Saturday, 22 December 2018

MUSINGS: On this Blog, Motivations, and Recent Audiophile-Targeted Articles in the "Mainstream" Press. Holiday Edition!


Hey guys & gals, grab a coffee, maybe a hot cocoa! Winter is here, at least in the North, so settle into a comfy chair by the fireplace as we head into the last days of 2018. Let's chat.

Recently, I received this comment from Museatex which I thought was a good comment and deserved a bit more discussion as a post rather than just a response which would typically be lost in the usual chatter:
Museatex 5 December 2018 at 22:59 
"Now we add the 10-year old Energy C100 speaker pair to the receiver amp. The Energy sounds similar in tonality to the rear Paradigm Studio 80's. Perhaps not surprising since both are Canadian companies using research from the National Research Council and are not far apart in age."
I haven't had such a good laugh in a while. :)
BTW I do enjoy glancing at your measurements but I am somewhat puzzled as to why you started this blog. You invest money in new sound cards/adc and not in room treatment? $15 google chromecast audio sounds to you the same as logitech transporter so why not to spend money where you can measure a real difference such as room treatment? You room is dying for acoustic treatment while you are chasing minuscule differences in digital filters you cannot hear. Why waste money on monoblock amplifiers if it is irrelevant? I mean have you compared them to $300 receiver in properly setup double blind test? ;). Please continue on doing what you are doing as I do enjoy looking at graphs at someone's else expense, though I do not understand your motivation.
Hello Museatex, good comment and in fact, it's good to discuss the big picture and motivations once awhile. To be honest, there isn't one motivation. Perhaps back in the day when I started this blog, there was a more specific intent - which at that time was just to start an online blind test to see if audiophiles could reliably hear a difference between high bitrate MP3 versus lossless FLAC compression. But remember, this is a blog. It is by nature an "online journal" of what myself and a few contributors over the years have thought worthwhile to share.

While some sites have a clearly expressed "vision, mission, and plan", I trust that this is unnecessary for a blog! These are primarily my "musings" as an audiophile who enjoys his music, is interested in the technology, and does this as a hobby. The topics of interest will ebb and flow depending on what shows up and what topics catch my attention. Since I set my own agenda, of which over the years there have been many, ultimately there is really only one major motivation - I want to openly explore some things I'm interested in. :-)

Notice that over the years I haven't just talked about audio (also computer builds, CPU overclocking, 10Gb home ethernet, 4K TV, 4K UHD Blu-ray comparison...). But as a consumer who's interested in audio reproduction and what it means to be an "audiophile", many of these >300 posts over the last few years have been audio related. To a large part, this is because I am deeply dissatisfied with what I have read in the audiophile magazines, heard spoken among certain audiophiles, and discussed with salesmen in audio showrooms. I cannot help but feel disappointed by the lack of depth and evidence I see out there for all kinds of beliefs. It seems therefore that if I am to share something useful, it would be to address this sense of dissatisfaction by trying to explore deeper and discuss openly with the hopes that others could also benefit from the findings and perspectives.

As we end 2018, Google/Blogger tells me that this blog has >75,000 hits per month worldwide. Not bad I think considering that I post on average less than 1 article per week over the last few years although I think you know that my articles tend to be much longer than typical in the mainstream audiophile sites. I'm sure that's a drop in the bucket compared to many other blogs but considering that this is rather esoteric stuff and the number of audiophiles isn't likely numerous, I assume that what I publish here must be of interest and reasonably worthwhile. Thank you for "looking at the graphs at someone's else expense (sic)", Museatex. That's great, I'm happy to share, and you're welcome.

Realize that other than time and effort, there's really not much financial "expense" as such producing these posts. Since I do have some AdSense and Amazon revenue, I actually don't spend too much on the hardware I write about. Notice that what I buy, like the Oppo UDP-205 is stuff I actually would get anyways. I wanted a UHD Blu-Ray player (the best one before it was discontinued) that also happened to be a great DAC incorporating the current ESS chipset for some tests. The various ADCs I have are not that expensive in the world of audio and can be used in some recording projects. Likewise, some of the other things I have like the inexpensive SMSL iDEASMSL A6, and Raspberry Pi boards were purchases I could either just buy with Amazon gift certificates I get from my writings or stuff I was going to buy as gifts anyhow!

Notice that I am not a "serial upgrader". Unless I have evidence that something actually makes a difference, I'm not going to be upgrading to new amps, speakers, pre-amps, etc... just for the sake of having a new toy. I think that too is a reflection of "real" audiophiles who are not consumed with materialism, but willing to understand the value of what one has and upgrade when something truly better comes down the road. I believe understanding how something works and using reasonable equipment to do the demonstrations will cover over a multitude of devices within reason without having to test each one - let's leave that to the press.

Having said this, remember the point about "non-utilitarian" benefits to the things we buy. Whether monoblock amps make a sonic difference or not doesn't mean I can't freely choose to own a couple! It's cool to show off when friends come over and ask "Dude, what are those things on the floor?" To which I reply - "Yeah, each of those larger speakers up front is powered by its own separate 250W power amplifier... Cool, eh?" No different than a car aficionado showing off his "ride" with fancy trimmings.

You assume that just because I adhere to a more objective way of knowing "truth" in audiophile gear and accessories, that I place no value in these "non-utilitarian benefits" and thus it's wasteful to own the Transporter (vs. Chromecast Audio) or dual monoblocks (vs. $300 receiver). That's not how it works. I'm sure a typical men's clothing store will carry some excellent suits and can customize to one's dimensions, but it's also great to own a "Made to Measure" Giorgio Armani for various reasons beyond the utilitarian purpose of owning formal attire. Audio "objectivists" can still appreciate art, beauty, and the subjective, while willing to explore what's under the hood and openly cast a critical gaze on questionable engineering regardless of subjective opinion.

Sure, some of what I write about are in the domain of microscopic differences. But these topics are important and useful to think about because they are often spoken of in the magazines and by manufacturers as significant differentiating factors. Experiments with the various filters is an example of this. All the hullabaloo around jitter is another. While blind listening tests are important, I never said that I would only buy things based solely on test results or measurements! Appreciating that empirical methods like blind testing is important before making claims that something sounds better/different than something else doesn't mean one must do such a thing before purchasing a product that fits one's purpose, budget, or desire.

Yes, you're right, there are many things I can do for room treatment!

I could rip out the right side cabinets with reflective glass surfaces, install some ceiling panels, get rid of the table, replace the sofa with individual listening chairs, get rid of the hanging artwork on the side behind glass, take away the guitars, get some proper room treatments instead of the LP collection behind the seating position, install various absorbers, diffusers and bass traps... Heck, if this were a proper "sound room", I would get rid of the large-screen TV as well!

But this of course doesn't mean I haven't done a few other things... Over the years, I have explored ambient noise and RT60 in my space, added some GIK panels and I have explored digital room correction and done what I can with placement of the speakers.  I count my blessings in having a dedicated "man cave", made sure there's a thick rug in place, and made sure the little table for drinks isn't a hard reflective surface. But there are pragmatics to keep in mind and I'm not out to make "the ultimate" sound room because the room is used for more than 2-channel audio. Nor did I even imagine this blog as "Archimago's Ultimate Sound Room Blog". For the post about Atmos and the Energy speakers, they do add a dimension I otherwise would not experience and the tonality is good enough especially when adjusted with the receiver's DSP system. Let's not forget the context of that quote in your comment; obviously I never said arranging the speakers like this is ideal. And as for my speculation about the age and technical lineage of the companies (ie. using NRC research), one is of course free to take that with a grain of salt :-).

Speaking of room treatments... Have you seen pictures of the space that various mainstream subjective-only audiophiles use to listen in when they write their reviews? I can think of a few over the years that not only needed treatments, but appeared to be very small, located in noisy city apartments, and were screaming for a brand new space if not relocating to a new home!

Finally, while I never started with this intent, over the years, I have also thought about this blog as a greater experiment in the use of the Internet to have a voice especially in hobbies like audiophilia where the number of participants are few. It's an amazing time to be alive as we witness the power of communication technologies, explore social media and consider the role that "alternative" sources of information like blogs can provide. Of course, this can be a bad thing when there are clearly falsehoods spread far and wide unchecked. In this information "wild west", writers have a responsibility to be honest and truthful. I hope I have been thorough in my posts, providing both my conclusions yet at the same time encouraging other to explore themselves. This is why running "internet blind tests" from time to time, or posting demos for others to hear I believe are important. From my perspective, audiophilia is ripe for an overhaul and begging for "disruption" by those who are willing to speak up with evidence in hand given how IMO obviously untrustworthy the mainstream media have become over the last generation. In this regard there is much to think about around the psychology, philosophy, and intersection between audiophile hobbyists, the media, and the Industry. This too, I have spoken of over the years within these pages.

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As we end 2018, I also want to touch upon two recent articles that are somewhat interesting and relates to the last bit above.

The first article I want to mention is Stereophile's "Snake Oil: A Short History" written by Jim Austin. A number of months ago, I wrote "Why Do People Equate High End Audio with Snake Oil?" with related content.

So Mr. Austin gives some history about Chinese water snake oil and that this could "work" as traditional medicine. There are a few paragraphs about the music industry and something called "Hadacol". Okay.

But why throw up straw men like: "A handful of hard-core objectivists maintain that every new digital technology since the advent of the Compact Disc is snake oil." Care to tell us who exactly believes this and is calling all digital tech since CD snake oil!? A man can be honest enough to admit that he cannot perceive an improvement beyond 16/44.1 (since it ain't easy), but that doesn't mean the person necessarily thinks that new digital technology is incapable of higher fidelity! What an unsophisticated and misleading statement.

And why the final conclusion: "Moral: The audiophile community may wish to reconsider its use of the term snake oil. Snake oil works. The problem is that most snake oil is fake."

By definition, the term "snake oil" is simply an expression we use these days to denote questionable products and potentially fraudulent businesses dealing in said items. Who cares if the "real" snake oil from the 18th to early 20th century "worked"? That's not the point. "Most snake oil is fake" - and I agree that in audio, most of the things many consider as snake oil are also fake and deserve to be called out.

Suppose for a moment that we're generous and accept that "The Real Snake Oil" worked to a certain extent as suggested by Mr. Austin. Being very generous, imagine that a $5000 set of cables may actually provide better protection from interference in 10% of situations compared to a $50 set (remember, even if a difference can be found, it may not be audible!). What should an astute, thorough Golden-Ear certified reviewer who recognizes this benefit say about such a thing? Is it that "Yay!!! It works for 10% of the various noisier systems I tried!!! I'm gonna put it on the Greatest Cables List so all audiophiles know about this!"? Or would most people (and perhaps rational reviewers) focus on the fact that 90% of the time it made no difference, there's likely something else one can do to reduce interference in those 10% of times, and one should therefore critically consider the value of the 100x price increase?

Do typical cable reviewers have the insight to tell us when and where cables like this may help when the vast majority of reviewers cannot run measurements or know if the cables actually changed anything in the electrical properties or sound waves in the room? Or do most cable reviewers go the easy route and suggest that the unverifiable "audible" differences are somehow obvious, with "veils lifting" and "lowering noise floor" as if these are readily found in typical use situations? Of course, cable companies would prefer the latter.

While not full-on fraudulently useless "snake oil", I think there's still something to be said about being wise and critical when we see situations like this. This is why in my article, I called this "Class B" snake oil since one should still proceed with caution. It's important to understand not just whether something could work, but also the magnitude of effect if it did work so as to judge potential benefit. It's easy to trump up the hype even if in essence there's little to be excited about.

Notice that companies (whether it be cable companies or makers of other questionable products) are cautious about their wording on advertisements. It is an offence to publish false and deceptive advertising. Instead, they use the words from subjective reviewers in magazines as "proxies" for making their claims. Companies will sometimes quote from individuals who make these claims in their advertisements or web pages to insinuate the things they cannot come out and speak of openly because it would open them up to potential false advertising complaints which can include unproven claims; happily attributing these ideas to supposedly respected, golden-eared magazine reviewers. This is an important dynamic between the Industry and the press.

IMO - Moral: The audiophile community needs to be vigilant about "snake oil". The term "snake oil" has a clear meaning since nobody is using it concretely to refer to the lipid. It exists in audio as false, deceptive, or unproven advertising and claims. Yes, there have been many instances over the years.

By the way, I am curious. What is Jim Austin's motivation for an article like this? Why doesn't he like the term "snake oil"? The article doesn't demonstrate a good grasp of why readers may be concerned about "snake oil" in audio. It doesn't make suggestions on how consumers can be protected from questionable companies and claims. Ultimately, given the history of so many of these products in the "high-end" audiophile world, this article shows a lack of leadership and moral fortitude to reassure readers that Stereophile is committed to consider and explore questionable claims. I suppose certain manufacturers will be happy with this laissez-faire stance that sadly devalues the interests of consumers. Carry on I suppose!

From Stereophile, let's hop over to our "friends" at The Absolute Sound. What's the article "Objectivity and the Abstract Truth" by Allan Moulton even talking about? Considering the name of the magazine isn't "The Absolute Music" and the contents of this magazine deals with hardware, the message seems a little misplaced. Nonetheless, let's consider the article itself and a few ideas contained within...

It begins with a fascinating jump from a description of Microsoft's ad to a thought experiment around Tarzan asking about tennis racquets! Seriously, does it have to be this complicated? It's almost like the article is a parody of itself by "abstracting" itself into incomprehensibility.

For fun, let's think about that tennis analogy for a bit. Tennis racquets are made for the game of tennis and that "abstract" idea of the game is important, just like enjoying music is subjective and "abstract". Sure, Tarzan, given his world view and experience would not understand the concept of the game of tennis initially or what this "thing" (racquet) is. But I bet so long as he's not intellectually challenged that he will quickly grasp the concept of this being a "game" along with the important elements of victory, defeat, joy, sportsmanship, discipline, and facing up to challenges. Eventually, once Tarzan starts playing the game and develops some skills, will he not consider the old wooden racquet in his hand with loose strings and a shoddy grip? Would he not be wondering if he might not enjoy the game better with a slight upgrade to the "thing"? Would he not then consider physical "objective" parameters like the weight of the racquet, the tension of the strings, the vibration absorption capabilities of the frame and quality of the grip?

The subjective-only audiophile seems to expect Tarzan to remain somewhat in the dark about these physical characteristics of the racquet. He would instead look through tennis magazines and marvel at nice pictures, know the names of the fancy brands, enjoy stories from various well-known writers who apparently have tried using the racquets and interviewed racquet designers. Tarzan them might be encouraged to try out a few racquets to see if they "feel good" in his hand but not exactly knowing why (assuming he can afford the "high end" prices of course!). He would likely be expected to spend more money as he goes along and in the process leave much of this experience to trial-and-error rather than use the measurable, objective parameters for guidance. I think this is rather shallow. I'm not sure Tarzan would find the trial-and-error method based on testimony "fun" after awhile either.

Assuming Tarzan shifts to questions about the physical qualities of racquets (best analyzed objectively), we must not be tempted to believe that there is some kind of "zero sum game" and that his objective focus on the racquet in any way diminishes his subjective love for the game! In fact, this thirst for understanding could very well heighten his interest, understanding, and skill in the sport. From the abstract, he actually shifts into the concrete and "objective". Personally, this has been my experience with "maturing" over the years as I thought more about the audiophile hobby and the desire for higher fidelity hardware to enjoy what's in the recordings I own.

Yes, I agree. We should not obsess over the minutiae of audio. Focusing too much on one piece of hardware, or arguing incessantly about numbers like 0.001% THD is pointless. In my experience, those who have more of an objective focus actually typically do not obsess over these things. I think it must be some kind of stereotype to think that the numbers themselves are what's important. It's what the numbers tell us that's important. As I wrote awhile back about the limitations of hearing and listening, I believe that the rational audiophile recognizes that there are limits which we can correlate to measurement results. Beyond these limits, it becomes academic. When objective-leaning folks believe they've reached the threshold of transparency, interest in purchasing "yet more stuff" unless for a good reason, tends to drop. The Industry doesn't like it when the wallet closes, I suspect.

From what I have seen, objective-leaning audiophiles do not go on audio forums and say "The UltraSelect II DAC is clearly better than the Ultima III! The UltraSelect II has 0.0005% THD compared to the Ultima III with 0.005%!". That's obviously silly. Rather, I think most objectivists would appreciate well engineered gear, have an idea that transparency can be achieved without egregious cost, maybe glance over some measurements, say something complementary if things seem about right, and move on. What's disturbing for objectivists is when measurements clearly show poor performance or no conceivable difference at all yet the company/reviewer/owner seems not to be able to appreciate these facts. Worse is when the person then goes on to make unlikely and unsubstantiated claims of why the device is "better" when there could be absolutely nothing impressive at all about the performance of the device (consider NOS DACs for example).

Years ago, when I too was mainly of a subjective mindset, I remember obsessing over those neurotic questions I couldn't find answers to despite reading more than a decade's worth of audiophile magazines! Did I need better cables? Does this CD player have bad jitter? How does jitter sound like? Is balanced better than unbalanced? Am I really sure FLAC sounds the same as AIFF/WAV? Do I really need to buy more expensive software players because someone online said Foobar sounds inferior? Do I really need to run a separate power line into my sound room? Without running some objective tests and knowing for oneself with one's own gear, or at least have the manufacturer be transparent about what their product actually does, how does the subjective audiophile disentangle these uncertainties and fears? I believe that it is the responsibility of the media to do this for the audiophile by promoting truth and understanding rather than perpetuating those fears, uncertainties, and doubts! A role which sadly, IMO, the media has abdicated long ago by not helping Tarzan understand the physical, objective, characteristics of racquets...

We often hear the term "lifestyle" audio as a pejorative term referring to "mass market" and "mid-fi" gear rather than true "hi-fi" or "high-end" products. But doesn't an exotic pair of speakers with thousands of dollars worth of source gear, expensive cables, and other accoutrements also project one's "lifestyle"? The only difference really is that instead of convenience like smaller size and wireless Bluetooth, the "high end" has mostly been seeking after the luxurious lifestyle with expensive fascia, exotic components, and high price tags that often do not even match the objective sound qualities of much less expensive gear. In this context, when the article writer states "The audio industry and hobby lags behind this generational shift.", is that not just recognition that mainstream audio has diverged from the old-skool audiophiles that TAS caters to and that the new generation isn't following along with this type of "lifestyle"? For years audiophiles could not accept that adequate bitrate MP3 files actually can sound very good, and iPhones can make excellent audio players. The younger generation simply just moved on and ignored what would become of the "high-end" and all its idiosyncratic beliefs, myths, overpriced things, and penchant for anachronistic technology (analogue playback systems and tube gear for example).

When the writer suggests that future generation audiophiles will have to consider "What will you do with it?" ("it" presumably being simply the ability to play music with high quality), isn't that question already quite well answered now?! Just look around: people exercise with music, drive with music, study to music, fall asleep with music playing, wake up to music, meditate to music, dance to music, sing along with music, put music in slideshows, take hundreds of albums with us in the pocket when we travel, stream music off the cloud, etc. How much more does the author think we can do with "it"? What I don't understand is what exactly Mr. Moulton believes the "high end" Industry and magazines like The Absolute Sound can actually add considering that the shift away from traditional two-channel-component-system-in-a-sound-room-sitting-in-the-sweet-spot listening has been occurring for decades?!

One last thing I want to say about this article reaches beyond audio. I'm a little concerned about this sentence: "There has been a shift away from the truth of things and capabilities towards a truth found in a way of living and being."

I think we have to be careful because objective truth (of things and capabilities) will always be important. Just look around the world these days. Aren't many news headlines concerned with the importance of truth? Even if society looks more at "lifestyle", and concepts like "quality of life" become even more important, a good grasp of reality must always be built on "the truth of things". "Ways of living" and "being" could be true for oneself. There's nothing wrong with taking care of ourselves, but remember that taken to the extreme, self love can become pathological narcissism (I believe we see this come through at times with various writers). Factual truth applies to everyone. Without "the truth of things", upon what foundation are we then to clearly communicate, build trust, ensure justice, and measure progress? Perhaps at the very core of the audiophile hobby, "the truth of things" is exactly what has been missing in part or totally as it may be when snake oil products are promoted without restraint. Perhaps the "high end" audiophile hobby, in its willingness to go "full-subjective" in the mainstream magazines like TAS has in fact been at the forefront of technological hobbies in embracing form over function, that "shift away from the truth of things" for decades now.

I'd like to think that maybe audiophiles can lead the way back to embracing truth again. While computers, cell phones, and video technologies take their turn in becoming subjective objets d'art as the technologies mature, perhaps audiophiles can quietly return to their roots with thoughtful and rational appreciation of high fidelity music reproduction.

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With that, I wish you all a wonderful holiday season. 2018 has been a fantastic year in all kinds of ways for me and the family here. Hoping the same for you and yours.

Enjoy the music... Movies... Toys... Foods... Drinks... Friends... Families... Holiday cheer... And so on and so forth...

Let's chat again in 2019!

49 comments:

  1. Yes! Great post for the end of the year. It is worth to search the truth, although in science you always have the possibility to prove "new truth", if you're lucky and clever :-) Unfortunately in audio, many try to sell unproven illusions, which is why blogs like this continue to be very useful!

    Merry Christmas

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpUuU07_iMc

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    1. Thanks for some Stones over the holiday season :-). I'm certainly up for some new truths as well! Just not so sure we're gonna find too much in 2-channel audio...

      Merry Christmas Honza!

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    2. Maybe in filtering .... I think that better filtering of 44.1/48 and also 88.2/96 should be further explored. Not only phase change or cutoff, but general filtering using today's CPU. Just thinking ....

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  2. Merry Christmas Archimago,

    When talking about this 0.00x THD thing, I measured my AsRock board's ALC892. It showed 0.0014% THD and 0.0076% THD+N(A).

    When a "worthless" codec can achieve these numbers, such metrics also become a bit abstract. However, if someone use dB instead of percent, 0.0076% translates to -82.4dB, it looks much "worse", isn't it? The numbers can even be further "degraded" by not using A-weighting!

    On the other hand, Realtek "fans" can say it has stunning 100dB(A) dynamic range, exceeding the CD audio standard.

    So you can see how objective measurements can be twisted subjectively when ignoring psychoacoustics.

    From time to time I also see people questioning the credibility of hobbyist and community based measurements. Since your blogs are often quoted by other online communities, maybe you can write something about measurement technique and pitfalls like ground loop, gain staging, software settings and so on.

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    1. Hey Dtmer Hk. Thanks for the note. Yeah, numbers by themselves can mean different things to different situations for sure.

      You've hit on some important points around the technique, ground loops, gain effects and making sure software settings are correct. I'll see what I can do for those. Certainly over the years, I've run into the occasional snag with those issues and eventually able to find my way around them or have a "d'oh" moment what I'm surprised by some results I'm getting only to forget that I had something like ReplayGain on, resulting in unexpected data...

      Speaking of the ALC892, as you know my results certainly did not show "great" performance... But certainly not terrible with some caveats to keep in mind.
      http://archimago.blogspot.com/2018/05/measurements-msi-x370-sli-plus-am4.html

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  3. Archimago, thank you for the posts over the years!
    I have also often wondered about how the hi-fi hobby has gotten so far off track into "faith based" territory since the 90s (maybe even earlier). I am glad to have cancelled both my subscriptions to Stereophile and TAS earlier this year. It just made no sense any more reading this stuff. I've been around the block a few times with the audio hobby. At least back in the 70s, we enjoyed a healthy debate and many of us were into DIY so it kept the hobby more balanced. Great to see that sanity can still find a voice online, free from financial interests.
    Happy Holidays to you and yours. Keep up the great work!

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    1. Greetings JScull!

      While I was too young in the 70's to know what was going on in the audiophile world, I certainly hear about the battles between the objectivists and subjectivist back in those days. Fascinating reading about the work of Julian Hirsch of Stereo Review fame as well for those who need a refresher (passed away in 2003):
      https://www.audioholics.com/news/tribute-to-julian-hirsch-of-stereoreview
      https://www.soundandvision.com/content/reconsidering-julian-hirsch

      Indeed, the man got an obit in the NY Times:
      https://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/03/arts/julian-hirsch-81-an-engineer-who-wrote-about-audio-gear.html

      As a partial aside, I think there is something to be said about the fact that objectivism has a clear end in mind. Once technology allows us to achieve transparency routinely, I think many who seek high-fidelity move on to just enjoy our music or perhaps start viewing the gear through subjective lenses on the basis of how they "look and feel" so long as there's assurance that the technical performance remains high and not being fed snake oil.

      I still have my Stereophile subscription. I said "no thanks" to TAS a long time ago other than the occasional glance at the website when they have editorials like the article I referred to. I think there are reasonable reviewers/writers out there and certainly hope to see more articles from these folks!

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  4. Best post ever!!! Thanks Archimago.

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    1. Thanks Mark.

      All the best to you and yours this holiday season!

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  5. With Peter Aczel long gone, and Siegfried Linkwitz recently departed, this is my sole reliable source of high-fidelity audio data. Thank you for your work on this blog.

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    1. Greetings Terry...

      Yeah, the "old guard" is riding off into the sunset. Whether its the more objective/engineering folks like those you mentioned or in the subjective world like Harry Pearson in 2014.

      I think the audiophile landscape will be very interesting as the generation of Baby Boomers retire, their interest in the audiophile hobby declines and financial influence dissipates.

      Thankfully, IMO this is nothing to fear. The future will be awesome for great sounding hardware at fantastic prices :-).

      I just wish more recordings sounded better, artists embrace more natural-sounding albums, and the audio engineers actually take advantage of the hardware capabilities like movies take advantage of the "high dynamic range" of modern screens!

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    2. Audio as we once knew it is dead already; its passing either unnoticed or unacknowledged by audiophiles. As SL noted many times on his site, the problems that are left in stereo reproduction are speakers (not the room), and source material. The rest is already good enough. The hobby really was music, not boxes. The future, which is here already, is music appliances. The Kii Three and the versions of SL's speaker designs built under license in Germany, are both good examples of what music lovers will be using; highly integrated systems with correct polar radiation. Yes, this is largely a buy-once-and-forget-it model much like domestic refrigerators. Higher-order Ambisonics, under a variety of names but similar algorithms, are a definite improvement in realism although impractical for most music lovers. The people who listen to pop casually will be satisfied with soundbars and lifestyle stuff such as Devialet and KEF are producing; again highly integrated systems, although with entirely incorrect polar response. Your blog has been an excellent source of measured data for what is likely the last generation of products and protocols where such independent verifications will matter. Thanks again.

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    3. PS Harry Peason's relationship to audio was that of parasite to host; not to be mentioned in the same breath as credible and veracious persons named above.

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    4. Another good site is here: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?ewr-porta/

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    5. Thanks for the note guys.

      Yup, some great stuff on AudioScienceReview.

      I agree Terry, the situation is one where the technology is mature enough except for improvements in the speakers and room optimizations. Alas this awareness is not something many of the high-end companies want to acknowledge or the magazine writers. It really doesn't matter in any event because the truth is evident to those who bother to truly listen and of course objectively test out...

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  6. Great post Archimago!
    After a few years in this hobby now, I think I've arrived at a few general conclusions about the constant objectivity vs subjectivity debate.
    If you are looking for information, use your instruments.
    If you are looking for happiness, use your ears.
    If you are looking for truth, use both.
    All the best to you over the holidays and have a safe and prosperous New Year!

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    1. Thanks Carlo. Awesome, welcome to the hobby and well said.

      Absolutely, engage in the hobby with everything ya got! Same should be said of life in general :-).

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  7. Happy Xmas Archimago.

    If it gets a bit cold where you are, just throw another Audiostream reviewer on the fire.

    Should keep you warm.. :-)

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    1. LOL.

      Nothing against AudioStream this time over the holiday season :-). I'm sure it's a decent gig and the job's gotta be done.

      For 2019, I do hope that at least the "New" InnerFidelity starts publishing the objective data as promised. Would be nice to see the objectivity be spread to AudioStream as well...

      BTW: I see lots of love for the Totaldac DACs over the years in these Stereophile-affiliated websites but have never seen an actual review or measurement for such "honoured" gear in the actual magazine. Anyone seen actual measurements of the noise level, jitter suppression, low-level linearity? Another one that demands to have some measurements done are the LampizatOr products that get brought out every once awhile with glowing subjective kudos. I presume there's a bit of a following for these devices?

      Delete
  8. Merry Christmas & a happy New Year to you and yours too, Arch.

    Great blog and community you've curated here. I enjoy it immensely. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks Allan.

      Hope you and the family stay warm down in Oregon :-). It's a little wet here in Vancouver but relatively warm for this time of the year. Merry Christmas and will get in touch with you at the "other place" soon...


      Delete
  9. Hi all,
    I think the audio industry has gone crazy (i.e. $50K for a turntable or $250K for speakers...holy shit!). Now that the audio equipment has reach a such a level of quality (probably the hearing threshold), what could they invent to still generate revenues ? Go High-end and use Snake Oil to benefit from the wealthy man stupidity !

    When a salesman or a reviewer pretends such an incredible sound improvement in something while the average men can't hear any difference... well, he may buy the thing anyway to not look stupid... And then, as for luxury cars, he can impress his friends owning that piece of gear so largely acclaimed in the Hi-Fi magazines...

    This excessive 'vainglory' leading one to fake is what makes the audio industry happy. One can always fakes he hears that improvement because everyone else is pretending they do, no one will know he's lying. But.. maybe all the others are also faking!! When I read that some people says that their new high-end AC fuse improves so much the deepness of the sound-stage....OMG

    This is where I enjoy so much your blog, a lot of thinking behind your articles. I particularly enjoy when you start with an assessment (like high $$ USB cable are supposedly better) and then you measure all the appropriate parameters and the actual impact on the final audio results, including your personal opinion. As a good ol' techie, I'm not surprised that most of the time, your analysis proves that this 'betterness' is actually snake oil..!!

    So thank you so much for your works Archimago, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and looking forward to reading you again in 2019.

    Denis

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    1. Thank Denis and Happy New Year!

      Indeed the process can go on and on with a person believing "he" (usually) can hear a big difference with each upgrade (like cables) to justify why more money must be spent. All the while, no evidence or apparent desire to ground himself in objective facts.

      After awhile, it doesn't take too much to call out "The Emperor has no clothes!". That's basically the place we're in now I think. Unless the "audiophile hobby" (whatever that is!) reinvents itself, it's bound to continue to wither as it becomes less relevant and be seen as nothing more than the playthings of the rich who already have everything else.

      I think it's possible that we see the hobby splitting into 2 camps... A larger group that stays rational and enjoys talking, testing, and giving advice on reasonably priced devices, headphones, and speakers. Companies that cater to his group could thrive and compete. And then the group that is willing to entertain snake oil, uncritically accept claims, and appreciate "loose" ideas "beautifully" exemplified by this site:
      https://www.monoandstereo.com/

      Talk about shockingly pretentious!

      Let's see how this goes :-).

      Delete
  10. A) There is no (and never will be an) "absolute sound" in the sense of a recorded live performance within a living room setting. That was Harry Pearson's thing. And you wouldn't want that, even if it were possible. The sound of a small jazz combo in your living room, much less a symphony orchestra, would drive you out of the house. In fact, each different speaker/room combination will sound different, and give you a different "picture" of whatever the producer intended. Once you get past a moderate amount of dollars spent, returns will be minimal, in any case.

    B) All magazines and most on-line reviews are worthless. They exist in a symbiotic relationship with manufacturers, in order that the latter can sell overpriced stuff. It's why they tell you that each new product "blows away" what came before. I doubt even the reviewers believe what they are writing. Except cable and power cord reviewers--they probably believe what they are writing. Otherwise they would realize how idiotic their words are, and shame would overwhelm them. Amp/preamp/DAC reviewers--the ones who hear differences--have no shame.

    C) The most cynical audiophile thing currently going is 'hi-res' remasters. Does anyone, anywhere, think that Hank Williams' 'Hey Good Lookin' is going to sound better in 24/96? It's just a way for the record companies to sell more old product, because the newer stuff is not compelling.

    D) None of the above is an argument against decent engineering and/or build quality. Blue meters under glass, from Binghamton NY, look a lot better than cheapo metalwork, and the gear will probably last a lifetime. And if it doesn't you can probably be able to get it fixed by the factory in 20 years. So if you can afford it, why not? Just don't fool yourself into thinking your Mac sounds better than you neighbors Yamaha.

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    1. B) All magazines and most on-line reviews are worthless. They exist in a symbiotic relationship with manufacturers, in order that the latter can sell overpriced stuff. It's why they tell you that each new product "blows away" what came before. I doubt even the reviewers believe what they are writing. Except cable and power cord reviewers--they probably believe what they are writing. Otherwise they would realize how idiotic their words are, and shame would overwhelm them. Amp/preamp/DAC reviewers--the ones who hear differences--have no shame.

      Nice! Well said. I think that's perhaps the most interesting thing for me when I consider what some people write in the magazines... Do they honestly believe what they say? Can some of these people not see how "problematic" the claims made come across to others? Do some of these folks not see that they're touching on world views bordering on "spiritual" characteristics to objects which were designed and use the laws of physics and principles of engineering?

      Like you, I believe that some of the reviewers do NOT actually believe what they write. It's a job as part of that symbiotic relationship where the media serves as a form of advertising. This will not change unless we see some actual independent journalism showing up in the media and a willingness to criticize what are clearly questionable products.

      Delete
  11. The sensible voice in a sea of snake oil. Merry Christmas, Arch!

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  12. Merry Christmas and happy New Year, Archimago!

    As New Year wishes go, I would like you to more closely investigate the audibility of Windows Sample Rate Conversion from 44.1 to 48 and 96 kHz. I believe that I am not the only one who's DAC can not accept 44.1 sample rate.

    Now the short story made long is as follows:

    I set out to determine if my system is playing bit perfect.

    I am running Plex server on my Windows 7 laptop and stream through wifi to Chromecast Audio connected via mini Toslink to the Nubert NuPro A-200 studio monitors. Control is via Plex for Android app. I convert dts file to flac with Foobar and the speakers won't play it.

    Then, I tried the same with Foobar + ASIO via USB to speakers, and I was surprised: If I choose 'ASIO: ASIO4ALL V2' output, the speakers won't play. Only if I choose 'DS:Speakers (USB Audio DAC)' only then the speakers will play.

    When I asked in manufacturer forums, I was told that USB accepts 16/48, and that my music is being converted from 16/44.1 to 16/48 by Windows.

    Both Optical and Coaxial Toslink accept up to 24/96 files. DSP architecture of the speakers is 32 bit float, and volume is completely digital at 32 bit.

    Now, as audio objectivist, I am strongly dissapointed from technical side.
    As a music lover, I can found no audible problems when I play my favorite and well-known music (all my music is 16/44.1 flac).

    Would you be willing to make some measurements with Windows DS making SRC from 44.1 to 48 kHz and 44.1 to 96 kHz and check how loud are distortion artifacts?

    With best regards,
    Goran

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    1. Hi Goran,
      Okay we can do something like that... So if I took a 16/44.1 test signal, and just told my Windows 10 computer to output through DS at 100% volume via USB to 16/48, 24/48, and 24/96, and measured the result, that should be able to give you an idea, right? I can of course compare with ASIO. I don't know if there will be a difference with Win 7 as I don't have any machines running that OS currently.

      Remember, a few years ago, I did something similar here:
      http://archimago.blogspot.com/2015/11/measurements-windows-10-audio-stack.html

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  13. Hi Archimago,
    I am following your posts regularly for years now, and I actually re-read your linked blog before posting. But there was no mention of 16/44 to 16/48 conversion.
    Your suggested measurements will solve my dilemmas, and if as I suspect the results will suck (it seems that Windows is not filtering, only interpolating?!), then can there be another solution, like Foobar or Plex resampling to 16/48?

    You have gradually cured my audiophilia neurosis through the years and now I am grounded in the knowledge that I can not reliably hear the difference between linear phase and minimum phase filters, between 16/44 and 24/48, jitter smaller than 175ns (-40 dB), and that most DACs, power supplies, wifi, warious interfaces and tweaks do not make any audible difference in the sound (both proved with your measurements and my listening tests.
    But SRC instead of bit-perfect playback can make artifacts audible in my opinion (especially in Windows), and - at least for me - this is the 'last thing' that should be solved in my palyback chain, apart from the most important things like speakers and room.

    Regarding the streaming option (Plex to chromecast to speakers): Is there a way to know what the Plex player is doing, i.e. is the resampling done by Plex or by Windows?

    Once again, thank you for your goodwill to solve this hurdle and for all these years of educating your readership for all relevant audio topics.

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    1. Hi Goran,
      That's correct, that post did not go into 44.1 --> 48kHz conversion (just higher rates like 96kHz).

      Try this to get better resampling - download Resample-V for foobar:
      https://sourceforge.net/projects/resamplerv/

      Use the SoX algorithm. Add a 44.1 --> 48kHz item to the resampling frequencies table and play with the different settings. You'll see the corresponding frequency response and impulse response changes in realtime.

      Remember that there's only so much one can do with this small amount of resampling. An alternative might be something like a USB to optical input to those speakers and set it to 24/88.2 or 24/96 with Foobar resampling? Should resolve neurosis with that. I admit I'm surprised that the USB doesn't accept at least 24-bit input...

      Delete
    2. If the interface is really 16 bit only the upsampling to 48 or 96 kHz should be lightly (re)dithered, e.g. with modified-e-weighed dither or violet noise (highpassed TPDF dither). 16/176.4 upsamples needn't be dithered, since there is some resolution increase through 4x upsampling.
      But, as Archimago wrote I would search if the USB really does not support 24 bit.

      Delete
    3. Thank you for the advice guys!
      However...I believed it was IMPOSSIBLE that my active monitors could not accept 44.1, so I experimented for a few days...
      I installed Windows 10 (instead of 7) on my old laptop (only used for music), and then reinstalled Foobar2000 and ASIO4ALL and...it did not work.
      I did checked 'Use ASIO 64 bit drivers', done the channel mapping and voila!!!
      When Foobar is playing, that green light in the system tray warms my heart!
      Thank you Archimago for being willing to help.
      I also still think that showing what upsampling does to the sound will still be usable and helpful info for the readers who's DAC can only accept 48 and 96 kHz.

      On the side note Archimago, since you were using Plex when measuring Chromecast: did you used any special settings in Plex in order to obtain bit-perfect playback to Chromecast?

      Delete
    4. Hi Goran,
      Good to hear you tried a little further with that USB input. Alas, I think you're right in that the active speaker USB input does not accept anything but 16/48. That's also the only sampling rate mentioned in the manual:
      https://www.nubert.de/downloads/nupro-a-200-mit-usb-power.pdf

      Odd considering that even in a studio one probably should at least have the ability to play 16/44.1 to listen directly to a CD downsample.

      Anyhow, I think you should just use an inexpensive USB to TosLink converter, something like my old CM6631A unit from a number of years back:
      http://archimago.blogspot.com/2013/03/measurements-adaptive-aune-x1.html

      Should be able to find these for <US$40 on eBay and such. Looks like the Nubert can accept up to 24/96 thru SPDIF.

      Yes, I'll have a look at Windows resampling to 16/48 and see how this looks compared to something like SoX at some point :-).

      I don't remember if I used any special settings in Plex since it has been awhile with the Chromecast. I doubt it. Obviously make sure no volume attenuation for bit-perfect. Maybe at some point I'll pull out the Chromecast again to test - just after Christmas, BestBuy had the Chromecast for CAD$20 on sale. A no-brainer to pick another one up even if I'll just give it away as a gift :-).

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    5. Hi Archimago,
      As I said, now when I play Foobar, the green ASIO icon is present in the Windows system tray, indicating 44100 Hz.
      Doesn't this mean that Foobar/ASIO is sending correct sample rate, and the speaker is accepting it? (Maybe USB in speaker is UP TO 16/48, so includes 16/44?)

      Delete
  14. Happy New Year, Archimago!

    I was perusing the web and noticed the Sou the African site below and wondered if you are affiliated with it...

    https://wildandmarr.co.za/rme-adi-2-pro-fs-adc-performance-and-as-measurement-hardware/

    David

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    1. Hi David,
      Thanks for the link. No, have no idea who those people are :-).

      Over the years, I have come across websites that just lift the material here and reproduce them presumably for their clicks and advertising...

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  15. Hello Archimago. Happy New Year, and thanks for the post! I'm always grateful to see thoughtful responses to my Objectivity and the Abstract Truth, regardless of whether they are in full agreement or understanding. Even if the reader is forced to run back to the safety of their chosen intellectual corner, it's a good thing in my book. If people are forced to run enough times, a few might wonder what they're running from and what they're running to. We all need these occasional checks.

    As I'm a guest of your "Musings", I'll take full blame for the many apparent areas of incomprehensibility. I knew that this editorial would be a challenge to write, and that many of the responses would fall on expected lines. But you took the time to respond, and in my books I believe that it's worth a response from me in an attempt to clarify certain aspects and questions that you posed. I'm sure I'll just muddy it up further....sorry for that in advance. Might take 2 posts…

    Having seen the responses on your site, along with your own, I can tell you that the most challenging idea will be that there are serious thinkers out there for whom the "subject/object" choice or opposition is just an artificial construct. This isn't the forum for it, but I will simply say that I am a radical anti-subjectivist. Radical enough to have written a paper against my own graduate thesis promoter's latest paper at the time, asking him "where" this transcendentally ideal subject was (he was in charge of the Husserl archives in Leuven). So this idea that a critique of the dangers of a fully objective approach is therefore somehow "subjective" is provably misguided. I know that it's the straw man argument dragged out for occasions like this, but just know that I am less of a "subjectivist" than most (maybe all) who have posted on your site. In contrast, the objective perspective relies on the existence of a "subject" in order for it to be a rational perspective. The "objectivist" needs the subject (ideal observer) that I dismiss.

    I think you have missed the notion of the whole Tarzan thing, but I get that it's a bit of a jolt in the middle there. In my opening statement, I talk about the "closeness of specialization", and the danger that it might break some tether to the hobby's primary essence. Well, that's a challenging (most on your site would say "confusing") statement, so let's remind ourselves what's essential, and what better way than when we are faced with questions that force us back into that core? If you have kids you'll know this very well. They ask basic questions about really important stuff, and it forces you to consider what's really essential as opposed to what's merely accidental so that a good answer can be provided. If the answer to the tennis racquet question must include the game of tennis (which I believe that it does), then any full, "rational" discuss of a good raquet should take into consideration all aspects of the game, where any one aspect becomes an abstraction in isolation.

    continued on next post...apologies again!!!

    Allan Moulton
    The Absolute Sound

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  16. ...and on we go

    Of course we will naturally begin to obsess with all the relevant objective data and subjective (as you all like to put it) testing and opinions as we dive into anything. I'm as guilty as anyone in getting lost in the quantitative measurables. In golf, I always consult the Malby Playability Factor which categorizes every physically measurable aspect of a club, and I compare that with as much human testing on Trackman, etc. I'm obsessed with all that kind of information, all of which can make for a more "rational" (as you like to suggest) decision making process and for a more rewarding end experience.

    As I say in the editorial, it's my belief that these "abstractions" are occasionally necessary. Nowhere in my editorial do I suggest that specialization is bad- that we should remain in the shadows of naivite. I'm frankly not sure where you get that from. What I do suggest is that we can recognize the dangers of specialization by reminding ourselves of what is most important. By stripping away all the accidental stuff and returning to the basics of what's really important to give perspective to the obsessions we will (and should) acquire once we get fully engaged in anything.

    The danger that I speak of is frequently exhibited on your site in the little bits that I've exposed myself to, and it's sneaky- you have to look close to see it. Put simply, it's the seemingly subtle difference between "rational is objective", and "objective is rational". The comments on your site too easily (in my opinion of course) slide between these 2 thoughts as equivalent, and of course they're anything but equivalent. The same goes for the subjectivists (as you like to call them).

    The "What will you do with it?" pulled from the Microsoft ad is used as an indicator for what I think is a generational change in the way that people think about technology (I'd use the word "comportment", but it would send everybody even further for the hills). I wrote a (simpler) editorial called Head, Heart and Hands about why people still listen to records/ vinyl. I think we are most fully engaged when our experiences turn us on intellectually, emotionally, and sensually. I think we want it all, and I think that there has been a kind of isolation in social interactions and in the way that we have approached technology as something "other"- as something with inherent powers, separated from "the game". I'm hopeful that we are approaching a closer connection of "rational thinking" with essence.

    OK. Sorry for all that! Thanks again for taking the time to comment. Quick corrections: I'm less of a "subjectivist" than you are. "Truths" found in objective abstractions will always be important for any thinking and caring being (I'm obsessed with them). I agree that it's interesting that TAS would publish an editorial that seems to question the very basis of its foundation. That should make you consider whether that kind of examination is healthy? I think it is (and so must they). You must not confuse a critique (of objective abstractions in this case) with a rejection. Stop turning everything into an abstract war between some imagined subject and objective "truths". In this case, your using the opportunity to imagine or create a threat and struggle that isn't there. Unfortunately, it only serves to prove my point about the danger in abstractions becoming a surrogate truth. But I've responded here only because I actually love what you provide on your site, and because I do sense that you care about what's true and valuable for your readers.


    Respectfully,

    Allan Moulton
    The Absolute Sound

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    1. Thanks for the thoughtful 2 posts Allan! Much appreciate your perspective and the complex ways of looking at this.

      I agree - the "war" between the "subjective" and "objective" is in itself an abstraction of ideals that in real life does not really manifest for the most part anywhere near the idealistic extremes.

      For myself, most of the time, it's a pragmatic issue. I'm not sure if I am more of a "subjectivist" or less than yourself. I don't know what a "radical anti-subjectivist" is either. All I believe is that there are instances where we as audiophiles are faced with claims that appear to be stated based on the insistence that subjective testimonial represents "truth". In those instances, which are not uncommon, the audiophile is faced with the challenge of discerning whether "subjective" claims to truth are adequate. I would say "no" to those kinds of claims and appeal to reason and logic (ie. being "rational") as the tools to verify claims.

      Hmmm. Looking at my kids and their interactions with technology, I see users of technology with little depth to their understanding of the technologies themselves. It just speaks to the complexity of the products we have and the fact that the vast majority of the time, we don't really need to understand how the hardware or code works anymore. In that way, I suppose I can see why you use the term "comportment" in the larger context of the technological "space" allowing various interactions with artificial and human "agents". But that's another level of abstraction from the typical audiophile debate about "does/can that cable actually make a big difference in sound quality as claimed/heard by this TAS reviewer?" .

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  17. A lot of great stuff there.

    Completely agree that purely subjective, testimonial claims to truth are in themselves inadequate. I feel the same way about purely objective characterizations, which is why I included "opinions" as some of the abstractions mentioned in my editorial alongside physical quantification. I don't discount either as potentially valuable, but they can't displace a thing in use- i.e. in experience.

    I also completely agree on the idea that younger generations are primarily "users" ("What will you DO with it?"). They experience technology. The question I would pose is, is it "rational" to be a user without a deeper understanding of the underlying technology? Some of the best golfers in the world have no technical understanding of why they use the gear they use or the settings that have been chosen for them. They like the look and feel and leave the technical stuff up to other people. They are golfers. They play a game at the highest level.

    You like to distinguish "reason" and "logic" from what you call "subjective". Believe me, I get it. I belonged to the Boston Audio Society in the late 90's/ early 2000's, and they championed this positioning of what counts as true in audio. If I told them a relative at my house over the Holidays had cried when responding to a piece of music (as actually happened), they'd find a way to question "Oh, yeah, well did you change the cables to zip cord and count the tears before and after to determine if there was any difference?" (level matched of course).

    Your hope (as I read it) is that educating people more about the underlying objective "truth" can lift the veil of ignorance that is placed upon them (either intentionally as many of your readers suppose, or unintentionally) when they rely on common experience and subjective claims. When they are pure "users", under the dark spell of the audio industry machine (that’s funny to even type). You provide light where there is darkness.

    What if the pure objectivists and subjectivisits both have it wrong? What if all those young users are on the right path? Not that knowing what others think or how something measures and tests doesn't matter, but that technology is what we can do with it, not what it can do for us?

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    1. Thank you again Allan.

      I agree. And in fact, I think we're very much on the same page with this chatting over a beer. To be firmly in just one camp on the subjectivist/objectivist debate is not the place to be. There's clearly a time and place as well as a freedom to choose.

      Tell ya what, Allan, maybe what I'll do is think about this more and there can be a "MUSINGS" post in the near future discussing this more... Again, appreciate your input and neat to hear of your participation in the BAS back in the day!

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    2. To be firmly in just one camp on the subjectivist/objectivist debate is not the place to be.

      Heh. My comment way back before Christmas almost was going to make this very point. I got about 6 sentences in, realized I wasn't half done with it, and decide to delete the whole thing. The irony, I felt, was that the commercial writers are forcing themselves into increasingly polarized direction to appeal to their (ahem, shrinking) audiences, while bloggers just in it for the enjoyment and LOL's are picking up audience by staking out ever-growing acres of (honest?) middle ground.

      The problem as I see it is that the subjectivists try to use qualitative performance metrics to rationalize exponential cost increases. When objectivists quantitatively measure the performance, the performance differences are as often as not non-existent and even sub-par to kit costing fractions less. When differences are measured to the high, high-end's credit the differences are in the inaudible range given everything we know about human hearing acuity.

      The outrage, disdain, pick-your-verb... objectivists and even disinterested lay-consumers have towards the Hifi subjectivists is from their obvious hypocriscy. They alone among conspicuous consumers insist their is a rational justification for their "investment." Cars, boats, mansions, everyone agrees it's largely about the status signal. Hifi, in contrast insists it's about the performance. What can I say, feeling like you're being lied to kind of alienates a person.

      In case this comes across harsh, I want to emphasize I have no ill-will to Allan M. specifically. I have not read his writing enough to have an opinion.

      Regards, another Allan. :)

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  18. " I want to openly explore some things I'm interested in. :-)"
    Hi Archimago.

    Thank you for replying to my comment. I was a bit sarcastic when posted my initial comment as I wanted to grab your attention. It was a bad move on my side, but it worked. Sorry if I somehow offended you (I hope not).
    Like I previously mentioned I do enjoy looking at the measurements you publish as well as some other bloggers. Though where I tend to disagree is the generalization and/or conclusions many bloggers come up with (including you). The conclusions along the lines what is audible vs non-audible based on the published test results. So for now let's forget about acoustic treatment and talk about those minuscule differences. In fact I will let Martin Mallison from ESS do the talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Mn5PrnZV-k You can fast forward to 23 minutes or so into presentation if you want to get straight to the point.

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    1. Thanks for the note Museatex!

      No worries man, and certainly no offense taken... It's actually good to consider things like one's motivation and such! That's the only way to move forward and have true dialogue.

      Yes, I've seen that Mallison video and in fact embedded it into this post awhile back on the SMSL DAC:
      http://archimago.blogspot.com/2017/05/measurements-smsl-idea-usb-dac.html

      While the video has lots of great information, I watched it knowing that Mr. Mallison of course has something to sell as well. So of course there are beliefs he would like to champion. When he speaks of sigma-delta having a certain sound and the idea that people say "no that's not as good" despite very competent measurements, I cannot fully accept that position without him giving us more information... What DACs did he switch between? What speakers/headphones? Who are these people? Can he show us what the noise level looks like between the 2 devices? These ideas automatically come to mind.

      Given what we have seen in the audiophile world, I think it's very reasonable to be skeptical. While there is much in that video that is useful, I obviously cannot agree with every comment. Claims like what's spoken of around 23 minutes clearly need verification regardless of the person delivering the message once we start approaching comments that appear unlikely. Or even if possible, suggests than we can understand the phenomenon with deeper testing.

      Remember folks, this last bit is important. This is why we should have no need to hold individuals up as being especially gifted as "golden ears". Presumably it is this unnecessary level of unquestioning respect that prevented the mainstream audiophile press from being cautious with Bob Stuart and his doubtful MQA hype from the very beginning.

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    2. In ASR people avoid ESS chips like the plague due to the so called "ESS hump" (increased THD and IMD at -20 to -40dBFS). Maybe a karma of cooperating with MQA.
      https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/intermodulation-distortion-hump-on-topping-and-others.3813/

      Oppo 205 is not affected, maybe a karma of your effort in combating MQA :-)
      https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?attachments/auralic-vega-dac-imd-distortion-measurement-png.13741/

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  19. I agree with you that ESS didn't provide a lot of information but it would be very unusual for any commercial company to do so. Their R&D cost money and they unlikely to share more info then needed to generate interest. What I was also trying to grab your attention to is the fact that one could train himself to listen to for certain distortions/artifacts. Sometimes it is better not to know what you need to listen for. A good analogy would be video displays where you learn what screen door effect is, blooming (local array dimming), motion interpolation artefacts. Obviously we always question things (especially those that are technically oriented) but regardless how much data ESS could have shared there always be some that will say it is not enough (sufficient).
    Here are a few links that you may find interesting. It is likely you already seen them but they maybe of interest to your visitors:
    Floyd Toole presentation (not sure if you have read his book or not) https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=floyd+toole
    What is particularly interesting are his comments where he recommends using room correction for low frequencies only (36:40) or not at all when you can use multiple subwoofers. This has been my experience as well after multiple experiments with convolution filters, dirac, audyssey... You may want to experiment with more acoustic treatments versus ruining relatively flat on-axis response of your Paradigms. :)~
    Jonathan Novick from Audio Precision https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2V6YN-mshmY with audio demo of different types of distortions to the audience.

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