Just 2 Comments?

me in the woods contemplating why just 2 comments

This email sums up my thoughts:

This is baffling.

Here somebody, with real credentials, explains why listening is the real test—it encompasses the entire system and the interactions within.

He also explains how measurements, albeit hardly the traditional simpleton measurements used for way more than half a century, can be performed that expose the system limitations.

Not only that, but he explains just what many of the interactions may be and why they are detrimental. This not some amateur (moi) going off on the subject - it’s a guy actually in the business with decades of experience.

So, something for both "objectivists" and "subjectivists".

Yet, nobody seems to care one bit. All I hear is crickets.

What do you take from that?

My answer, I don't know. Do you?

He, of the email, and I are referring to the recent post, "Open and Tolerant: MBL's Juergen Reis on Listening, Measurements, and (Un)Certainty" wherein Juergen Reis, someone "with real credentials" and decades of real-world experience designing, testing and listening to audio components from end to end (ask yourself how many people do you know who do that), talks about listening and measurements.

Listening and measurements. Ask yourself how many people do you know who do that. If you haven't read "Open and Tolerant: MBL's Juergen Reis on Listening, Measurements, and (Un)Certainty", I'd highly recommend doing so and letting someone who actually knows what they're talking about talk about one of the most controversial subjects in hi-fi in a non-controversial manner. Ask yourself how many people do you know who do that.

Doak's picture

Thanks for the heads-up.
Makes just about complete sense to me and expect it'd make total sense if I understood all of it. Kind of reminds me of John Swenson discussing how he designs power supplies (and other stuff) - while one may not comprehend it all there is little doubt that he is a master at what he is doing.
Maybe the high level of jargon intimidated a lot of folks?

canuckmgh's picture

It's not a matter of either/or. With very few exceptions, life isn't one-sided, monolithic or black and white. It's mostly found in between, which is what makes life interesting. There are measures and aesthetics in most human endeavours and in nature, art, music, politics, philosophy, etc. The act of listening isn't informed by just one or the other, 'cause we're not robots, we feel, appreciate and enjoy, and we are able to gauge, measure or judge for ourselves.

I find that comments explode when there is the greatest actual or potential for disagreement and polarization, which is kind of obvious I suppose. I'd suggest that, for the most part, your readers are in agreement with Mr. Reis. His thoughts are perfectly reasonable, rational and appeal to both the left and rights sides of our being. Those who strongly, even blindly, favour the ear over measurements, or vice versa, would have commented by now.

"We can walk our road together, if our goals are all the same,
We can we can run alone and free, if we pursue a different aim,
Let the truth of love be lighted,
Let the love of truth shine clear,
Sensibility, armed with sense and liberty,
With the heart and mind united,
In a single, perfect sphere."
- Peart


gefski's picture

Thanks for pointing us back to Juergen Reis' great article.

I've been familiar for years with amplifiers that measure great into an 8 ohm resistor yet perform poorly when driving real loudspeakers. But his "real world" testing is way beyond that.

Thumbs up on your pint of Dale's also.

Wong Low's picture

"Listening and measurements. Ask yourself how many people do you know who do that."

Measurements have their significant role, but often measurements do not translate into real world expectations. The best measuring gear can often sound less transparent, or more colored, than gear that has "inferior numbers." And on a program and systemic and room-acoustic level, this gets even more complex.

Moreover, without a number of very strict constraints and controls in the DUT + chain, empirical (A/B) assessments are futile, and become an exercise in personal taste rather than objective analysis. Nobody has a long-term memory of subtle A/B differences, a fact which has been proven over and over in controlled cases.

But home audio (as opposed to pro audio) IS largely about one's personal taste and aesthetic and emotional sensibilities, not unlike one's taste in wine, or even one's religion, or lack thereof. And that's a good thing, and keeps the home audio market vibrant and diverse and generative.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Welcome to AudioStream. I'm enjoying your comments.


bobflood's picture

nobody really cares.

This reminds me of all the times I read a review of some piece of equipment in Stereophile magazine and the reviewer goes on and on about how great it sounds and then I read John Atkinson's measurements of the piece and they are just terrible.

Makes a person wonder.

Hugo450r's picture

Whatta you drinking in that pic?

You seem to be in the zone.

Mr Quiet's picture

Like you said about Wong Low's comments, nicely put. Anyone who likes to argue would have a hard time refuting what Mr Reis says. It's not a matter of having no opinion but rather many of us may be able to just nod our heads and say "It makes sense to me."

bubblewrap's picture

Hi. I (and other sceptics) might say that the piece contains a couple of 'holes':
(a) we don't know that the author of the piece really did hear a difference by swapping the mains etc. He thinks he did, but in the absence of a rigorously-controlled experiment (that bores me rigid, by the way - I am not an ABX enthusiast), this, of course has not been demonstrated.
(b) subsequently finding a measurable change does not confirm that this was what was 'heard'.

I have no doubt that making changes to wiring (the mains, or USB isolators etc.) produces measurable changes at very low levels. Maybe 'snake oil' tweaks like cable lifters and isolation platforms also do. What I doubt, though, is that the differences are large enough to be audible.

However, even if the changes are not audible, I am absolutely of the opinion that there isn't any harm in taking sensible steps to optimise the engineering if it doesn't cost much extra. For this reason I am not 'hostile' to the article.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...but there's this thorny scientific method:

bubblewrap's picture

That's all fine by me, but not essential in this case. Simply getting consistently better measurements is enough (in my opinion). The anecdote about hearing the difference is just an anecdote - without a very tedious, involved and (in my opinion) pointless ABX experiment.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...the only reason why Juergen came to designing better measuring gear, in this case, is because it was rooted in observation, i.e. something he heard.

My issue with some self-proclaimed skeptics is they are skeptical of the scientific method. In other words, they'd like to add another step in the "Method" just for hi-fi which strikes me as being akin to suggesting that novels don't make any sense if you read them backwards ;-)

bubblewrap's picture

You may well be right, but I know that if someone put the idea in my head that raising my cables off the floor was going to make an audible difference, I might well 'hear' it, simply because I was expecting to. But raising the cables *will* change the measurements at some minuscule level. However, it would be faulty science to conclude that what I 'heard' was therefore the measured change. Real science sets a higher bar than that.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Your head may very well be too porous! ;-)

If you read what Juergen wrote, you'll see that the issues you are talking about do not apply. Unless, of course, you feel that someone going by the screen name "bubblewrap" being influenced by someone whispering in your ear is the same thing as an engineer with decades of experience designing everything from from source to speakers is equivalent, then sure. Otherwise I'd suggest, ever so politely, you are spewing nonsense.

ogerestein's picture

I for one am having a serious case of "ennui" apropos the whole listening vs measurements discussion in general. I feel that this debate has run its course, that the two sides are too far entrenched, and that debating has turned to arguing (more or less politely). I suspect that people who are very opinionated on the subject will read a nuanced and technically sound opinion such as Mr. Reis' and only take away those elements with which they already agree, discarding the rest.

It appears that there will always be those who insist that if differences can't be measured then they can't be heard, and those who insist on hearing differences without being able to measure or even explain them. Although I favour a more listening-based approach, I'm not going to let anyone with different opinions spoil my fun. I'd rather we go back to talking about sweet gear and awesome music.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
bubblewrap's picture

Yes, I have seen this. As a 'pragmatist' (or sceptic if you like) who would never buy such a thing, I quite enjoy these sorts of storms in teacups! Isn't the usual expression "Reach for the popcorn"?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Yes, reach for the popcorn is an expression but in this case I don't see how it applies.
bubblewrap's picture

... that I wouldn't buy an overtly 'audiophile' product if a cheaper one seemed to do exactly the same job - or, as it turns out, much better. I am also sceptical of self-consciously 'maverick' companies. As such, without any stake in the outcome, I can sit back and enjoy the controversy!

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...knows no bounds!
bubblewrap's picture

.. you find my somewhat flippant comments irritating. Apologies.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
But thank you for the apology.

It's important to take into account the education, experience, and knowledge of the person providing the information, in this case Juergen Reis. It's also important to take into account all of the information provided. Suggesting that Juergen's recounting of the 'mains story' is akin to someone being told that X will make Y sound better and thus influence what they hear moments later is a false equivalence.

Mr Quiet's picture

This reminds me of the scientific progress made in setting "safe" levels of lead in our bodies. As Scientists devised more accurate and sensitive tests that measured the cognitive changes at ever lower lead levels, they came to accept there was no known safe level. The changes were there all along. Science took a while to figure it out.
Bottom line is, If you hear a difference, Good. If you don't then even better; you won't have to spend time or money upgrading anything. If you like to argue your opinion over it, then I'm sorry you feel that way, but have a good day and enjoy your music.