Howdy Tom,

No, it can't. But people can agree about what they hear in a general way
within the limited scope of language. Some of that agreement must come from
the mutual suspension of disbelief we all apply in convincing ourselves that
the pitiful approximations we can create are something like what actually
happened. And that is conditioned by what we have trained ourselves to
accept as reasonable facsimiles. THEN, enter taste, creativity, etc. I think
that's no less true for production as for reproduction.

I was working as a radio producer right at the time when analog was giving
way to digital, so in some shows I would have a mixture of 7.5ips tape with
Sony 701 digital - same gear otherwise. The classical/acoustic musicians
almost always thought the analog was a truer reflection of their sound, or
at least a more 'musical' experience overall, but that was in a context of
low expectations of any recording being true. Now, after 20 years of
digital, I suspect players - everybody, to some degree - have become more
accepting of digital sound, independent of any improvements in its quality.
We have just gradually grown used to it and found room for a new facsimile.
Still today, recordings can be good, they can be bad, and so what has

Anyway, the idea of an Absolute Sound referenced to nature, a worthy
principal mixed liberally with commerce, has always seemed specious to me if
taken too literally. Tonight, I will record a concert of Venetian
Renaissance music, chorus with antiphonal brass. With the intention of
imposing as little interference with the real sound as possible, there are a
half dozen ways I can approach the task, each one reasonable and practical
technically and artistically. Hopefully, I'll hear some music before show
time and that will narrow the choices. But, when the time comes to push
Record, it will be Absolutely as good as I can do within the allotted time
and opportunity. It will be its own truth; there could be other truths just
as true, or false, however you define it. 

Being an ecumenical sort, I call on all parties to raise a glass of
humility. The only thing that's right is what achieves the sonic/artistic
goal. That goal can be anything but singular.

(Preservation is something else. I can see the need for much more narrowly
defined criteria in that work.)

-----Original Message-----
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tom Fine
Sent: Friday, October 11, 2013 12:12 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] a prime case of why subjective reviews of audio gear

Hi Carl:

You're highlighting a key aspect of the analog vs. digital jihad that is
still going on. Some people like and expect really colored (distorted,
scientific term) sound.  Those people tend to hate all things digital and
vehemently tout "purer" and "organic" analog technologies, especially
grooved disks. Yet, any sort of testing for output=input can show many
different ways that a modern high-quality digital chain will always be more
accurate. The vehement digital advocates will dismiss the analog advocates
as tin-eared folks who love harmonic distortion and time-smearing with their

Then there's the whole philosophical argument, going back to Gordon Holt and
Harry Pearson, about what's "absolute sound"? It seems to be something
different to anyone who listens carefully, but Harry actually did put in
words some descriptions never articulated that way before. One thing is for
sure -- "absolute sound" is by nature very subjective and therefore most
scientific measurements only get around the edges of quantifying it. That
being the case, I'm not sure of the use of reams of paper used to publicly
debate subjective topics from different perspectives. Can any perseptual
aspect of human life be described in absolute terms?

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message -----
From: "Carl Pultz" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, October 11, 2013 10:34 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] a prime case of why subjective reviews of audio gear

> Stereophile has long had this schizophrenic aspect where the auditions are
> contradicted (or complimented) by the measurements. It is entertaining.
> Years ago, they ran a cover with the headline: "If one of these amplifiers
> is right, the other must be wrong." One amp was a huge, powerful Krell.
> other was (IIRC) an 811-based Cary single-ended job that developed maybe
> watts. The Cary couldn't pass a symmetrical waveform; the Krell was
> virtually perfect on the bench. Both were declared to make their own brand
> of magic.
> The subjectivity of art doesn't rest well with the hard science of
> engineering. Professionals aren't immune to that dichotomy. If I did what
> Jamie does, I would certainly aim for his level of objective rigor.
> Microphones in an acoustic space, like phono cartridges and loudspeakers,
> are a whole different story, a blend of subjective/objective. At least we
> now have other elements of the signal chain that can be reliably
> if that is the goal.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Dave Cawley
> Sent: Friday, October 11, 2013 7:05 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] a prime case of why subjective reviews of audio
> From:  Dave Cawley
> Dartmouth  United Kingdom
> Hi Tom
> Rely to fixed (again), although it is really a server issue............
> I agree with all you say, especially the midnight part !  However some
> magazines do no testing at all.  Image a car magazine not testing 0-60 and
> top speed ?
> Dave