had a column a while back going after so-called "demo tracks" that
people like to use to show off their system. I have to say, I have never heard much of what was
called out because it's very obscure stuff, but the point was, a person should "demo" anything new
using music he is very familiar with and not worry whether it's a "show-off recording" or other such
BS. Which brings me back to ABX testing on a strange system in a strange room with strange material.
That's like taking a guy who's never tasted wine and asking him whether red or white is "better."
And it reminds me of the first time I went speaker shopping, as a teen at the late great Tech Hifi
store. I thought they ALL sounded bad because the guy was playing, loudly, music that I didn't like
(the Tubes, if I recall correctly) and using a turntable and cartridge very different from my modest
rig. I went to another store, but this time brought my turntable and a record I knew very well
(nothing spectacular as far as sound quality, it was a Capitol 1970s pressing of "Sgt Pepper"). I
very quickly was able to decide what kind of speakers I liked and didn't and could clearly hear a
range of differences, both in timbres and in bass-mid-treble balances. In that case, the strange
room was somewhat compensated by familiar source material.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Richard L. Hess" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, February 09, 2013 11:26 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Audibility of 44/16 ?
> Hi, Goran,
> This is an excellent read. When I got my first two PCM-F1 adapters, I put them back to back by
> jumpering the video out of one to the video in of the other. I was pleasantly surprised at the
> lack of audible artifacts except the noise when there was no input signal. This of course was much
> after the fact, about 2002 or so, but it was still interesting to do.
> On 2013-02-09 3:28 AM, Goran Finnberg wrote:
>> And now for some fun reading:
> Richard L. Hess email: [log in to unmask]
> Aurora, Ontario, Canada 647 479 2800
> Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.