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Tuning Our Systems – The Elephant in the Room

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Tuning Our Systems – The Elephant in the Room


 

I have been prompted to write this post because of the ongoing (insert and choose your own words).  There are various threads on SNA that eventually end up in the “Great Audio Debate” thread.  They all end up there because the discussion at best becomes a disagreement over the Subjective Vs the Objective.  Other words could be substituted for either of the two words above.  To me it comes down what some of us discern through the listening experience compared to the requirement from others that the perceived outcomes be validated through measurements and or the regrettable need for the difficult to do  DBT.  To some opinions are not acceptable.  I think that we should take everything on board and then work out what is best for our situation.

 

Listening to music at its best is a pleasurable emotional experience.  To me the requirements for measurements or the DBTs are just an excuse.  It is an avoidance of the Elephant in the room.  I suggest that none of us experience an identical outcome when we hear or listen to music.  Our brain is the most important aspect of our “SYSTEMS”.

 

To me there are two fundamental questions.  Do we over time inadvertently tune our different systems to suit our actual listening and or music preferences?  Do our respective individual listening preferences vary subtlety or even significantly to explain the differences in our respective listening and emotional outcomes and expectations?   Maybe every perspective on this topic is valid.

 

This is a link to a TED talk by David Byrne a musician from “Talking Heads” and many other things music.  The subject of his talk is that music is best performed and listened to in the environment for which it is composed/written.

 

https://www.ted.com/talks/david_byrne_how_architecture_helped_music_evolve.

 

To me the subject of the talk helps me understand how I think that my system and my listening experience has ended up where it has.  I have ended up with a listening experience that provides me with a special emotional outcome.  My system would not suit some and it would please others.  What I have ended up with was not planned I just move in a direction that pleased my brain.

 

I am sure that some of you who may read this post will be aware that I tend towards the subjective end of the experience spectrum.  I use the evidence of my brain.  I utilise several accessories that some would consider would not provide any benefit.  I also read other posts where the poster asserts that other accessories have given them a benefit.  Yet I have tried some of the same accessories and to me there was no benefit at all and, in some cases, a disbenefit.  I think that some people confuse difference and benefit.  I once did not appreciate the distinction.

 

I would expect that no SNA member has the exactly the same system as another member.  The possible combinations and permutations are immense.  Even if in the rare situation that the equipment is the same, the room and especially the listening sensory part of the brain will not be the same.  There are posters on SNA have what I categorise as low end.  Yet some of those posters assert that they gain benefits from some accessories.  They are pleased with how their system is tuned.  On the other side of the equation there are the owners of highend systems that are negative about the benefit of accessories.  Between those two positions there are a plethora of outcomes.  The final outcome is ultimately about system synergy and tuning.

 

We are all different.  Our respective senses vary in what we can smell, feel, taste, see and hear.  In terms hearing and listening there is considerable variation in what many SNA posters prefer.  For example Analogue or digital, Valve or SS amplifiers, speakers, TT or DAC, USB Vs ethernet or I2S, Silver Vs Copper etc.  Plus, there are all the infinite subtle differences DACs just for instance.  Is that just because of the measurements.  Surely not.  I would be surprised if that was the case.  I expect that it is primarily to do with the listening experience.  Many SNA members regularly move the chairs on the deck so to speak, until they are happy with their system tuning that satisfies and gives them the pleasure that their brain seeks and aspires to.

 

I want this thread to be a discussion as to whether we inadvertently tune our systems to suit our individual brain psychoacoustic listening requirements.  If the answer is even a qualified yes, does it partly explain different listening experiences?  Does it explain why in some cases that I and or others have a listening experience that is valid in our respective systems yet others do not have the same experience with their systems and require the proverbial evidence.  What is often worse, are the comments from many posters on many forums who have not heard the listening outcome and just outright deny the possibility.

 

I do not want the above to be seen in any way that I am saying that my hearing or listening is better than others.  It definitely is not.  I would like it to be better.  Many many times I have been asked the question when listening to another system - can’t you hear that? – The answer is no I cannot.  Yet I know my own system very well and can definitely discern subtle benefits from time to time.  Each few percent of benefit soon adds up.

 

I know that this is a long post.  There are more things that I could have written.  If the thread progresses maybe some of things will be mentioned by others.  My knowledge of electronics,  the brain and psychoacoustics is limited.  However,  I do know when my listening experience is special.

 

John

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46 minutes ago, Assisi said:

Tuning Our Systems – The Elephant in the Room

 


 

I have been prompted to write this post because of the ongoing (insert and choose your own words).  There are various threads on SNA that eventually end up in the “Great Audio Debate” thread.  They all end up there because the discussion at best becomes a disagreement over the Subjective Vs the Objective.  Other words could be substituted for either of the two words above.  To me it comes down what some of us discern through the listening experience compared to the requirement from others that the perceived outcomes be validated through measurements and or the regrettable need for the difficult to do  DBT.  To some opinions are not acceptable.  I think that we should take everything on board and then work out what is best for our situation.

 

 

 

Listening to music at its best is a pleasurable emotional experience.  To me the requirements for measurements or the DBTs are just an excuse.  It is an avoidance of the Elephant in the room.  I suggest that none of us experience an identical outcome when we hear or listen to music.  Our brain is the most important aspect of our “SYSTEMS”.

 

 

 

To me there are two fundamental questions.  Do we over time inadvertently tune our different systems to suit our actual listening and or music preferences?  Do our respective individual listening preferences vary subtlety or even significantly to explain the differences in our respective listening and emotional outcomes and expectations?   Maybe every perspective on this topic is valid.

 

 

 

This is a link to a TED talk by David Byrne a musician from “Talking Heads” and many other things music.  The subject of his talk is that music is best performed and listened to in the environment for which it is composed/written.

 

 

 

https://www.ted.com/talks/david_byrne_how_architecture_helped_music_evolve.

 

 

 

To me the subject of the talk helps me understand how I think that my system and my listening experience has ended up where it has.  I have ended up with a listening experience that provides me with a special emotional outcome.  My system would not suit some and it would please others.  What I have ended up with was not planned I just move in a direction that pleased my brain.

 

 

 

I am sure that some of you who may read this post will be aware that I tend towards the subjective end of the experience spectrum.  I use the evidence of my brain.  I utilise several accessories that some would consider would not provide any benefit.  I also read other posts where the poster asserts that other accessories have given them a benefit.  Yet I have tried some of the same accessories and to me there was no benefit at all and, in some cases, a disbenefit.  I think that some people confuse difference and benefit.  I once did not appreciate the distinction.

 

 

 

I would expect that no SNA member has the exactly the same system as another member.  The possible combinations and permutations are immense.  Even if in the rare situation that the equipment is the same, the room and especially the listening sensory part of the brain will not be the same.  There are posters on SNA have what I categorise as low end.  Yet some of those posters assert that they gain benefits from some accessories.  They are pleased with how their system is tuned.  On the other side of the equation there are the owners of highend systems that are negative about the benefit of accessories.  Between those two positions there are a plethora of outcomes.  The final outcome is ultimately about system synergy and tuning.

 

 

 

We are all different.  Our respective senses vary in what we can smell, feel, taste, see and hear.  In terms hearing and listening there is considerable variation in what many SNA posters prefer.  For example Analogue or digital, Valve or SS amplifiers, speakers, TT or DAC, USB Vs ethernet or I2S, Silver Vs Copper etc.  Plus, there are all the infinite subtle differences DACs just for instance.  Is that just because of the measurements.  Surely not.  I would be surprised if that was the case.  I expect that it is primarily to do with the listening experience.  Many SNA members regularly move the chairs on the deck so to speak, until they are happy with their system tuning that satisfies and gives them the pleasure that their brain seeks and aspires to.

 

 

 

I want this thread to be a discussion as to whether we inadvertently tune our systems to suit our individual brain psychoacoustic listening requirements.  If the answer is even a qualified yes, does it partly explain different listening experiences?  Does it explain why in some cases that I and or others have a listening experience that is valid in our respective systems yet others do not have the same experience with their systems and require the proverbial evidence.  What is often worse, are the comments from many posters on many forums who have not heard the listening outcome and just outright deny the possibility.

 

 

 

I do not want the above to be seen in any way that I am saying that my hearing or listening is better than others.  It definitely is not.  I would like it to be better.  Many many times I have been asked the question when listening to another system - can’t you hear that? – The answer is no I cannot.  Yet I know my own system very well and can definitely discern subtle benefits from time to time.  Each few percent of benefit soon adds up.

 

 

 

I know that this is a long post.  There are more things that I could have written.  If the thread progresses maybe some of things will be mentioned by others.  My knowledge of electronics,  the brain and psychoacoustics is limited.  However,  I do know when my listening experience is special.

 

 

 

John

 

Hi John

 

The experience of music is deeply personal phenomenon. IMO there should never be a need to justify that experience. I guess people tune their systems differently depending what they seek and again that is personal.

 

We all perceive things differently. music is a complex perceptual experience created in the brain and influenced by multiple factors including the sum of the past experiences, training and mindset of the beholder. The physical stimulus may be the beginning of the auditory chain but it is not the end of the story.

 

 

The sound waves reaching the tympanic membranes of the ears are transduced by the human auditory system and converted to neurological electrical impulses. Here it can be subject to further central modulation and otherwise altered by inhibitory or disinhibitory processes. It however remains a neurological signal and not experienced as music until it is registered in the somatosensory cortex of the brain and integrated with multiple other areas of the brain. Motor responses are triggered, memory responses are triggered, neuroendocrine responses triggered, emotional centres activated and various evaluative/interpretive processes assign meaning.

 

Cheers

David

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Great post and written about what we love, the music.

Too many times posters avoid sharing what sounds good because of the eventual return to evidence and numbers to support what just is good sound.

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sometimes it is hard to describe what you are hearing because of the emotions evoked, you know what you want to say, but it just doesn't translate into words

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@Assisi Interesting read, and can see the passion you have coming through in your post!

 

I think the issue comes from folks holding a really dogmatic, fundamentalist type view of the audio world.  You know what I'm talking about, it's: 'I can hear what I can hear and no-one can tell me different vs double blind test or it's not real ' Of course like all subjects that create passionate response there is a land in between these things, a sensible centre if you will! 

 

I myself sit somewhere in the middle, and consider blind testing to be a really fun part of this hobby.  I'm a student of science so I like to understand the mechanics behind what I can hear, as much as I enjoy the hearing itself!  I love mucking about with equipment and cables etc and doing blind and double blind testing to see if I can actually hear what i think I can hear.   For me this has absolutely nothing to do with proving or disproving anything, just a fun way to blend my interest in audio reproduction systems and scientific methodology.  I'm also fascinated by my own bias, and bias in general...

 

I've noticed also that we all have our own expectations re this forum, and how folks should interact.  From where I sit, it's a community for folks to discuss, and yes debate their views, feelings, and opinions.  It would be a pretty boring place if everyone shared the same world views.  I consider it to be entirely reasonable as an example for folks to want to question expressed opinions on things that are at the fringes, but this should be done in a respectful manner.  One thing that seems to be a great divide is the understanding from the blind test brigade that some people just don't want to do it, and that's ok.  Similarly though the 'just lets your ears be the judge' side should also acknowledge that bias really is a thing, and that's OK too!

 

One thing I can't understand about this hobby is folks that resist accepting how big an influence the room has over the end product.  It accounts as much as anything else for the differences people experience with similar gear

 

To your actual question, I'm not entirely sure what you mean by 'tune', but think absolutely no doubt that people build systems that align to both their preferences and world views, but then also become accustomed to the sound of them over time.  I have 4 systems here, and they all sound very different even with the same source material.  I like all of them, but I love two of them.  I also have to admit I enjoy 'the hunt' and the excitement of new components and systems.

 

Long response but felt your long post deserved one.  Look forward to the responses of others.

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Audiophile Neuroscience said:

The experience of music is deeply personal phenomenon. IMO there should never be a need to justify that experience. I guess people tune their systems differently depending what they seek and again that is personal.

 

@Audiophile Neuroscience,

I mentioned the five senses and the potential for all of us to have a different experience.  The Sixth and possibly our most important sense is our intuition.  It is not easy to appreciate intuition and appreciate the feedback there from.  It requires training.  I am not at good at perceiving what I am being told by my intuition.  Yet I am sure that it has played a part in where I am now with the tuning of my system.  Intuition is what makes the outcome personal.  I know intuitively what is right for me.

2 hours ago, Audiophile Neuroscience said:

We all perceive things differently. music is a complex perceptual experience created in the brain and influenced by multiple factors including the sum of the past experiences, training and mindset of the beholder. The physical stimulus may be the beginning of the auditory chain but it is not the end of the story.

 

In terms of complexity it is important to note such as to how people with dementia respond to music from their past.  It has been said that we do not have an auditory memory.  Hence my difficulty with DBT.  Yet in the context of past experiences I can hear the first few notes of some music from 50+ years ago and I know what it is.

2 hours ago, Audiophile Neuroscience said:

The sound waves reaching the tympanic membranes of the ears are transduced by the human auditory system and converted to neurological electrical impulses. Here it can be subject to further central modulation and otherwise altered by inhibitory or disinhibitory processes. It however remains a neurological signal and not experienced as music until it is registered in the somatosensory cortex of the brain and integrated with multiple other areas of the brain. Motor responses are triggered, memory responses are triggered, neuroendocrine responses triggered, emotional centres activated and various evaluative/interpretive processes assign meaning.

 

Initially all I can say to this is wow!  My understanding of the brain and the  auditory/listening process is not even rudimentary.  I had hoped that my post might provoke a summary such as the above from you.  It reinforces my perspective that the brain and its processes is considerably far more complex than our respective audio systems.  Power and a few boxes plus speakers is simple compared to the brain.  Hence my assertion that:

            Our brain is the most important aspect of our “SYSTEMS”.”

I assume that there is no way of measuring conclusively what is happening for any individual in their brain and the treatment of the auditory processing that you have outlined.  Therefore, to me anything that I experience listening to my system is valid.  Maybe we should spend more time learning from the experiences of others instead of getting excited about bias etc.  What is bias in the context of such complexity.

 

John

 

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38 minutes ago, Assisi said:

 

@Audiophile Neuroscience,

I mentioned the five senses and the potential for all of us to have a different experience.  The Sixth and possibly our most important sense is our intuition.  It is not easy to appreciate intuition and appreciate the feedback there from.  It requires training.  I am not at good at perceiving what I am being told by my intuition.  Yet I am sure that it has played a part in where I am now with the tuning of my system.  Intuition is what makes the outcome personal.  I know intuitively what is right for me.

John you obviously deeply feel things so don't want to respond hastily - so for now my thoughts FWIW on intuition/ 6th sense.

 

I dont exactly subscribe to the idea of intuition but I do think there are things that we know we know (known knowns), things we know we don't know (known unknowns) and things we dont know we dont know (unknown unknowns ) to paraphrase Donald Rumsfield.

 

Since that time people have added some extra ones like "'unknown known', interpreted variously as that which we intentionally refuse to acknowledge that we know, things that we knew but have forgotten, things that we know but are unaware of knowing or even unconscious expectations or prejudices influencing our belief systems and perceptions" . I think intuition fits in here somewhere.

 

I suspect it has to do with unlocking memories that we had forgotten but something triggers their release and you just know what to do, guided by past experience that you know is right for you. It may conceivably help guide your choices "tuning your system".

 

It may also just feel right, no more analysis required.

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56 minutes ago, Assisi said:

In terms of complexity it is important to note such as to how people with dementia respond to music from their past. 

People with dementia lose short term memory but retain long term memory until very late in the disease.

 

Language, as in speech, and music are not represented exactly in the same areas of the brain. I have seen people with strokes who cannot talk or understand speech but can sing.I have seen people with dementia respond to music in a similar way where music triggers emotional memories/responses and motor responses not previously seen. Again, like some stroke patients, that area of their brain is still functioning.

 

It is amazing to see someone frozen with parkinsons disease walk much more freely to the beat of music. A bit complicated in terms of the motor response but spaced lines on the ground can also act as visual cues to have a similar effect.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Assisi said:

It has been said that we do not have an auditory memory.  Hence my difficulty with DBT.  Yet in the context of past experiences I can hear the first few notes of some music from 50+ years ago and I know what it is. 

We certainly do have an auditory memory.

 

People talk about echoic memory, sensory memory for sounds which is lost within fractions of a second (some say a bit longer) if not transferred to short term memory. This if one reason some people argue that ABX tests are invalid. Others argue differently. Lets not go there

Prof Diana Deutsch writes about this but cant locate my references atm try http://deutsch.ucsd.edu/psychology/pages.php?i=209

 

I too recall songs from just a few initial notes from decades ago, I think most of us can

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1 hour ago, Assisi said:

Initially all I can say to this is wow!  My understanding of the brain and the  auditory/listening process is not even rudimentary.  I had hoped that my post might provoke a summary such as the above from you.  It reinforces my perspective that the brain and its processes is considerably far more complex than our respective audio systems.  Power and a few boxes plus speakers is simple compared to the brain.  Hence my assertion that:

 

            Our brain is the most important aspect of our “SYSTEMS”.”

 

I assume that there is no way of measuring conclusively what is happening for any individual in their brain and the treatment of the auditory processing that you have outlined.  Therefore, to me anything that I experience listening to my system is valid.  Maybe we should spend more time learning from the experiences of others instead of getting excited about bias etc.  What is bias in the context of such complexity.

 

John

I agree. The brain is the greatest Digital Signal Processing engine around. Its far from infallible, and yes can create illusions but these are often helpful adaptations, perceptions not deceptions, processing information in a creative and helpful way.

 

I know people talk about instruments doing things the brain cannot but often they are talking about test tones, not complex musical passages.

 

I have seen a cardiologist listen to a heart murmur and describe it with incredible accuracy. So they should, right? The thing is he was "half deaf". Pattern recognition is I believe incredibly important. You hear part of the pattern and the brain 'fills' in the rest, an illusion for sure but sounds just as real. I believe this is why people with loss of aural acuity (say above 10k) can still enjoy music especially for music they know well from the past.

 

We do the same with vision, the trained eye seeing so much more detail and processing the information much more quickly.

 

I have responded to your post very spontaneously so no doubt lots of errors 😅

 

Cheers

david

 

 

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18 hours ago, Assisi said:

Tuning Our Systems – The Elephant in the Room

 To some opinions are not acceptable.  I think that we should take everything on board and then work out what is best for our situation.

 

 

Very thoughtful post John. For me, I think there is something to be gained from reading widely and taking in a range of views. This leads me in a certain direction which I can then implement and either follow, deviate from, or abandon entirely.  So far this has worked for me and I'm happy with where I've landed.

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Interesting TED talk.

I neve have put any thought into this. If I correlate between things that I seek in a setup and my listen environment I could make the following connections as someone who is a big fan of movies and movie soundtracks;

1/ Large soundstage. For me a large screen has to be matched with a large soundstage.
2/ Pin Point accuracy. What I see is what I want to hear, and it makes the tracking of sound effects more impressive.
3/ Dynamics. Movies use loud and quiet parts to highten the film experience.
4/ Transparency. I want to see right through the music and have my speakers disappear.

These would probably be the 4 main points on which I judge a setup. Whether these have to do with my movie listen environment or not, is a question up for further debate.

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I Started this thread because I consider that when we put various factors together, we ultimately each tune everything in our systems to gratify our respective listening aspirations and desires.  These listening desires will vary for individual.  I said in my OP

We are all different.  Our respective senses vary in what we can smell, feel, taste, see and hear.  “

At the time I started the thread I was not aware of the importance of the individual shapes of one’s ears in relation to our listening experiences.

 

An article in the link below by Richard Murison in the latest issue of the PS Audio “Copper” online magazine has a bit to say about the shape of the ear and its role with the brain.  To me it is another part of the jigsaw as to why our listening experiences may vary to some degree.  Read paras 6&7

https://www.psaudio.com/article/sounds-good-to-me/

John

 

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Posted (edited)

I tweak purely to what sounds good to me.... Also in an effort to not have my wife yell at me to turn it down. I don't want to give up anything while playing at lower volumes. End result is I've gravitated towards high efficiency open back speakers and fleawatt SET amps. Means I get great results a full 20db lower than I was previously able to do with no loss of tone, dynamics, sound stage etc etc. None of that mattered before I met my wife though it certainly does now.

 

The power amp pictured here is temporary until I've acquired enough funds for the amp I want.

 

IMG_20190813_112033.thumb.jpg.3140b98be324c97036f895312acfe27d.jpg

 

IMG_20190812_174854_1.thumb.jpg.4eeabc4761b41a6b8ddab4cb29f1d42d.jpg

 

IMG_20190810_113128.thumb.jpg.16ce0ebaf8dc593d46783314bd840b5a.jpg

 

 

Edited by MattyW

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Have you ever considered canine approval as a qualitative mark of your audio system?

 

Our 13yr old Golden lab is totally 'directionally deaf', but picks up on sounds anyway. He is reacting more frequently to hi-fi emanations with the Klein in the system.

In the pic he and I are chilling to Holly Cole.

hifi-Marlo.jpg

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1 hour ago, lenticularis said:

Have you ever considered canine approval as a qualitative mark of your audio system?

 

Our 13yr old Golden lab is totally 'directionally deaf', but picks up on sounds anyway. He is reacting more frequently to hi-fi emanations with the Klein in the system.

In the pic he and I are chilling to Holly Cole.

hifi-Marlo.jpg

@lenticularis,

 

Yes! 

I have been without my very long time canine companion Sherlock for just over a year now.  When he approved of what I was playing he would sit up and “sing”.  He was very responsive to some music.  Interestingly the PS Audio DS Dac more so that I no longer have. 

I miss him. 

John

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