Saturday, 21 December 2019

Visiting an audiophile friend: Avantgarde UNO 2.1, KEF LS50, Tannoy 501A, and Spendor SA1. Merry Christmas & Happy 2020's...

[2020-01 - Update... The active Tannoy speaker was originally listed as the "401A". In fact it's the "501A". Text and graphics changed...]

One of the joys of writing an audiophile blog is the opportunity to meet some interesting people in this hobby over the years! Here in Vancouver, there's no audiophile special interest group or club I'm aware of. As a result, connections are made through receiving E-mails or private messages once awhile by locals to hang out, check out gear, and listen to tunes together...

After meeting up in person a few months back, I paid one of these local audiophiles (who shall remain anonymous :-) a visit at home to check out his main system:


As you can see, he's got quite the pair of speakers and clearly his wife is highly accommodating to his audiophile "needs" ;-).

The big speakers are the Avantgarde Acoustic UNO 2.1 horns (see Stereophile review here) with active bass modules from around Y2K. Sadly, pictures really do not do justice to the fit and finish of these speakers! Gorgeous gleaming metallic deep blue on those horns.

As you would imagine, these horns are very sensitive transducers. We're talking something like 101+dB/W/m. The bass module is the SUB225 CTRL PRO consisting of two 10" drivers and there's a 200W Class AB amplifier in the box.

Avantgarde subwoofer module - 20Hz low-frequency extension point set. Lowpass crossover point, and volume control knobs. Notice that the owner apparently does not believe in esoteric wiring and has opted for some decent gauge zip cord. That ethernet cable on the carpet also appears to be generic.
But there's actually more bass power than this in his setup! Behind the left speaker by the curtains, hidden from view, is a large 100lb, REL Britannia B1 12" sub, low-passed at 22Hz when there's a need to feel bass. (I've seen claims that this sub can extend down to 13Hz or so.)


The picture above from the side also gives us a peek at his equipment rack behind the speaker. For analogue source, he's using the Linn Sondek LP12 turntable powered by a Radikal, and the EAR 324 phono preamp. Cartridge is a denuded Linn Akiva moving coil.





On the digital source side, we have the Linn Klimax DS streamer, a Rotel CD player and I see he has been doing some vinyl rips with a Benchmark ADC1.

All of the sources are fed into his tube Manley Jumbo Shrimp preamp and then into a rather rare Pass Labs First Watt SIT 2 (not shown) using the "Static Induction Transistor". The SIT 2's manual states that the distortion at 1W is 0.7% and it can push 10W at 5% THD with a 1kHz signal into 4Ω; not exactly the typical specs a pure objectivist might be impressed by :-).

Notice that he also has a McIntosh 275 amp in the bottom rack - not in use at the time.

Let's measure that Avantgarde UNO 2.1 system!
This is all well and good of course. We could all hang out at a friend's place, grab a drink, listen to some music, and shoot the breeze for hours... But since we are both curious and "men of action" ;-), let's see if we can learn something about this gear, the room and maybe improve the sound!

I brought over a little measurement kit consisting of my Focusrite Forte which provides DAC and ADC capabilities plus functions as a microphone preamp with phantom power. A calibrated microphone is a must so I brought over the Dayton Audio EMM-6. The Microsoft Surface 3 Pro laptop has a bunch of software including REW and Acourate installed. And a microphone stand.

The first thing we measured was the main system to see if we can get the Avantgarde frequency response optimal. Here's how the frequency response was like at the best listening position from the sofa when we started:


That's with the UNO speakers only, REL sub off. Not bad at all! Bass is already full and music already sounds great (I brought over some Leonard Cohen and Daft Punk which I was familiar with).

We then turned on his REL sub and the REW measurements showed some significant destructive interference between this and his UNO (alas did not save those measurements as we fooled around with the settings). To put a long story short, we ran through a few settings with the REL, flipped sub polarity a few times and checked channel effects, subtle positional changes, tested channel balance, and adjusted volume settings to come up with this "final" frequency response at the listener position:


As you can see, my friend wanted his bass powerful and deep with the portion below 40Hz filled in with the REL. At 20Hz, the SPL has been boosted between 10-20dB with the REL sub turned on. Obviously, he can vary the sub volume to preference if that becomes overwhelming.

We can also look at the time-domain with a peek at the step-response captured by REW at the listening position over 5ms; remember this is in-room response, no special correction, with no attempt at semi/pseudo-anechoic response:

You can compare this with Stereophile's measurement. Notice that the polarity is inverted here.
Before we left the main speakers, with a little rewiring, the system was quickly set up for the measurement of and creation of some DSP filters using Acourate. Without too much effort, we can measure his speaker/room from the listening sweet spot, define a desired room curve, and create some correction filters he can try with JRiver, Roon or maybe foobar with a convolution plugin.

Here are some off/on digital filter results:



Looks good and should sound good :-). I'll leave it to my friend to adjudicate the subjective sound quality of course...

Ohhhh... Look at those monitor speakers!
As we look around his room, we see a number of other speakers he's having fun with. For example he has this Tannoy Reveal 501A (predecessor to the Tannoy Reveal 502) sitting on top of an Omega Maxhemp (8Ω, 35-18kHz, 96dB/W/m) based on single crossoverless Alnico 8" driver with whizzer cone:


And he brought out his new not-broken-in KEF LS50 just out of the box and had an old 1976 Spendor SA1 that still sounds in reasonable shape as well:


For fun and comparison, we stacked a few sturdy boxes with stuff inside, and put the small speakers on top. We placed the microphone almost exactly 1m in front of the speakers and also almost exactly 1m above the floor - like this with the mic on-axis to the tweeter:


Between the Spendor and KEF, there are at least 35 years worth of evolution in speaker design, material science, and electronics for the crossovers! Here is a frequency comparisons of the little speakers overlaid (1/12-octave smoothing @ 1m, on-axis):


The Tannoy Reveal 501A is an active studio monitor meant for nearfield use. A few years back before discontinued, it should be comparable to the current price of the Reveal 502's at <US$300/pair. Notice the high frequencies are a bit accentuated even with -1.5dB "HF Trim" setting on the back. This kind of rising high frequency response on-axis suggests that they were designed to be listened off-axis (like maybe 30-45°) where the response should be significantly flatter. Time permitting, it would have been good to grab a few off-axis curves to see at what point the FR flattens out. Here's a good Sound-on-Sound review of the 501A's with 5" woofer and 1" soft-dome tweeter. Notice the bass response is quite good with extension all the way down to below 40Hz. As an active speaker, the company has the benefit of controlled matching of amplifier(s), drivers and crossovers.

The other two passive speakers (KEF and Spendor) were measured with the Pass SIT 2 amplifier and Manley Jumbo Shrimp preamp for volume control. Of the two, the modern KEF LS50 (circa 2012 release, price lowered to ~US$850/pair now and great deal at CDN$900 currently) is more neutral up to 20kHz and we can see the frequency extension into 30kHz with possible tweeter resonance out at 40kHz. This is a "Uni-Q" coaxial speaker design with 5.25" woofer with 1" aluminum tweeter.

Finally, in blue, we see a truly classic speaker; the Spendor SA1 from a few generations back still looking in decent shape ;-). (Initially, I thought this was their also-classic LS3/5A.) This speaker was designed by Spencer Hughes for BBC mobile monitoring and said by a number of folks to be superior sounding to the LS3/5A. It's a 2-way design, has a 6"/150mm "doped Bextrene" mid-bass cone and 3/4" tweeter. Bextrene is a plastic used back in the day primarily in the automotive industry and apparently an ingredient in plastic grocery bags, a precursor to polypropylene. It is rated as 8Ω nominal impedance, and has its crossover point at 3kHz. I don't know the sensitivity specification for the Spendor, but with the same volume gain applied, measured amplitude is lower than the KEF LS50 (which is rated as 85dB/W/m). In this measurement, we see a bit of a dip just below 9kHz. This seems to be too high in frequency to be the "BBC dip" or "Gundry presence dip" folks have talked about over the years which tends to be down around 3kHz (close to the crossover frequency). Not sure if this 9kHz dip is just a quirk with this box. Will need to check the other one to look for a match next time.

Clearly there are differences between the KEF and Spendor but perhaps not as much as one might imagine given the 35+ years age gap based on just these on-axis frequency measurements! But there's more, we can see significant differences in the time-domain step response (5ms window):


Hmmm, looks like there may be phase inversion in the Manley preamp or SIT 2 amplifier (suggested also by the Avantgarde measurements above). The polarity is flipped on the KEF LS50 graph compared to Stereophile's measurements a few years back. We can see the temporal "quickness" in the LS50's driver design with smooth integration of tweeter and mid-bass connected in opposite polarity whereas both the Tannoy and Spendor have tweeter and mid-bass drivers connected in the same polarity. Maybe next time I'll double check on the "absolute polarity" bit to see where the inversion is happening (the SIT 2 amp inverts, but my friend believes it was accounted for). As usual, due to questionable human ability to sensitively perceive phase/temporal information, frequency response appears to be much more important.

Finally, while tube preamps and the Pass SIT 2 amplifier may add quite a bit of harmonic distortion themselves, we can still compare the KEF LS50 and Spendor SA1 to examine the distortion signature through the same preamp/amp combo:


A bit more low bass 2nd order harmonic with the Spendor. Interesting frequency-dependent excitation of higher order harmonics below 200Hz in both speakers. What looks much improved is the reduction of high-order harmonic distortion in the treble with the newer KEF LS50.

While each of us will have to listen for ourselves to determine preference between a vintage speaker like the Spendor SA1 vs. modern KEF LS50, using the Manley preamp and SIT 2 amp, objectively the LS50 has a flatter and more extended frequency response, overall less distortion, plus a less complex looking step/transient response. Though not measured here, lateral and vertical responses are also superior with the LS50 compared to old BBC-inspired speakers in general. I think this is a good example of modern speakers being objectively "better" due to improved design and materials.

Pricewise in 1980, a Spendor SA1 speaker was around US$230 each, for the less expensive walnut veneer (here's a Spendor price list from 1980). In inflation-adjusted 2019 currency, this would be around US$717 each or today's US$1400/pair. It seems that the Spendor SA1 when new would have been significantly more expensive compared to a modern US$850/pair KEF LS50 and have objectively lower performance.

Nothing against "vintage" gear of course, and like I said, everyone can have their own preference for sound. But I think it's reassuring that new products are able to provide better engineered performance at less cost. It would be sad for any technology-based hobby if in general it were not so!

[In the future, we'll have a closer look at the KEF LS50 and Spendor SA1 to get a better sense of comparative performance and sound!]

In Summary...
Overall, I think that's a pretty good "haul" of data from a 4-hour afternoon visit to my friend's place! In that time, we did a bit of main speaker placement/settings optimization, created a DSP filter for him to try out, and had a little comparison of the disparate monitor speakers. Plus, the data also suggests that we should look more into the phase characteristic of the system. We even managed to sneak in a little bit of music listening as mentioned above including Louis Armstrong's Satchmo Plays King Oliver LP on his Linn turntable. I can tell that he did a great job with the turntable set-up and the analogue system maintained a nice low noise floor.

As you can imagine, this is a much different system than my own! Tube preamp, low-power exotic solid state amp, high-sensitivity large horn main speakers to match... Subjectively, this still sounds excellent and there's certainly something to be said about the impressive clarity, "palpability", and soundstage "presence" of reproduction from the huge horns even at low volume. Indeed, there are many ways to achieve sonic excellence!

As a hobbyist writing and thinking about consumer audio, it's fun to do this with friends! It gives me a chance to see what folks are up to, explore the rooms they're using, get a taste of their systems and music... Plus of course have some "intimate" access to the gear for more than just a listen compared to the likes of audio shows or the local audiophile showroom.

As I look around the various online reviews, I cannot help but feel that it's a shame not more reviewers are interested (or perhaps able) to complement their subjective impressions with measured data to reveal that which ears and brains lack resolution for (a good example would be polarity / "absolute phase"). These days, the software and equipment to do this are easily accessible without huge cost nor does it take lots of time to get the measurements done as shown here. The main investment is in learning how to do this stuff efficiently. I think it says something positive about a serious hardware reviewer if he were to invest in correlating subjective impressions with objective results. I definitely respect reviewers who have the breadth and depth of knowledge and experience to speak both objectively and subjectively about a product (and endeavor to do so myself). Alas, one can imagine why some boutique/exotic audio companies might not want their products tested objectively if they are not confident in the outcome.

Finally, I'd like to thank my audiophile friend and his wife for their hospitality. I got a taste of the-lady-of-the-house's homemade cookies and fruit cake - delicious! While I was visiting, she was also working on some festive baking and decorations and didn't even complain about the test tones and sweeps; now that's accommodating :-). Great to hear that her work was subsequently displayed in their community's holiday celebrations recently!

I'm sure next time we meet, there'll be more sitting back and enjoying the music ;-). But to be honest, I'm not sure my readership consisting largely of "hardware audiophile" enthusiasts here would find my subjective opinions about music or descriptions of sound quality alone to be that fun or useful.

(Hmmm... I'm already very curious about what kind of coloration we'd find with that Omega Maxhemp - whadda name - for next time!)

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A reminder that Hi-Rez exists & Goodbye to the 2010's...
Jim Austin's article "Hi-Rez Audio Distinguished in Blind Testing" posted on the Stereophile site was interesting this week. If we are to just look at the title of that article, one would wonder if there is indeed something there to be excited about. But in fact, no, nothing all that exciting IMO.

It's cool that the Japanese researchers are looking at these limits of human hearing; it takes quite a bit of work to get these projects done and applaud the efforts. What I am a bit concerned about though is a magazine grabbing that data and extrapolating it to the extent of claiming that this is of any consequence for audiophiles. The test was performed with test signals (no music involved here folks), and notice that on average the 7 listeners were all around 22! How many percent of Stereophile readers are less than 25 years old? Please, don't tell me that 40/50/60/70-year old ears/brains are equivalent to what we would find at 22. IMO, it looks a little desperate as a way to bolster consumer interest in hi-res, perhaps especially over the holiday season.

If you're interested in adding data to a hi-res vs. CD-quality listening test, go take Mark Waldrep's (aka Dr. AIX) "The HD-Audio Challenge II". I think he's accepting submissions until early 2020, intends to publish on the data, and I've submitted my own results already. Maybe Jim Austin and the Stereophile writers might want to be of service and submit their listening results using their highest-end systems. I'm sure Mark would love to look for correlations with age, equipment costs, and hearing acuity in the data. If what is said is true, this should be a piece of cake for them given some of the claims around audibility and a nice example of "walking the talk" if they're honestly up for it.

As a side note, the comment by J.V. Serinus on that Stereophile post about the Rossini DAC upsampling CD and hi-res to 24/384, claiming he still hears "major differences" as if upsampling should make any significant difference is IMO a good example of "received wisdom" that mainstream writers hold yet of questionable validity. He apparently has expectations about what the upsampling technology is supposed to do and what he's perhaps supposed to hear. Gotta be careful about such suppositions given how the technology works!

Let's also consider this other comment Serinus made: (the public is) "not going to be swayed one way or the other by ceaseless debates about / condemnations of MQA on audio sites". The truth is that the public doesn't care about MQA at all, there was never anything interesting in it for them to begin with since hi-res was never really in demand. The debates and condemnations are meant for audiophiles who do care when it was clear that MQA was being pushed to audiophiles likely because of good will towards Bob Stuart and the Meridian heritage. Presumably the strategy was that audiophiles would further promote and perhaps be positive "influencers" for adoption of the scheme. It's a sign of integrity that advanced hobbyists and honest companies would do their part in examining claims and push back even if Serinus and much of the Mainstream Press are unable to understand and speak of objective, verifiable truths. IMO, the discussions have been fruitful and people (audiophiles) are swayed with significant repercussions for not just MQA but also how significant portions of the Press, certain "gurus" and companies are viewed. This is an important feedback mechanism that Mr. Serinus needs to respect as a matter of service to maintain a genuine and healthy hobby that's not just run by and for commercial interests.

In a related Stereophile article - "Slow Listening" - we again see the tired justifications for the extreme Golden Eared "subjectivists". The reader comments are telling however. While perhaps "more subjective" in mindset, the comment by tnargs is excellent and a good reminder that shades of grey do exist in this world and my "more objective" stance isn't all that different from what he's saying. In a world where polarities seem more striking especially in political debates, perhaps we in the audiophile microcosm can actually be on the leading edge of finding rational, centered, common ground. Interesting that the term "fidelity" was brought up in the article and then quickly tossed aside in the service of the supposed "stress relief" of 2nd order harmonic and the "BBC dip" as if these are all equivalent in importance or value. I suggest Mr. Austin might want to do a little more soul-searching on what fidelity means and whether this performance ideal holds a special place in this hobby. Perhaps "purely subjective, likely expensive, manufacturer-friendly euphonic audio" is all that ultimately matters to him and his magazine (as is apparently the case with TAS / Hi-Fi+ for awhile now IMO).

May I suggest pondering on the question of whether "hi-rez" has value without "high-fidelity" playback as a start?

If we look back at the decade of the 2010's as audiophiles, the rise of audio forums, no-nonsense discussions (including criticisms of MQA) and hearing from diverse voices beyond the traditional audiophile press have been highlights for me. Remember, Audiophilia is not a religion. Audiophiles need not be "audiophools". There are no "high priests" in this endeavor with a special, close relationship with ultimate audiophile Truth. There are no esoteric gnostic rituals needed to enjoy and experience hi-fi sound. As in other areas of life, faith is not bestowed because somebody said so, but in general, earned, whether we're talking about an Industry, the Press, or as individuals. Modern audio devices are electromechanical products engineered by humans and developed out of scientific principles, not the result of a metaphysical Creator nor complex evolutionary processes, and should not be evaluated any differently. Some devices sound bad, some great, but none are divine. Beyond objective results, we can still respect a person's subjective preferences, but those are on the level of opinions of which we can all form for ourselves and hopefully, insightfully, civilly express. Opinions are not necessarily facts. And measurements should also be replicated for confirmation when possible.

I believe this decade is ending as a friendlier place for rational audiophiles on the internet. That seems like a good thing. In the 2020's, let's continue to look for opportunities to realistically understand and build upon what we have today, maybe even rejuvenate the best from the past.

With that, I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I've got some fun stuff to do with the family and time to just enjoy the music, savor the food, ponder the season, and imbibe the atmosphere.

Let's chat again in January as we also enter the next decade...

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BTW guys, I'll be in Seattle over the holidays for a few days... Any recommendations where an audiophile might want to spend a few hours either checking out hardware or maybe a highly-recommended music shop especially in the downtown area?

37 comments:

  1. re Seattle: If interested in used gear, there is Seattle's classic Hawthorne Stereo, smallish cramped full but they also have some listening rooms. The equipment list is updated every few weeks http://www.hawthornestereo.com/used/. Down the block is Definitive Audio, more of a pricey high end dealer. Not quite downtown though.

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    1. Awesome Mark,
      That's not far from where I'm staying. Will scoot over if I have a chance!

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    2. If you do go, consider stopping at the Portage Bay Cafe, 4130 Roosevelt Way NE, classic Pacific Northwest eatery in same neighborhood!

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    3. For breakfast/brunch or lunch (limited hours).

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    4. Hmmm. Sounds good. Good food always a must especially on holidays ;-).

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  2. Props to that man's wife. She's a Saint.

    Mitchco's horns are legit, don't get me wrong, but they ain't in the living room and they ain't got a sofa stuffed between them. Know what I'm sayin'...

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    1. Saint and perhaps, shock horror, that most elusive creature, a female audiophile!

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    2. LOL Allan,
      Actually... I gotta say Mitch is a very lucky man as well given what the missus probably also has to put up with! Whereas yours truly is relegated to the basement and spare guest room ;-). Not that I'm complaining of course!

      Giraffe, the elusive ♀ audiophile is a rare creature. But highly assertive when the situation arises, I think.

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    3. Haha - I am indeed a lucky guy! Can you believe it, those huge fridge size, fugly looking cabs, horns and subs and my wife has no problem with it. Oh yah, I have a couple of guitars, amps and acoustic drum kit in the same room. Both my wife and daughter love the "industrial" look. The number of sine wave sweeps they have heard, oh the horror! I have had a lot of speakers through my room and they still like the JBL's the best. I thought about something like the Revel Salon 2 to replace and both thought they looked ostentatious. LOL!

      Arch, another great article and what a nice collection of speakers! Cool that you got to measure them. Pretty good in-room measurements for the UNO's and sub. After the Acourate calibration, what did your friend say about the corrected sound? No surprise about the step (timing) response uncorrected, but looks real good corrected.

      Folks should know that DSP/DRC does not "ruin" the sound off axis. What folks are hearing is the polar response of the loudspeaker and if the sound changes by moving ones head off axis, is going to be the same with or without DSP. That's why Tooles and Olives research on what makes for a good sounding speaker all the more important - a "good sounding loudspeaker" will have a smooth on and off axis response. And if using "constant directivity" devices, like I do, the corrected on axis sound will behave correctly off axis. The number one problem with DSP/DRC is that folks "over correct" the high frequencies into a narrow sweet spot and then blame the DSP/DRC. Education on how to properly use these sophisticated and powerful DSP filtering tools is key.

      Merry Christmas Arch! Keep up the great writings and wishing you all the best as we enter into a new decade!

      Kind regards,
      Mitch

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    4. Good point about the polar response and DSP correction. But unless the room is treated appropriately, there will also be room effects which interfere with the equalized response. I have speakers with good off-axis response but I've seen that the measurements in a sphere surrounding the listening position still differ noticeably front to back as well as side to side and above and below.

      I have found that doing a moving microphone average in a small radius around the listening position gives an EQ which is satisfactory for the listener. I can move around a little without affecting the frequency balance, even though the individual points vary significantly. I think the ear/brain does some averaging over position as well, as long as the differences aren't abrupt and large.

      I also have a pair of speakers which are somewhat directional, and trying to EQ the response for a single spot is indeed a bad idea, Correcting the general "trend" of the response is probably the best solution for them.

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    5. Good advice on correcting the general trend (i.e. minimum phase response)... One should note that all DSP/DRC eq systems are not created equal. The really good ones, like the one Arch is using for example, also offer "partial correction" where correction is only applied below Schroeder or the rooms transition frequency. Usually 500 Hz and below works well.

      The same software can also apply a sliding window or Frequency Dependent Windowing (FDW) so that one can correct for "room plus loudspeakers" below Schroeder and just the loudspeakers direct sound above the transition frequency. This way the room effects are not interfering with the equalized response as they are not used in the correction calculation. And above transition, it is either following the general trend or one can employ a gentle "tilting response" tone control on the direct sound and adjust to taste if the HF response is a little too bright or dull in one's room.

      These sophisticated DSP software packages also using transient response analysis, instead of steady state, and coupled with FDW increases the listening sweet spot, so the bass is smooth across a wider listening area and the HF response isn't over corrected. I wrote a couple of Technical Applications Notes on these two topics if one scrolls down a bit.

      I have used the moving mic measurement technique (does work good!), averaging, beamforming, and other quasi anechoic techniques, but found the best results with these top end DSP packages, like the one Arch is using. I can get a smooth response across a large listening area (e.g. 3 seat couch) with very little tonal difference, both in the bottom end and at high frequencies, while shifting across the the 3 seats. But as you see, I am biased ;-)

      Merry Xmas!

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    6. Thanks for the note Mitch!

      Will chat more in 2020... Congrats on the recent article with the Purifi gear! Fantastic hi-fi stuff.

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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    7. oh the horror!

      LOL. Merry Christmas guys & IIRC the 3 gals.

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    8. Thanks Allan.

      Mitch, I'll have to talk to my friend about his impression with the DSP in the new year. Last we spoke, he's looking at ways to best implement the convolution filtering into the system since his main streaming device is the Linn.

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  3. Interesting to see how little fundament change there has been in box speakers but more finesse - to use a car analogy; similar cars but much better mileage.
    How audible to you were the differences between the speakers?

    Happy Christmas Arch. Looking forward to more good stuff in 2020.

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    1. Alas, I didn't have a chance for a good listen to those particular Spendors that day but based on previous experience, there is significance difference.

      Depends quite a bit on the kind of music and where in the spectrum the energy is. I find older speakers like this British monitor tend to have very nice midrange sound but lack a bit with the extremes compared to modern updates or newer models. It makes them tending towards "polite" sounding. A trumpet for example should have a "bite" to it which I sometimes find a bit lacking in some "pleasant" sounding speakers.

      Just an observation. I've noticed that many of the older audiophiles (60+'s and 70+'s) I know and have had listening sessions with do not seem to notice when there appears to be loss of high frequency extension. They seem to often state a preference towards older speakers which have that more mellow character even though I've thought other speakers sounded more likely to be transparent. Not sure if some of this is sentimental or familiarity towards older speakers, or actual hearing differences.

      I'm getting close to 50 now so I will take no offense if my kids tell me the "old man" is "missing something" in his hearing, so I'm not saying this out of some kind of ageist attitude towards the older audiophiles... Rather, this is what I have seen and we do know that men generally will roll-off high-frequencies with age more severely than women. This is why I think it is useful for purely subjective reviewers to get hearing tested regularly to make sure their observations are consistent and more reliable.

      Yup, have a great Holiday Season!

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  4. Thanks for continuing the battle to show measurements, even of old and respected gear!

    I am sure the featured system sounds fine, but having heard all the classic horn systems (Klipschorn, Altec, E-V, etc.) and even some modern ones, I have personally never been able to enjoy the sound of horn-based transducers. To me, they all have a characteristic coloration that seems harsh and unpleasant; my suspicion is that wavefront steepening is more prevalent in horn speakers than we realize, and I may be very sensitive to it. But I don't have any solid evidence for that, so I won't argue the point.

    I'm also not buying into the Dirac/DRC craze; I've seen some measurements which appear to show that correcting response at one listening position frequently worsens it nearby. Differences of a foot or so in position cause major swings in frequency response, and you simply can't correct most of them. I've done some testing in my room with REW and a calibrated mic, and the differences from even moving your head from side to side are often dramatic. Yet they aren't always audible; the brain does a lot of post-processing and things which stand out clearly on a graph may or may not affect the balance of a system, depending on the frequency band and relative magnitude of the errors.

    I had a good laugh at the second part of the article, though; the self-serving audiobabble from the high-end press and their lackeys just continues to deviate from sanity. If there's one possible difference with upsampling, it's solely due to the ability to use a less destructive reconstruction filter on the output (I'm assuming a perfect DAC after upsampling). I'm not convinced it's even theoretically audible, what with the downstream components like loudspeakers mangling the response further. But as you've observed earlier, the pundits are not interested in "fidelity" but the colorations/distortions that make them happy. If a component has none, they feel justified in conjuring some up out of thin air to support their belief system. It's pathetic.

    Happy holidays to all, and for sure I'm going to be listening to lots of music this week!

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    1. Thanks for the note Greg,
      Yup, exactly with regards to my comment on the "upsampling" bit. And why I seriously question JVS' post (or should I say, most likely, observations informed by held beliefs).

      Horns are certainly a matter of taste, for sure. I think Mitch's article on the LS50 vs. JBL horn monsters ;-) touch nicely on the directivity difference:
      https://audiophilestyle.com/ca/reviews/kef-ls50-david-versus-jbl-4722-cinema-goliath-speaker-comparison-with-binaural-recordings-r768/

      Like all tools we might have in the proverbial "box", DRC is certainly not going to solve all problems. I agree. It's impossible in a 2-channel stereo system especially to correct everywhere and certainly adjusting frequency/time in one spot (the sweet spot) will lead to consequences elsewhere.

      I'll still need to examine what happens in my own system with DRC away from the sweet spot... Just got a UMIK-1 USB mic so should make things easier.

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    2. One more thing Greg...
      Yeah, I don't think it's much of a "battle" at all regarding measurements. To me, it's just a natural part of learning about the products we buy and use. It seems to be incomplete when evaluation of a product is purely subjective. To me, it's quite natural that subjective opinions can change very easily and too often do not represent a fair account of the quality of the equipment... I've certainly experienced this in myself with changes in opinions based on other factors affecting my own psychology and mood.

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    3. Agreed! It's more of a "battle" against the creeping tendency of people to not understand and not want to understand the value of measurements.

      Just tonight I did a listening test where I purposely adjusted the level of two devices to NOT be equal - in fact, only by just 0.5 dB or thereabouts. Despite this tiny difference, I felt that the louder one sounded "better" no matter which one it was (multiple tests!). If I hadn't already experienced this many times, it would have improved my understanding of how we can fool ourselves far too easily. Just a movement of head position or perhaps sinus congestion could alter our hearing and subjective impressions enough to change an opinion about what we thought we heard. There are very few things I trust my hearing to tell me unless it is confirmed by an objective test; in this case, quantity is perceived as quality due to a myriad of subconscious factors.

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    4. Hear hear on the sinus congestion part.

      In the winter season, blowing one's nose before listening to hi-fi gear could probably change subjective impression! ;-)

      Merry Christmas!

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  5. Arch,

    I appreciate what you do, but sometimes your thinking is just plain sloppy, and embarrassingly so. I’ve noticed this only seems to be the case when trying to excuse ridiculous, irrational religious beliefs.

    It looks like you’re just pandering to a portion of your religious, supernatural believing audience when you post such nonsense. It’s disappointing to see how easily principles are tossed aside in favor of appeasing supporters and online friends.

    Below are recent statements of yours that I’m referring to:

    “Modern audio devices are electromechanical products engineered by humans and developed out of scientific principles, not the result of a metaphysical Creator nor complex evolutionary processes, and should not be evaluated any differently.” —Archimago

    And this recent quote from AS:

    “Philosophically, there are things which are metaphysical and outside of what we know about physics and science in general - God/gods/The Creator/spirits/angels & demons/Heaven/Hell/Nirvana would/could/should belong in this category IMO. I fail to see how low-jitter music servers, hi-res DACs, "noise reduction" boxes, expensive amps, lengths of cable that cost hundreds if not thousands should be treated as metaphysical, or why the scientific viewpoint seeking verification of subjective impressions should not be considered in discussions surrounding such items.” —Archimago

    “Yup, Merry Christmas to all...
    Remember guys, nobody said objectivism towards audiophile matters need apply to all of life! Different attitude towards different situations is probably wise... “ —Archimago

    This fallacious slop actually got ‘likes’ and ‘up votes’ from a few fellow AS members. No doubt the approvals were from the religious “audio objectivists” and/or fellow hypocritical panderers.

    There are no special categories or differing scientific standards in your examples above. You’re being ridiculous, Arch. If you want to entertain word games and make up special definitions and categories, the believing audiophile can play that same game.

    Respectfully…

    P.S. I don’t mean to sound rude or disrespectful, just speaking plainly in hopes that you’ll really think on this. Please don’t compromise your integrity and/or potentially jeopardize any well earned reputation.

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    Replies
    1. Hi etanea,
      Thanks for the note. Actually, I don't think I'm trying to pander to the religious or supernatural believing audience. When it comes to audio, for me the absolute reality to this stuff is that the gear was developed by engineering and science, therefore the supernatural does not have a role to play at all.

      But is my fight with those who may believe that there may be something in this Universe that some would call a deity, or "spiritual", or metaphysical? Not necessarily. Not sure I need to engage in that here. And not sure whether those thoughts need affect how we assess audiophile products.

      If some are religious and hold on to beliefs that could result in a pro-social, altruistic life, strive in the face of hardship and propels one to make this world a better place, then pragmatically I have no issues with that. And indeed, I have many friends who hold those world views that I respect.

      Religion and the supernatural, however, have no place in audio tech. Of that I'll go to bat on!

      Delete
    2. Wow, Arch. You didn’t put any thought into this at all. All you did was repeat yourself with the same flaws. I’m very clear on what you’re thinking and attempting to argue, so no need to repeat yourself. I’m trying to get you to see that your thinking is sloppy and illogical, and didn’t think I’d have to explain further.

      “Philosophically, there are things which are metaphysical and outside of what we know about physics and science in general - God/gods/The Creator/spirits/angels & demons/Heaven/Hell/Nirvana would/could/should belong in this category IMO.” —Arch

      Philosophically those “things” you listed are concepts that we can conceive of, not actual things, as you seem to suggest. Can you prove that those things you listed are anything but mental concepts? Existence of such things you listed are objective, existence claims, not subjective, and are not exempt from scientific scrutiny.

      Concepts can literally be anything. I can conceive of a version of Thor (God of all things electricity/energy), sound wave God (responsible for sound waves), ear creation God (Creator of ears and their function), metaphysical electrical/audio gremlins, audio fairies, and I can go on. These are, philosophically, metaphysical “things” which are outside of what we know about physics/science, and now must be included in your list of other metaphysical claims. You have no justification for allowing some and excluding others. These things now have a place in audio tech for exactly the same reasons you allowed it in other areas - ie - philosophical thing/concept, mere assertion, and subjective impressions.

      If you fail to see how low-jitter music servers, etc. should treated as metaphysical, then how did you conclude that anything in your list should be? I fail to see how anything you listed should be considered, yet you did. So, now we both have a list of concepts, and numerous subjective impressions of those concepts, and somehow you accept one and entirely disregard the other. How do you rule out my metaphysical audio related concepts, being that they are, similarly, things which are metaphysical and outside our ability to test, and not rule out yours? Metaphysical/supernatural claims are untestable and unfalsifiable claims, yet you rule it out in the audio realm, based on the fact that the “gear was developed by engineering and science.” That logic doesn’t follow, Arch. Hopefully, I don’t have to explain further.

      “Remember guys, nobody said objectivism towards audiophile matters need apply to all of life!” —Archimago

      Can you give me one example, with justification, that this is the case? Remember, existence and causality are objective claims. Don't confuse object and subject. Which objective claims do you exempt from other areas of life?

      Is there anything you can show that is the result of a metaphysical “Creator”? Please justify this? You speak as though there is something to it.

      “…therefore the supernatural does not have a role to play at all.” —Archimago

      You believe the supernatural has no role to play at all in the audio realm, but it does in other realms? Which realms? Please explain?

      Happy New Year...

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    3. “Remember guys, nobody said objectivism towards audiophile matters need apply to all of life!” —Archimago

      “And indeed, I have many friends who hold those world views that I respect.” —Archimago

      Not pandering, Arch? You can respect the person, sure, but do you respect their unjustified, religious, supernatural, metaphysical believing world views? What is there to respect? Do you respect the audiophile “believer” world view, as well? This blog exists, so no?

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing for, or defending the audiophile, nor arguing against your blog site, just making points in a way that might get you to see where your thinking is rather sloppy.

      “If some are religious and hold on to beliefs that could result in a pro-social, altruistic life, strive in the face of hardship and propels one to make this world a better place, then pragmatically I have no issues with that. And indeed, I have many friends who hold those world views that I respect.” —Archimago

      Wow, Arch! Replace the word “religious” with the word “subjectivist audiophiles” and you’ll see where your thinking fails. This is the exact reasoning that the audiophile often uses and you, rightfully, fight against it.

      And not only is your “If” statement regarding religion and pro-social/better world, etc. demonstrably false, it’s an appeal to utility fallacy.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8llkjvURyg

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    4. Hi etanea,
      Indeed you have very good points. I'm certainly familiar with the work of Sam Harris and also about 10 years ago, was very much interested in the debates between Dawkins and the religious establishment.

      Clearly this is a complex topic and one which in life, as humans, I believe needs to be evaluated with more than just what is logical, or provable. Depending on one's station in this world, what is wise sometimes demands that we find a place of "moderation" (even if Harris argues that perhaps a truly moderate stance may not be possible or desirable).

      Yes, this could be considered "sloppy" intellectually, but I think it's simply real life, and I would not be honest if I portrayed life as anything but incorporating elements of ideas which can appear/be inconsistent.

      There's a lot here, but let's take a few of these quotes and discuss:

      “…therefore the supernatural does not have a role to play at all.” —Archimago

      You believe the supernatural has no role to play at all in the audio realm, but it does in other realms? Which realms? Please explain?


      Actually, I don't necessarily believe the supernatural has a role in any of this at all. But I can believe that the complexity of this universe is not within our grasp in the natural sciences and phenomena happen in ways we cannot anticipate.

      “And indeed, I have many friends who hold those world views that I respect.” —Archimago

      Not pandering, Arch? You can respect the person, sure, but do you respect their unjustified, religious, supernatural, metaphysical believing world views? What is there to respect? Do you respect the audiophile “believer” world view, as well? This blog exists, so no?


      Again, this is complex isn't it? While we all have our flaws, if I take the most respectable parts of someone like Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King Jr., is there anything wrong with appreciating (and respecting) their faith and how those beliefs shaped their being and actions? I'm certainly NOT saying I believe in fundamentalist Catholicism or Protestantism given the terrible track records, but rather the parts of their faiths that can propel the person to strive, show love to others, and can make this world better.

      “If some are religious and hold on to beliefs that could result in a pro-social, altruistic life, strive in the face of hardship and propels one to make this world a better place, then pragmatically I have no issues with that. And indeed, I have many friends who hold those world views that I respect.” —Archimago

      Wow, Arch! Replace the word “religious” with the word “subjectivist audiophiles” and you’ll see where your thinking fails. This is the exact reasoning that the audiophile often uses and you, rightfully, fight against it.


      I would not directly substitute "subjectivist audiophile" with "religious" as if this is an exact comparison. I do not consider "subjectivist" audiophilia as generally pro-social or altruistic! If anything, it seems to me to be a grossly narcissistic pursuit! There is an element of self-glorification by declaring oneself to have "golden ears" good enough to hear the difference between $$$$ cables. It is often a celebration of "non-utilitarian" pride of owning luxury goods without overt declaration or apparent insight that much of this stuff will do no such thing for furthering sound quality. Consumerism to the point of snake oil salesmanship is strong and hides within the heart of this type of undisciplined audiophilia.

      Again, I am certainly not saying that I am open to a broad sense of spirituality, religiosity, or supernatural reality - that anything goes... I am not. But I'm also not going to be closed to the idea that the universe can give us surprises beyond current science. I don't think that being open to grander ideas about the mysteries of the mind, metaphysics, and the Universe needs taint a reasonable appreciation of the scientific principles of audio gear.

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    5. I simply seek to be a reasonably rational audiophile and provide evidence and arguments when I feel I can make them. If I can achieve that for this hobby and perhaps some of those thoughts might translate into wider aspects of life, that would be cool. But whether all of life, our perspectives, our personal philosophies needs be fully consistent or scientific or devoid of the "supernatural" / spiritual / religious, I'll leave for you and the readers to find...

      Yes, happy 2020.

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    6. Okay, Arch, I see you’re not really interested in putting much honest thought into this. If it’s more important to cover for friends/your audience, that’s your prerogative. If I’m wrong about that, I suppose the alternative is that your just lacking on this topic. If that’s the case, it might be best to refrain from posting forum comments like those I objected to in my opening. Such posts do nothing for your image. : )

      10 years ago, you say? It might be worth spending some time revisiting this topic. There’s been a lot of additional debate/content since then.

      Since you don’t seem interested in honestly evaluating, I’ll just give a few short responses and leave it at that.

      “Clearly this is a complex topic and one which in life, as humans, I believe needs to be evaluated with more than just what is logical, or provable.”

      So you suggest illogical and unprovable? The same could apply to the subjectivists audiophiles. Labeling something a complex topic or an unknown doesn’t suddenly justify appeals to the supernatural as potential explanations.

      Any evidence that supernatural is a possible candidate explanation for anything?

      You sound like the subjectivists audiophiles,Arch. Boy, would they be happy to see you say this. It’s no more complex than any other issue. Unknown or complex does not justify any proposed supernatural explanation.

      “Mystery is made a convenient excuse for absurdity.” —John Adams

      https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/God_of_the_gaps

      “Depending on one's station in this world, what is wise sometimes demands that we find a place of "moderation”…”

      I fully allow for subjective preference. However, your examples were not subjective claims, they were objective existence/causal claims about the nature of reality.

      “Yes, this could be considered "sloppy" intellectually, but I think it's simply real life, and I would not be honest if I portrayed life as anything but incorporating elements of ideas which can appear/be inconsistent.”

      You’ve just advocated for the audiophile inconsistency of “things are there, but can’t be measured.”

      This compromise in standards of consistency only seems to apply to religious, supernatural believing friends? Remember, we’re speaking of objective belief/existence claims, not subjective preference, for which inconsistency is acceptable. Do not confuse the two.

      “Actually, I don't necessarily believe the supernatural has a role in any of this at all. But I can believe that the complexity of this universe is not within our grasp in the natural sciences and phenomena happen in ways we cannot anticipate.”

      Wow, sloppy. Not pandering, Arch?

      Has any previously unknown ever turned out to be anything other than a natural explanation? What do you anticipate for current unknowns? Supernatural explanations?

      See above links. God of the gaps. Thor/gremlins/audio fairy of the gaps is just as valid if we apply your logic.

      “Again, this is complex isn't it?”

      No, not at all. Complex is another way of saying mysterious. See John Adams quote above.

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    7. Continued...

      “While we all have our flaws, if I take the most respectable parts of someone like Mother Theresa or Martin Luther King Jr., is there anything wrong with appreciating (and respecting) their faith and how those beliefs shape their being? I'm certainly NOT saying I believe in fundamentalist Catholicism or Protestantism given the terrible track records, but rather the parts of their faiths that can propel the person to strive, show love to others, and can make this world better.”

      An appeal to utility fallacy, again?

      Sloppy, Arch. There’s so much wrong in this paragraph, a proper reply could take pages.

      Sam Harris - appeal to utility (begin at 10:45 point in video for explanation of fallacy)

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

      Sam Harris: Diamond in My Backyard

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

      And you’re advocating that it’s okay to delude oneself and believe the illogical without evidence if some perceived or supposed good comes of it. This is the exact argument the audiophile often makes. Additionally, the perceived good attributed to a belief is a subjective assessment, hence you have no grounds for dismissing one over the other based on your subjective assessment of good outcome.

      Also, if you’re going to look at any supposed good from a belief, you also have to look at the bad. You’re cherry picking and ignoring the bad. You also ignore the net effect of irrational, unjustified beliefs.

      Christopher Hitchens: Religion Poisons Everything

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJ2LehsA1dk

      Matt Dillahunty: Consequences of False Belief

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rs-KZqTTyGs

      Matt Dillahunty: What’s the Harm

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbghsxawU1E

      You’re also assuming altruistic motives? Is the act of the believer genuine? Or is the belief used as a manipulation tool for monetary gain, etc.? Is the motivation some future divine reward? Could a person have done good despite the belief (you assume the belief is the sole reason for action).

      Bad example, Arch. Mother Teresa was responsible for much harm and suffering due to her faith based beliefs.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uxtcy4FpN8

      Do you respect irrational, absurd beliefs because some perceived good is claimed to have come of it, or do you respect individual actions? Don’t confuse the two.

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    8. Continued…

      “It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money as long as you have got it.” —Edwin Way Teale

      “The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality of happiness, and by no means a necessity of life.” —George Bernard Shaw

      “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” —Steven Weinberg

      I would not directly substitute "subjectivist audiophile" with "religious" as if this is an exact comparison. I do not consider "subjectivist" audiophilia as possibly pro-social or altruistic! If anything, it seems to me to be a grossly narcissistic pursuit! There is an element of self-glorification by declaring oneself to have "golden ears" good enough to hear the difference between $$$$ cables. It is often a celebration of "non-utilitarian" pride of owning luxury goods without overt declaration or apparent insight. Consumerism to the point of snake oil salesmanship is strong and hides within the heart of this type of audiophilia.

      You’ve got to be kidding. Please tell me you’re kidding with this paragraph.

      I believe it was Sam Harris who said that religious faith is narcissism perfected. The two are as close a comparison as can be.

      -Pro-social/altruistic: Religion is the most divisive, harmful, anti-social, self-serving human invention ever conceived. Responsible for more death, war and suffering than anything.

      -Narcissism: Religious beliefs: “I have a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe. He loves/cares/protects me. I never die and live for eternity in paradise. Believe as I do, or you burn forever. Whether my beliefs are true is of no concern, what matters most is how believing benefits me. Prayer/divine intervention = laws of nature suspended in my favor. There is no possible way I could be wrong and nothing you say can change my mind.”

      -Self-glorification/golden ears: Blessed ears receive divine revelation/hears the voice of God, speaks to God.

      -Blessed life: Pride of being blessed with wealth, riches, possessions, success, good fortune. Believed and accepted without insight.

      Snake-oil/salesmanship: Selling promises of health, wealth, safety, security, good fortune, immortality, and exploits/promotes every known human bias to ensure the sale. The only way to confirm sales claims is upon death.

      Yeah, not an exact comparison. Right Arch? Nothing alike, LOL.

      Your last paragraph is more pandering.

      Intellectually challenging and questioning is a sign of respect. Pandering and coddling is a sign of disrespect. To placate implies you believe the person lacks basic level intelligence to engage and/or lacks a certain level of honesty/integrity.

      Happy 2020!

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    9. Interesting etanea,

      Well, you put a lot of thought into this topic and that's cool. Of course there's correlation between what happens in the audiophile world and religion. I've said as much over the years and used terms like "testify" for what is published in the audiophile press back in 2014 and since...

      Like any belief/faith we might hold, both good and bad can come of it. I did say that all humans are flawed (including Mother Teresa). Is good action the result of the belief or individual choice? Isn't it both? And aren't we also products of our biology, in parts programmed by our culture with all its nuances of beliefs beyond just religious faith?

      Based on what I have seen, I'm not so sure that the world would be a better place without some of those "irrational" beliefs. Seriously man, I really could care less about "such posts doing nothing for your image". Do you suppose I need to conform my beliefs and thoughts toward any specific "tribe" of audiophiles?

      Balance IMO is more important than all-out consistency in life and audiophilia. I do not believe that a fully objective view of the world is necessary or the "best". From the start, it's easiest to talk about the radical subjectivity and massive inconsistencies of the "pure subjectivists" in audiophilia because they have become so extreme and ridiculous that they've made caricatures of themselves that we can point to and critique with objective evidence. Since we're already on the topic of religion, this is also what I see of the politics in the US these days between the ridiculous "right" and just as nonsensical "left". (Some similarities here in Canada as well.)

      Archimago's Musings is about audio. And I lean towards being "more objective". Being "rational" but also let's not forget "reasonable", with the idea that we're after "high fidelity" as an important goal. I am NOT all about being objective because "taste and colors" to quote Dipolaudio below are not without value. It is for this reason that I also steer clear from forums that I find "too objective" as well. As in life, I like those who are moderate. It's too easy to hold extreme views because in our minds it "all makes sense". For this reason the religious extremists also become ridiculous. I prefer to find life somewhere among the shades of grey - those are also the most interesting people to me if I were to speak of a preference.

      BTW, I use the word "respect" as defined by "due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others" rather than a "feeling of deep admiration". Just because I can "respect" someone for their beliefs, it doesn't mean I acknowledge they're true...

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    10. One more thing etanea,
      I'd love to hear from you what your view is around audio and life... Not quotes from others but a little bit about what you hope the audio hobby could look like if more hobbyists followed in the philosophical direction / vision you're seeking. Perhaps even what society would also look like as well.

      Dialogue to clarify your position I think would be useful for me.

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  6. Hi

    one of the best website this one from archimago.
    Archimago hits the nail on the head. Clearly the alchemists don't like that.
    Audio is Engineering. Therefore physics is base.

    Music is art. Art is where everybody has his own preferences.

    People mix up things here Engineering and art.

    On measurements there is a clear view what is good what is bad. No doubts.

    Refering to art there is a saying: on taste and colors doctors do not discuss....

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    1. Refering to art there is a saying: on taste and colors doctors do not discuss....

      Nice one. I like that line!

      Delete
  7. Happy new year Arch.
    What's with the detail hiding 10db audiophile compressed scaling on those graphs?
    How about setting the lower limit at 30, not 0 db?
    Your friend obviously likes bass!

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  8. Etanea asked Arch this question in one of his replies: "Any evidence that supernatural is a possible candidate explanation for anything?"

    Things have actually happened to some people, that provides such evidence, although I'm afraid Etanea's next questions might be "Can you prove it? Do you have it on a video? Did you A/B test the experience? Any witnesses?"

    When I was in my early 20'es I was walking down some road a couple of miles from where I lived. It was a fresh summer day, sunny and with a bit of wind as well. All of a sudden I felt (not heard) a voice inside me: "STOP!"

    I have always been open to anythingm so I stopped, and a split second later, a large potted plant with a porcelain bowl hammered into the sidewalk about a foot in front of me, being crushed into a thousand pieces. I went "WOW!", and started thinking, while looking up. An open 3rd story window had it's curtains flapping wildly out of the window, which I assumed was caused by a hefty draft, and which had turned over the plant, and let it drop out of the window.

    I might have died if that plant had landed on my head.

    Now what would you call this experience, if not supernatural?

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