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ARSCLIST  October 2013

ARSCLIST October 2013

Subject:

Re: a prime case of why subjective reviews of audio gear are USELESS

From:

Jamie Howarth <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Thu, 10 Oct 2013 21:57:28 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (121 lines)

I had a heated discussion recently with an audiophile  "archivist" who delivers multiple versions and lets the archive/client decide which they prefer.  Not mastering (where this would be legit) - but archive (nix).
I tried hard to make the point that to archive means deliver flat, broadband, with lowest NAB/AES deemph error, lowest distortion possible. In our experience that often sounds best, particularly with regard to de-emphasis. In addition to the de-emphasized output on the preamp It is possible to derive an off-the-head still pre-emphasized output and equalize digitally - and in a long process of intense effort with Swedish Radio we modeled an ideal IEC curve digitally within 0.1db. When we hit it exactly suddenly you could hear what the mixer was going for. Off by a few tenths and it might be pretty, but it didn't sit right. Nail it and his intent was clear. 
Ok archive that. 
On the other hand, the audiophile "archivists' " approach favored euphony over accuracy. What sounds best through his chain, the "best money can buy" ... Rather than what's really on the tape. I asked how, if it sounded "better" they could be sure that two mutually canceling errors weren't at work, one hyping, one depressing. Didn't get an answer. 
John Chester worked out a deemph circuit that coupled with the Pp/flux heads is flatter than an ATR or Studer, or any other aftermarket piece we could get a look at. That was the gig. I don't want to deliver a piece that colors the archival copy. Wanna master? Have fun, use tools and taste. Otherwise, do nothing but deliver, accurately. 
And I postulate that for mastering that's the best starting point: play the tape right and you'll hear something more transparent, a better jumping off point. 
Even playing back masters where the control room curve was off; They did the best they could, they had a sound in their heads, and playing it back maximally flat reveals their intent, quite often. Maybe needs some tweak for today's flatter faster monitors. But it's honest.

Ironically, speaking of audio reviewers Julian Hirsch postulated that audible differences between components w respectable  distortion specs were invariably related to very small frequency response errors. The audiophile community excoriated him. My experience is, he's right. We thought that +~ 1.0db was inaudible. Nope. Try a tenth. 

Nothing is perfect, but it's essential to treat (in every way, shape or form) how the output differs from the originating signal as noise, and to the extent possible minimize it. 

Providing deliverables with a variety of A/Ds - pick one? One of those converters is less accurate. I want to know which. 

Jamie Howarth






Please pardon the misspellings and occassional insane word substitution I'm on an iPhone

> On Oct 10, 2013, at 6:20 PM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> Do you have anything objective/scientific to back up that statement? Or just subjective rhetoric? Science generally makes a better argument.
> 
> -- Tom Fine
> 
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Clark Johnsen" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Thursday, October 10, 2013 6:16 PM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] a prime case of why subjective reviews of audio gear are USELESS
> 
> 
>> I suppose you've already considered that the standard portfolio of
>> distortion measurements hardly describes the actual sound into loudspeakers?
>> 
>> clark
>> 
>> 
>> On Thu, Oct 10, 2013 at 5:04 PM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>wrote:
>> 
>>> This kind of thing lights a fire under the audiophillic community. The
>>> beauty of this example is that it was all played out in Stereophile,
>>> definitely prime reading for the subjective-review scene:
>>> http://www.stereophile.com/**content/croft-acoustics-phono-**
>>> integrated-integrated-**amplifier<http://www.stereophile.com/content/croft-acoustics-phono-integrated-integrated-amplifier>
>>> 
>>> I suggest you start with John Atkinson's measurements of this clearly
>>> badly-designed piece of gear:
>>> http://www.stereophile.com/**content/croft-acoustics-phono-**
>>> integrated-integrated-**amplifier-measurements<http://www.stereophile.com/content/croft-acoustics-phono-integrated-integrated-amplifier-measurements>
>>> 
>>> Then go back and read the main, gushing review, and the follow-on by
>>> another editor:
>>> http://www.stereophile.com/**content/croft-acoustics-phono-**
>>> integrated-integrated-**amplifier-stephen-mejias-**comments<http://www.stereophile.com/content/croft-acoustics-phono-integrated-integrated-amplifier-stephen-mejias-comments>
>>> 
>>> I'm not questioning the sincerity of any of them, nor the deep belief by
>>> the two subjective reviewers that they liked what they heard. But, if they
>>> could so like something that should have very audible distortions and
>>> colorations, how can we trust their reviews? What is their reference point,
>>> because it seems to favor colorations and distortions? It's OK not to like
>>> accurate sound reproduction, but what use is a review of anything if the
>>> goal isn't accurate sound reproduction?
>>> 
>>> One man's (subjective) opinions ...
>>> 
>>> -- Tom Fine
Please pardon the misspellings and occassional insane word substitution I'm on an iPhone

> On Oct 10, 2013, at 6:20 PM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> Do you have anything objective/scientific to back up that statement? Or just subjective rhetoric? Science generally makes a better argument.
> 
> -- Tom Fine
> 
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Clark Johnsen" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Thursday, October 10, 2013 6:16 PM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] a prime case of why subjective reviews of audio gear are USELESS
> 
> 
>> I suppose you've already considered that the standard portfolio of
>> distortion measurements hardly describes the actual sound into loudspeakers?
>> 
>> clark
>> 
>> 
>> On Thu, Oct 10, 2013 at 5:04 PM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>wrote:
>> 
>>> This kind of thing lights a fire under the audiophillic community. The
>>> beauty of this example is that it was all played out in Stereophile,
>>> definitely prime reading for the subjective-review scene:
>>> http://www.stereophile.com/**content/croft-acoustics-phono-**
>>> integrated-integrated-**amplifier<http://www.stereophile.com/content/croft-acoustics-phono-integrated-integrated-amplifier>
>>> 
>>> I suggest you start with John Atkinson's measurements of this clearly
>>> badly-designed piece of gear:
>>> http://www.stereophile.com/**content/croft-acoustics-phono-**
>>> integrated-integrated-**amplifier-measurements<http://www.stereophile.com/content/croft-acoustics-phono-integrated-integrated-amplifier-measurements>
>>> 
>>> Then go back and read the main, gushing review, and the follow-on by
>>> another editor:
>>> http://www.stereophile.com/**content/croft-acoustics-phono-**
>>> integrated-integrated-**amplifier-stephen-mejias-**comments<http://www.stereophile.com/content/croft-acoustics-phono-integrated-integrated-amplifier-stephen-mejias-comments>
>>> 
>>> I'm not questioning the sincerity of any of them, nor the deep belief by
>>> the two subjective reviewers that they liked what they heard. But, if they
>>> could so like something that should have very audible distortions and
>>> colorations, how can we trust their reviews? What is their reference point,
>>> because it seems to favor colorations and distortions? It's OK not to like
>>> accurate sound reproduction, but what use is a review of anything if the
>>> goal isn't accurate sound reproduction?
>>> 
>>> One man's (subjective) opinions ...
>>> 
>>> -- Tom Fine
>> 

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