Jump to content

Are you a subjective or an objective audio person?


Type of audio person  

124 members have voted

You do not have permission to vote in this poll, or see the poll results. Please sign in or register to vote in this poll.

Recommended Posts

On 07/11/2020 at 9:55 AM, twofires said:

I'm late to this, but appreciate the topic and the conduct of those engaging with it.

 

I answered 'mostly objectivist'. To expand on that - at one stage I was studying to become a psychologist, so with that background in mind I have the following thoughts:

 

I think that everything can, ultimately, be measured. The issue when dealing with subjective experience (qualia) is often one of external vs internal validity - i.e. the more you attempt to control for confounding variables and measure precisely the thing you intend to measure (internal validity) the less the test scenario reflects the real world scenario you are trying to draw conclusions about (external validity).

 

You can sit people down in front of a single speaker, behind an acoustically transparent screen, playing music they may or may not know or like in short grabs at 80dB, while knowing they are being observed, and you can get them to rank specific frequency response curves against each other on a likert scale. That may tell you something very specific about frequency response preferences in that scenario, but you can't state unequivocally that those findings will translate back into the real world where other potentially relevant but as yet unexplored variables are at play (I believe @DrSK has made this point already, far more succinctly).

 

Conversely, 135 people may anecdotally enjoy Speaker X at the local hifi show, but all that really tells you is that, with all the myriad of things at play in that scenario (the room, the vibe, the company, the ambient noise, expectation bias, etc. etc.) the speaker got 135 positive subjective ratings from an unknown total number of listeners in a hifi-show-attending cohort.

 

The conclusion I come to is that quantitative and qualitative data is all data - it all means something, and nothing should be discarded. It just needs to be considered for what it is. If a speaker measures poorly by accepted (Harman) standards, but is adored by thousands of people, I think dismissing it as entirely the result of marketing and bias because it doesn't conform to the current accepted measurement parameters does a disservice to science - there has to be something in it. That said, I also think that creating some kind of 'unknowable' mystique about qualia in audio (or anything for that matter) is scientifically lazy, and opens the door for a lot of bad faith BS in hifi.

 

Maybe I'm more on the fence than I thought?

 

Anyway. My other pet theory is that people like what they know and expect to hear, irrespective of how it measures. This interview with Herb:

 

 

(in which he talks about having grown up with tube amps and preferring them to this day) made me think about how I grew up with class AB solid state, all my current gear is AB solid state, and I have never (yet) heard a tube amp I've enjoyed. Which made me think it's a generational thing. To put myself in Herb's shoes, it's like the time I saw one of Peter Jackson's Hobbit films in 60fps (or whatever it was) IMAX digital 3D and found it a hugely distracting experience. I find that I generally dislike high fps clean digital TV because it looks so real I feel like I'm watching a dress rehearsal - it doesn't look cinematic to me. I find that I expect and prefer the artifact of film grain, but I imagine future generations will not grow up with this expectation and find 70mm film to look like garbage.

Definitely generational - which means preferences are largely a matter of a pre-state or conditioning.

I think the idea of measuring all things is akin to the classical drive for perfection. Essentially human and never ending.

I agree completely with the idea that "subjectivity"  is a frontier for which there needs to be ways of finding data - if for no other reason than to give us continual perspective on what we accept as "objective".

Coming from a music education background, I'm constantly reminded that the ways we explain the fundamentals and rudiments of music - what is erroneously referred to as "music theory",  is in itself based in similar conditioning - and unlike Psychology (from what I understand anyway) music 'theory' is still mired in its enlightenment era jargon and perspective despite an ever expanding cultural paradigm that raises more and more questions about the way music is explained and taught in Western culture. 

I'm not sure if this is echoed in the Sciences to the same degree but it seems to me that a healthy scepticism about the verisimilitude of any relationship between measurement of sound - and musical preference is an honest companion to making any conclusions.

 

 

 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 129
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

After 20 years in acoustics, an Engineering Doctorate in acoustics which included a perceptual component in audiology and having developed psychoacoustic algorithms for new hardware to predict human p

I'm perhaps a contradiction.    A PhD qualified acoustician with an engineering degree who for stereo is mostly subjective but guided by objective theory.   During my PhD and profe

Having studied audio & electronics for 6+ years puts me in (i feel) a bad position as I know enough to understand how everything is supposed to work yet I still accept to possibility  of stuff out

@gator2310 and @twofires thanks for your well-written and well-thought-through posts. You have touched on some of the complexities of this topic.

 

Over the decades of being an audiophile, I have come to some fairly simple conclusions, though. And consistent with what you are saying, IMHO.

 

Our own personal experiences when listening to music playback through gear are the ultimate point, and justify any decision on what gear to use. Plain old casual listening. Whether we truly perceived changed sound waves, or simply imagined it, the end result was that we created a wonderful experience, and in order to ‘get that’ we need that gear. End of story. All good. Let me call this the Good Subjectivist. I happily do this.

 

But. The moment we, full of innocent enthusiasm, start telling other audiophiles about what gear caused us these wonderful experiences (and what gear failed to), and we say it in a way that implies it is all in the sound waves, such as “the Suprema Cosmo III projects a delicacy and nuance into the air”, then we have crossed a line. We have crossed a line and become part of the problem. Not good. We are misleading people that the sound waves in the air changed and the gear caused it. Let me call this the Poor Subjectivist. Who does this? Almost everyone. I doubt that anyone does it maliciously: it is all innocent, because it is only natural to think if the listening experience changed, then the sound waves must have changed and that is what we hear. But nevertheless, it is misleading other people — and a lot of money is involved. And only the lucky few can personally audition every piece of gear they want to, so in truth a lot of purchase decisions flow from this kind of discussion.

 

That is why I am tolerant of poor subjectivism coming from enthusiasts, although a gentle reminder is a good idea. (The fact that so many of them react very poorly to such a reality check is a bit frustrating, but not unexpected.) But I am not so kindly about poor subjectivism by professionals — and they do it all the time, too. Industry professionals (including excellent designers, not just sales people), and especially audio reviewers — to me it is simply unconscionable that they don’t bother to learn this stuff and bring it into their reportage. But we all know why they don’t: neither their readers nor their employers nor their industry associates will thank them for it. That’s a tough road to travel, just for the sake of conscience and professionalism. ;) 

 

The funny thing about the Poor Subjectivist is that he is, by definition, an objectivist: he is taking a subjective experience and thinking it is objective, out there in the physical sound waves. That is, literally, objectification: “the expression of something abstract in a concrete form” (Oxford English Dictionary).

 

How ironic is that!

 

Objectivists aren’t exactly angels, either. The Good Objectivist is someone who rightly calls out poor subjectivism. He won’t be thanked, but putting the truth into a discussion is no bad thing. The Poor Objectivist, however, goes way too far and calls people idiots and fools (I see the word audiophools being used) for accepting their personal inner experiences as a valid way for making their personal audio gear decisions. With the Poor Objectivist, it is not just their behaviour that is poor, but also their incomprehension of the inner reality of an audio perception that is generated by the sum total of a number of things, not just sound waves. Personal inner experiences are real things, and making personal choices based on them is perfectly valid. The Poor Objectivist, by failing to acknowledge that inner experiences are valid, cuts off his own inner perception-making machine from decisions about what gear to use, when it comes to things like cables, DACs and amps. He is right not to pay any attention to what anyone else tells him they experience when listening to such products, (because most of that experience is imagined), but it is cutting off his own nose to spite his face if he refuses to listen to his own inner experience of such products. I might know that two cables create audibly identical sound waves and not ‘believe in’ their ability to do sound different, but I still might experience one as ‘sounding better’ than the other, for non-sonic reasons. I can’t control that: no-one can. It is the opposite of foolish to go with the one that ‘sounds’ better in that case.

 

Personally, I aim to be a Good Subjectivist and a Good Objectivist, and not the poor cousins.

 

cheers

Grant

 

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, Grant Slack said:

@gator2310 and @twofires thanks for your well-written and well-thought-through posts. You have touched on some of the complexities of this topic.

 

Over the decades of being an audiophile, I have come to some fairly simple conclusions, though. And consistent with what you are saying, IMHO.

 

Our own personal experiences when listening to music playback through gear are the ultimate point, and justify any decision on what gear to use. Plain old casual listening. Whether we truly perceived changed sound waves, or simply imagined it, the end result was that we created a wonderful experience, and in order to ‘get that’ we need that gear. End of story. All good. Let me call this the Good Subjectivist. I happily do this.

 

But. The moment we, full of innocent enthusiasm, start telling other audiophiles about what gear caused us these wonderful experiences (and what gear failed to), and we say it in a way that implies it is all in the sound waves, such as “the Suprema Cosmo III projects a delicacy and nuance into the air”, then we have crossed a line. We have crossed a line and become part of the problem. Not good. We are misleading people that the sound waves in the air changed and the gear caused it. Let me call this the Poor Subjectivist. Who does this? Almost everyone. I doubt that anyone does it maliciously: it is all innocent, because it is only natural to think if the listening experience changed, then the sound waves must have changed and that is what we hear. But nevertheless, it is misleading other people — and a lot of money is involved. And only the lucky few can personally audition every piece of gear they want to, so in truth a lot of purchase decisions flow from this kind of discussion.

 

That is why I am tolerant of poor subjectivism coming from enthusiasts, although a gentle reminder is a good idea. (The fact that so many of them react very poorly to such a reality check is a bit frustrating, but not unexpected.) But I am not so kindly about poor subjectivism by professionals — and they do it all the time, too. Industry professionals (including excellent designers, not just sales people), and especially audio reviewers — to me it is simply unconscionable that they don’t bother to learn this stuff and bring it into their reportage. But we all know why they don’t: neither their readers nor their employers nor their industry associates will thank them for it. That’s a tough road to travel, just for the sake of conscience and professionalism. ;) 

 

The funny thing about the Poor Subjectivist is that he is, by definition, an objectivist: he is taking a subjective experience and thinking it is objective, out there in the physical sound waves. That is, literally, objectification: “the expression of something abstract in a concrete form” (Oxford English Dictionary).

 

How ironic is that!

 

Objectivists aren’t exactly angels, either. The Good Objectivist is someone who rightly calls out poor subjectivism. He won’t be thanked, but putting the truth into a discussion is no bad thing. The Poor Objectivist, however, goes way too far and calls people idiots and fools (I see the word audiophools being used) for accepting their personal inner experiences as a valid way for making their personal audio gear decisions. With the Poor Objectivist, it is not just their behaviour that is poor, but also their incomprehension of the inner reality of an audio perception that is generated by the sum total of a number of things, not just sound waves. Personal inner experiences are real things, and making personal choices based on them is perfectly valid. The Poor Objectivist, by failing to acknowledge that inner experiences are valid, cuts off his own inner perception-making machine from decisions about what gear to use, when it comes to things like cables, DACs and amps. He is right not to pay any attention to what anyone else tells him they experience when listening to such products, (because most of that experience is imagined), but it is cutting off his own nose to spite his face if he refuses to listen to his own inner experience of such products. I might know that two cables create audibly identical sound waves and not ‘believe in’ their ability to do sound different, but I still might experience one as ‘sounding better’ than the other, for non-sonic reasons. I can’t control that: no-one can. It is the opposite of foolish to go with the one that ‘sounds’ better in that case.

 

Personally, I aim to be a Good Subjectivist and a Good Objectivist, and not the poor cousins.

 

cheers

Grant

 

 

I agree completely on all points. 

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Grant Slack said:

@gator2310 and @twofires thanks for your well-written and well-thought-through posts. You have touched on some of the complexities of this topic.

 

Over the decades of being an audiophile, I have come to some fairly simple conclusions, though. And consistent with what you are saying, IMHO.

 

Our own personal experiences when listening to music playback through gear are the ultimate point, and justify any decision on what gear to use. Plain old casual listening. Whether we truly perceived changed sound waves, or simply imagined it, the end result was that we created a wonderful experience, and in order to ‘get that’ we need that gear. End of story. All good. Let me call this the Good Subjectivist. I happily do this.

 

But. The moment we, full of innocent enthusiasm, start telling other audiophiles about what gear caused us these wonderful experiences (and what gear failed to), and we say it in a way that implies it is all in the sound waves, such as “the Suprema Cosmo III projects a delicacy and nuance into the air”, then we have crossed a line. We have crossed a line and become part of the problem. Not good. We are misleading people that the sound waves in the air changed and the gear caused it. Let me call this the Poor Subjectivist. Who does this? Almost everyone. I doubt that anyone does it maliciously: it is all innocent, because it is only natural to think if the listening experience changed, then the sound waves must have changed and that is what we hear. But nevertheless, it is misleading other people — and a lot of money is involved. And only the lucky few can personally audition every piece of gear they want to, so in truth a lot of purchase decisions flow from this kind of discussion.

 

That is why I am tolerant of poor subjectivism coming from enthusiasts, although a gentle reminder is a good idea. (The fact that so many of them react very poorly to such a reality check is a bit frustrating, but not unexpected.) But I am not so kindly about poor subjectivism by professionals — and they do it all the time, too. Industry professionals (including excellent designers, not just sales people), and especially audio reviewers — to me it is simply unconscionable that they don’t bother to learn this stuff and bring it into their reportage. But we all know why they don’t: neither their readers nor their employers nor their industry associates will thank them for it. That’s a tough road to travel, just for the sake of conscience and professionalism. ;) 

 

The funny thing about the Poor Subjectivist is that he is, by definition, an objectivist: he is taking a subjective experience and thinking it is objective, out there in the physical sound waves. That is, literally, objectification: “the expression of something abstract in a concrete form” (Oxford English Dictionary).

 

How ironic is that!

 

Objectivists aren’t exactly angels, either. The Good Objectivist is someone who rightly calls out poor subjectivism. He won’t be thanked, but putting the truth into a discussion is no bad thing. The Poor Objectivist, however, goes way too far and calls people idiots and fools (I see the word audiophools being used) for accepting their personal inner experiences as a valid way for making their personal audio gear decisions. With the Poor Objectivist, it is not just their behaviour that is poor, but also their incomprehension of the inner reality of an audio perception that is generated by the sum total of a number of things, not just sound waves. Personal inner experiences are real things, and making personal choices based on them is perfectly valid. The Poor Objectivist, by failing to acknowledge that inner experiences are valid, cuts off his own inner perception-making machine from decisions about what gear to use, when it comes to things like cables, DACs and amps. He is right not to pay any attention to what anyone else tells him they experience when listening to such products, (because most of that experience is imagined), but it is cutting off his own nose to spite his face if he refuses to listen to his own inner experience of such products. I might know that two cables create audibly identical sound waves and not ‘believe in’ their ability to do sound different, but I still might experience one as ‘sounding better’ than the other, for non-sonic reasons. I can’t control that: no-one can. It is the opposite of foolish to go with the one that ‘sounds’ better in that case.

 

Personally, I aim to be a Good Subjectivist and a Good Objectivist, and not the poor cousins.

 

cheers

Grant

 

Hi Grant,

 

I like this concept, it has a lot of thought behind it.

 

I have concerns though.


Firstly, the theory underlying the Good Subjectivist and the Poor Subjectivist is that there is no change in the sound waves.  What if there is something that changes, but isn’t measurable?

 

In this scenario the Good Subjectivist is just a passive bystander.  The Poor Subjectivist, is seeking to advance our knowledge through observation... which is the first step in any scientific advancement.  The Good Objectivist is well-meaning, but shuts down the Poor Subjectivist by refuting his observation with “established fact”.  And wherever Poor Subjectivists and Good objectivists meet, well the Poor Objectivists love a showdown!  And with the Good Subjectivist standing idly by, saying nothing, opportunity is lost.

 

So, if we challenge the basic tenet underlying your summary, we find that progress through observation and debate is stifled.  Advancement of our knowledge eventually suffers.

 

There is no doubt that the underlying debate of whether sound waves change in ways that are not yet measureable is a tough pill for the Good Objectivist to swallow, but if we do slowly organise ourselves into Good Subjectivist and Good Objectivist, debate ends, forums end, passion in the industry dies and progress ceases.

Link to post
Share on other sites


If it isn't measurable, it effectively hasn't changed. If it has changed it is measurable. Whether the measurements are of any great importance, is a whole different thing though. If it has changed, and for the better, accept it, and don't bother with measurements.

Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, Stereophilus said:

Hi Grant,

 

I like this concept, it has a lot of thought behind it.

 

I have concerns though.


Firstly, the theory underlying the Good Subjectivist and the Poor Subjectivist is that there is no change in the sound waves.  What if there is something that changes, but isn’t measurable?

 

In this scenario the Good Subjectivist is just a passive bystander.  The Poor Subjectivist, is seeking to advance our knowledge through observation... which is the first step in any scientific advancement.  The Good Objectivist is well-meaning, but shuts down the Poor Subjectivist by refuting his observation with “established fact”.  And wherever Poor Subjectivists and Good objectivists meet, well the Poor Objectivists love a showdown!  And with the Good Subjectivist standing idly by, saying nothing, opportunity is lost.

 

So, if we challenge the basic tenet underlying your summary, we find that progress through observation and debate is stifled.  Advancement of our knowledge eventually suffers.

 

There is no doubt that the underlying debate of whether sound waves change in ways that are not yet measureable is a tough pill for the Good Objectivist to swallow, but if we do slowly organise ourselves into Good Subjectivist and Good Objectivist, debate ends, forums end, passion in the industry dies and progress ceases.

 

This is a fair enough point.

 

But, as someone who considers themselves mostly objective I can't think why technical measurement with electronic instrumentation is actually required to demonstrate/illustrate a change, no.

 

Continuing in an objective manner, the ability to detect an actual change needs to be demonstrated somehow, doesn't it? I'll let you think how that could be achieved.

 

Cheers.

Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, Stereophilus said:

What if there is something that changes, but isn’t measurable?

 

do you mean that it is fundamentally not measurable or that it is measurable but we are just haven't yet worked out how to measure it?

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, Satanica said:

 

This is a fair enough point.

 

But, as someone who considers themselves mostly objective I can't think why technical measurement with electronic instrumentation is actually required to demonstrate/illustrate a change, no.

 

Continuing in an objective manner, the ability to detect an actual change needs to be demonstrated somehow, doesn't it? I'll let you think how that could be achieved.

 

Cheers.

No huge amount of thought required.  If we follow Grant’s metaphor, it simply means “Poor Subjectivists” working together with “Good Objectivists” collaboratively.  Most importantly this collaboration requires an open minded approach from both sides.  Subjectivists will have their biases challenged.  Objectivists will need to broaden their horizons.

 

If you are referring to human based trials (blinded), then this may hold part of the way forward.  Even double blinded tests / trials have their flaws though.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites


2 minutes ago, sir sanders zingmore said:

do you mean that it is fundamentally not measurable or that it is measurable but we are just haven't yet worked out how to measure it?

 

I do not believe in magic or God... so definitely the latter.  Working out unknown variables in any field of science requires very careful observation.  This is the first step, and it is why our erroneously named “Poor Subjectivists” must work together with their “Good Objectivist” counterparts.  Most importantly, we must listen to and utilise the knowledge of individuals who are both Good Objectivists and Poor Subjectivists (like BP and NP).

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe prescriptive and descriptive are better terms than good and poor. 

 

Prescriptive Objectivist - things that sound good measure accurately

 

Descriptive Objectivist - the things you like subjectively measure like this

 

Prescriptive Subjectivist - things that sound good have the following subjective qualities

 

Descriptive Subjectivist - the things that you like have the following subjective qualities

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.




×
×
  • Create New...