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  1. #1
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    Blind listening comparisons

    Yes, I am a huge advocate of blind tastings in wine, and an equally big advocate of blind listening of "high end" stereo systems. I still remember hearing a blind comparison of speaker systems (about 50 years ago). When they got to the AR3a, I cried: "stop"! I bought my Fulton Js after comparing them to the latest Infinity speakers blind. Still have them 35 years later!

    Trust me, there is very little actual correlation between price and perceived quality, either in wines or in "high end" equipment.

  2. #2
    Forum Regular YBArcam's Avatar
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    I'm not sure about that last line. Perhaps. But I guess my point is, compare a speaker that is $300, then $800, then $1,500, then $2,500, etc. It might be a Paradigm Atom, then a B&W 685, then a Tannoy DC6, then finally a PMC TB2i. I'd say there's improvement as you go up.

    Or amps. NAD 326, Exposure 2010s2, Naim Nait XS. And so on. IMO, more money definitely buys better gear. But that's not to say that a cheaper component can't sound better than a more expensive one. I wouldn't be surprised if the 2010s2 could smoke a few of the more expensive amps that are out there. To me that price (about $1,300) buys a lot of performance.
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  3. #3
    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    I am totaly against blind testing when it comes to audio. I have to listen to the equipment for a period of time before I decide if it is right for me. In quick blind comparisons I can hear differences but not what is best over the long haul. I think blind listening tests are bull****.
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  4. #4
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    I happen to like blind testing just to keep me honest. But at the same time if I am going to lay down some major cash for a set of gear (especially loudspeakers) i like to see them. Not only do I want my gear to sound good i think it should look good too. Once you get to a certain price point there is no reason a manufacturer cant make the gear sound good and look pleasing to the eye too.

  5. #5
    Forum Regular YBArcam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnMichael
    I am totaly against blind testing when it comes to audio. I have to listen to the equipment for a period of time before I decide if it is right for me. In quick blind comparisons I can hear differences but not what is best over the long haul. I think blind listening tests are bull****.
    I agree. I think it's tougher to pick up on meaningful differences if you switch quickly between components. I prefer to listen to a system for a couple of months (at least) and get used to the sound. Listen to at least a few songs many times over. You become used to the presentation, and eventually you know what a song is going to sound like at every point within it. You'll know which parts of the song connect most with you. Then when you finally change up the gear, all differences, be they major or minor, becomes much more noticeable.

    It's kind of like test driving new cars. Unless one is a perfect fit, they are likely to all be good. Picking out meaningful differences when you drive one right after the other is tough. You may think you like this, and don't like that. But drive one for a few weeks and get used to it, and then make a change, and the differences will be much more clear.
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  6. #6
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheHills44060
    .................................................. ..
    if I am going to lay down some major cash for a set of gear (especially loudspeakers) i like to see them. Not only do I want my gear to sound good i think it should look good too. Once you get to a certain price point there is no reason a manufacturer cant make the gear sound good and look pleasing to the eye too.
    I agree... While I'm sure most persons would disagree with each other on what that "certain price point" is, I think looks matter to many of us... Also, I don't see why a component can't both look and sound good... At $200 a speaker can be excused for not having a nice finish, but at $10,000 there is no excuse IMO...

  7. #7
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnMichael
    I am totaly against blind testing when it comes to audio. I have to listen to the equipment for a period of time before I decide if it is right for me. In quick blind comparisons I can hear differences but not what is best over the long haul. I think blind listening tests are bull****.


    Blind tests are fun, but I don't think they're that useful longterm... I remember a criticism of the Pepsi Challenge (DBT); which is that in the small samples given, persons preferred the sweeter taste of Pepsi in hoards... But when it came to drinking an entire glass, persons found the Pepsi too sweet and preferred Coke... Think of how many sweet or salty foods are great as a small snack, but would make you feel sick if you ate a plateful of them... I feel that sums up a lot of problems with DBT... You need to be careful not to draw the wrong conclusions from a quick switch back and forth... I've found that to be very true of components I've auditioned at home and at dealers... Initial impressions can be very positive, but after a month of continuous use, your opinion can go in the complete opposite direction...

    Also, even though there is no time limit on a DBT... Who is really able to get someone to help you setup one to last a month or so?

  8. #8
    M.P.S.E /AES/SMPTE member Sir Terrence the Terrible's Avatar
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    Blind testing is completely relevant to audio. But I would not use it to choose a component for purchase, as that is the wrong way to use DBT.

    DBT is used to define differences without introducing prejudices that sighted testing can do. Like testing the differences between Dolby Digital and DTS, and interconnects against interconnects(or speaker wire). It can be used to test the audible differences between tube and SS amps, or a metal dome against a soft dome within the same speaker.

    Listening to equipment for purchase is quite a different thing than listening for differences. One has to reach you emotionally, the other more critically without emotion.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Terrence the Terrible
    Blind testing is completely relevant to audio. But I would not use it to choose a component for purchase, as that is the wrong way to use DBT.

    DBT is used to define differences without introducing prejudices that sighted testing can do. Like testing the differences between Dolby Digital and DTS, and interconnects against interconnects(or speaker wire). It can be used to test the audible differences between tube and SS amps, or a metal dome against a soft dome within the same speaker.

    Listening to equipment for purchase is quite a different thing than listening for differences. One has to reach you emotionally, the other more critically without emotion.
    Agree completely. DBT is a great way to see if a difference can be heard and/or pointed out consistently. However, among gear in which there is an audible difference (sometimes it's obvious without DBT too) a blind test, or "sample" isn't going to help you decide which you prefer. It's not always a case of which is objectively better.

    I will also say that both the DBT-is-king crowd and the always-trust-your-ears crowd can be a bit over the top at times. Some people are so dogmatic about DBT that they can never admit anybody hears a difference in anything unless they've followed a 50 step process and the stars align properly and it's supervised by one of the DBT high council members to make sure nobody could possibly have cared beforehand what they would hear. Others are so stunningly un-objective that they never allow for the validity of anything to ever be questioned. There a few forums out there that are so rife with fights over this topic that they become irritating to visit.
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  10. #10
    Forum Regular GregLee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Terrence the Terrible
    But I would not use it to choose a component for purchase, as that is the wrong way to use DBT.

    DBT is used to define differences without introducing prejudices that sighted testing can do.
    So you want to base your purchase decisions on prejudices, rather than on the sound differences revealed through DBT. Well, hmmm, that's just you.
    Greg

  11. #11
    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GregLee
    So you want to base your purchase decisions on prejudices, rather than on the sound differences revealed through DBT. Well, hmmm, that's just you.


    Actually I would say it is many of us. Yes you might hear a difference but will that difference please long term. How many times has a component that stood out in blind testing become annoying when used long term. Oh this IC had such extended highs compared to the other. Yet in weeks that extended high was bright and unnatural. Certainly not the way I choose a component for years of listening pleasure.
    Last edited by JohnMichael; 12-27-2010 at 06:08 AM.
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  12. #12
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    And here I always thought John Micheal liked blindfolds.

  13. #13
    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by poppachubby
    And here I always thought John Micheal liked blindfolds.


    When the complete zippered hood is not available.
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  14. #14
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by woofersus
    Agree completely. DBT is a great way to see if a difference can be heard and/or pointed out consistently. However, among gear in which there is an audible difference (sometimes it's obvious without DBT too) a blind test, or "sample" isn't going to help you decide which you prefer. It's not always a case of which is objectively better.

    I will also say that both the DBT-is-king crowd and the always-trust-your-ears crowd can be a bit over the top at times. Some people are so dogmatic about DBT that they can never admit anybody hears a difference in anything unless they've followed a 50 step process and the stars align properly and it's supervised by one of the DBT high council members to make sure nobody could possibly have cared beforehand what they would hear. Others are so stunningly un-objective that they never allow for the validity of anything to ever be questioned. There a few forums out there that are so rife with fights over this topic that they become irritating to visit.
    There are forums that straight out ban discussion of DBT as it is generally not a productive discussion... It too often descends into all out war between DBT diehards and the ears only crowd...

    IMO, there is some truth to both the DBT and the ears only crowd's positions, so there is no need to be black and white about the issue...

    I prefer to base my purchase decisions on a combination of measurements and my own long term listening (rather than DBT).... While I understand that something can measure poorly and yet sound good and that something can measure well yet sound really bad, I like products that both measure well and sound good... I don't believe the 2 are mutually exclusive...

  15. #15
    Forum Regular GregLee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani
    ... war between DBT diehards and the ears only crowd...
    How could there be such a war? Do you think those doing DBTs don't use ears, or are using something other than ears? What does "ears only" mean to you?
    Greg

  16. #16
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by GregLee
    How could there be such a war? Do you think those doing DBTs don't use ears, or are using something other than ears? What does "ears only" mean to you?
    Sorry if the short hand was confusing: by ears only I really meant the trust your ears crowd (people who don't think that they need to be blindfolded to hear without bias)...

  17. #17
    Forum Regular GregLee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani
    Sorry if the short hand was confusing: by ears only I really meant the trust your ears crowd (people who don't think that they need to be blindfolded to hear without bias)...
    So DBTers don't trust their ears? If you're not blindfolded, you trust your ears only, but if you are blindfolded, you trust something other than your ears? Oh, wait, I get it --- you're trying to imply that the DBT crowd are using their minds, as well as their ears.
    Greg

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Terrence the Terrible
    Blind testing is completely relevant to audio. But I would not use it to choose a component for purchase, as that is the wrong way to use DBT.

    DBT is used to define differences without introducing prejudices that sighted testing can do.
    +1

    no need to fear the DBT
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  19. #19
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    I think the issue here is simple bias control. There's definitely a tendency, whether consciously or otherwise, to hear what we want to hear. A blind comparison is a very useful tool for assessing differences or non-differences between components, formats, et al. I've caught myself before believing that I heard a difference when actually nothing had been changed in my setup.

    I also recall similar tricks done by some high end audio manufacturers. A few years ago, Wilson Audio demoed a new speaker system using an iPod as the source. But, they'd first put up this elaborate looking test rig, so the audience didn't know they were listening to those high end speakers through an iPod.

    At high end audio shows, Dunlavy and McIntosh have also pretended to swap out speaker cables to make a point about exotic cabling. People would swoon about the "night and day" difference that the cabling made, only to find out that nothing in the system setup had changed between listenings.

    With wine tasting, I've definitely seen how preferences and expectations will often boil down to the price point. When you put the blinders on, then it really tests just how good someone's purportedly well-trained taste buds are.

    As T mentioned, this is not necessarily an assessment of preference, but rather of reliable comparison. And whether we admit it or not, I think we all have some biases that need to be controlled to some extent.
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  20. #20
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tube fan
    Trust me, there is very little actual correlation between price and perceived quality, either in wines or in "high end" equipment.
    This line however I do take issue with. I think that there's a very strong correlation in the lower price points. When you move up from $20 speakers to $100 speakers, there is definitely a marked improvement. And likewise when you move from $100 to $500.

    I agree though that there is a point of diminishing returns, and that's where you get into the stickiness of whether any perceived improvement in performance is worth the often exorbitant price increases.
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  21. #21
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by GregLee
    So DBTers don't trust their ears? If you're not blindfolded, you trust your ears only, but if you are blindfolded, you trust something other than your ears? Oh, wait, I get it --- you're trying to imply that the DBT crowd are using their minds, as well as their ears.
    I didn't realize I was implying anything... But feel free to assume whatever you want...

    You seem intent on getting into a pointless debate on DBT versus Anti-DBT with me... I have no interest in such a debate...
    Last edited by Ajani; 12-27-2010 at 12:01 PM.

  22. #22
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woochifer
    I think the issue here is simple bias control. There's definitely a tendency, whether consciously or otherwise, to hear what we want to hear. A blind comparison is a very useful tool for assessing differences or non-differences between components, formats, et al. I've caught myself before believing that I heard a difference when actually nothing had been changed in my setup.

    I also recall similar tricks done by some high end audio manufacturers. A few years ago, Wilson Audio demoed a new speaker system using an iPod as the source. But, they'd first put up this elaborate looking test rig, so the audience didn't know they were listening to those high end speakers through an iPod.

    At high end audio shows, Dunlavy and McIntosh have also pretended to swap out speaker cables to make a point about exotic cabling. People would swoon about the "night and day" difference that the cabling made, only to find out that nothing in the system setup had changed between listenings.

    With wine tasting, I've definitely seen how preferences and expectations will often boil down to the price point. When you put the blinders on, then it really tests just how good someone's purportedly well-trained taste buds are.

    As T mentioned, this is not necessarily an assessment of preference, but rather of reliable comparison. And whether we admit it or not, I think we all have some biases that need to be controlled to some extent.
    I agree... As I mentioned earlier, both the DBT crowd and the anti-DBT crowd have points... But too often it turns into a hardcore idealogical debate (and shortly thereafter a pointless quarrel), rather than a productive discussion of how best to use sighted versus blind listening...

  23. #23
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    Double Blind Testing....oh ya sounds like fun. More like funny.

    Do people other than scientists actually turn their listening rooms into test chambers? Maybe they just lease a lab for a month or so. "I really love how this piece of kit sounds, but I better verify that with a DBT test. I mean, how can I know that it sounds better than the amp I just had, if I don't?!?"

    Whatever happened to buying albums and just hangin with your buddies?

  24. #24
    Meh. Brett A's Avatar
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    The whole thing about DBT-ing audio equipment is that it's always done by regular guys who are trying to prove something. They look at actual DBTs in the legitimate scientific community (such as pharmaceuticals) and think it is a legitimate, scientific way of "proving" something within this hobby.

    Just once, I'd like to read an actual scientists take on such DBTs. I doubt they'd pass muster. The testing methods themselves have not been sufficiently tested as far as I know.

    So that leaves DBTs of audio equipment solidly in the realm of a hobbyists' curiosity--something to do for fun; albeit informative fun, but as for actual "science", the "prove" nothing in my book. (except maybe that a particular group of people, in a particular room listening to particular music through particular gear had mixed reports of what they were hearing) Wow. Big surprise.

    Me, i like to listen to music. And fortunately, i have a retail shop near by that sends out loaners, so I've never had to buy something without spend four days or more with it in my living room.
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  25. #25
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    Brett nice of you to join us over here. Any word on AK? Was it a planned shutdown?

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