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  1. #1
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    An interestin view on speakers and if quality matters.

    Yesterday I started to have a friendly argument with a teacher of mine(like we often do) about being a audiophile as a hobby and he posed several points which I was unable to refute, and some of these things made me begin to think about this hobby in a different light so I have decided to post a few of these questions here in search of answers.
    (Take in to consideration my teacher is a very accomplished musician with a good ear).

    1.When building a speaker you look at response graphs, showing different db levels at different frequencies, but most people cant hear these changes(unless they are drastic) while listening to a audio track. Why pay such attention to detail if you can't hear the difference.

    2.Most audiophiles and even people do not have well trained ears and I know at the least I don't so how can a average person tell if a particular note in a chord (which of course is a array of frequencies) stands out more than another if they can't break it down enough to identify the different parts of it.
    3.Sound is just that sound, why try so hard to obtain a speaker that has great response graphs if you can't hear these changes, why not create a speaker system that suits YOUR ear and its flaws
    .
    4.Lastly he believes that the base you hear from a sub woofer is not a imitation bc of the extreme length of lower frequencies.
    His opinion on sound systems is that it doesn't matter how much you pay that one is not necessarily better than another that they merely have diff. sounds and you can't hear weather they are accurate or not(amongst systems that are at least desant). Therefore it doesn't matter how accurate they are.

    While I do not support his opinion at all. It is ingnorant to say that he is wrong wiht out any factual evedince. Also I would like to know how I can refute these arguments. I also want to know how to listen more critically and be able to better determine the accuracy of a system without looking at a response graph. My first step in doing this is to improve my ear via a ear training course.

    Anyone have opinions\answera?


    Above are my interpritations of his views, but hear are his arguement directly from him.

    Edited:we'll just do a side by side and u cant tell me what specifically makes one sound better than the other ...not different...better
    Editied: without looking at any charts or graphs
    Edited: just using your ear

    M.R.C.
    Last edited by Texasreefer; 01-05-2005 at 06:30 PM.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Texasreefer
    Yesterday I started to have a friendly argument with a teacher of mine(like we often do) about being a audiophile as a hobby and he posed several points which I was unable to refute, and some of these things made me begin to think about this hobby in a different light so I have decided to post a few of these questions here in search of answers.
    (Take in to consideration my teacher is a very accomplished musician with a good ear).

    1.When building a speaker you look at response graphs, showing different db levels at different frequencies, but most people cant hear these changes(unless they are drastic) while listening to a audio track. Why pay such attention to detail if you can't hear the difference.

    2.Most audiophiles and even people do not have well trained ears and I know at the least I don't so how can a average person tell if a particular note in a chord (which of course is a array of frequencies) stands out more than another if they can't break it down enough to identify the different parts of it.
    3.Sound is just that sound, why try so hard to obtain a speaker that has great response graphs if you can't hear these changes, why not create a speaker system that suits YOUR ear and its flaws
    .
    4.Lastly he believes that the base you hear from a sub woofer is not a imitation bc of the extreme length of lower frequencies.
    His opinion on sound systems is that it doesn't matter how much you pay that one is not necessarily better than another that they merely have diff. sounds and you can't hear weather they are accurate or not(amongst systems that are at least desant). Therefore it doesn't matter how accurate they are.

    While I do not support his opinion at all. It is ingnorant to say that he is wrong wiht out any factual evedince. Also I would like to know how I can refute these arguments. I also want to know how to listen more critically and be able to better determine the accuracy of a system without looking at a response graph. My first step in doing this is to improve my ear via a ear training course.

    Anyone have opinions\answera?


    Above are my interpritations of his views, but hear are his arguement directly from him.

    Edited:we'll just do a side by side and u cant tell me what specifically makes one sound better than the other ...not different...better
    Editied: without looking at any charts or graphs
    Edited: just using your ear

    M.R.C.
    Well, actually, quite a bit of work has been done on this using double blind tests. Dr. Floyd Toole did a lot of work at the National Research Council in Ottawa and continues his work at Harman International.

    http://ims-ism.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/asp/speaker_e.html

    http://www.harman.com/wp/index.jsp?articleId=default

    People can hear differences in the frequency response and dispersion characteristics of speakers.
    "Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony."
    ------Heraclitus of Ephesis (fl. 504-500 BC), trans. Wheelwright.

  3. #3
    Forum Regular gonefishin's Avatar
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    Not to mention that there are more differences among speakers than simply the frequency response.

    dan
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    enjoy the music!

  4. #4
    RGA
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    The problem of course with testing mentioned above is that they don;t have difinitive graphs as to what they call the "right" sound most people will buy. It is not enough based on those to say that flatter is better and good off axis response is better - that may have something to do with it - but again time and time again flatter speakers with good off axis response sound far worse than those that are less flat and less good off axis. And the blind factor has it's own issues. (And this is not to attack Toole because my favorite speaker maker's speaker was measured by a German publication and had a truly impressive on axis repsonse and a 30degree off axis response that is identical all the way to 15khz. From this point to 18khz the speaker was 3db down off axis and drops to 5db down from the on axis response at 20khz. The speaker never goes outside of the +/3db point from 30hz-18khz - and from 800hz to 5khz it's virtually dead flat with a slight crossover drop rise typical of two ways. I think Toole would buy these speakers.

    Anyway your music teacher or anyone does not at all need a trained ear to detect which is the more accurate or better speaker - some people will make simplisitic wrong arguments about acoustic memory lag times - but one is not listening to notes but to music. Ie; if you don't listen to Rod Stewart or Sarah McLachlan for ten years - I'm sure you'll be able to pick them out of a radio station set pretty quickly.

    Read this article - it does not have to apply to their brand it can apply to any brand. http://www.audionote.co.uk/anp1.htm -

    Your teacher is probably largely correct with most of the stuff passing itself off as high end equipment. I've been in a similar place with speakers that are Mid-fi(though well reviewed) in my top of the line Wharfedale Vanguards based off the TDL 19(?). I listened to staggaringly expsnive systems from Cabasse, Legacy, B&W (well Staggering compared to 1991 $2kUS speakers). I never bought into them because I always had the laws of diminishing returns feeling - and much of the time worse feelings that one was paying MORe money for High end boutique speakers that did 2 things better but 2 things worse? - I'd rather have 4 things done at an 8/10 than 2 things at 10/10 and 2 things at 5/10.

  5. #5
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    It sounds like your professor made a long-winded arguement for the simple statement most people on here can agree upon.- What sounds best to you is what is right for you. If a Sony reciever and JBL speakers feel right to you and sound better IYO than more "accurate" equipment, then that is what you should have. Anything else seems like just trying to impress others or even yourself with "how good" your system is.

  6. #6
    Audiophile Wireworm5's Avatar
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    I'll make the comparison of audio gear to televisions. Where I work there are a rack of tvs displaying horse racing. What all the tvs do is convey the imformation, the race, winner, loser etc. However each tv screen picture is different, some bigger, sharper, true color, bright,dark etc.. All these differneces don't change the race results, but we can now debate the best way to watch the race. Is it better to watch on the big screen or the small, which tv conveys the actual colors and lighting of the venue. Of coarse the tv that conveys all this imformation the best is the one we probably prefer to watch. With a more accurate picture we can now anaylize the track,horse, the jockey, etc..
    So it is with audio, the more accurate a system the better we can analyse the details if you care to analyse them.
    A trained ear can hear differences Example: I had my stereo blasting, my friend who was listening could not hear the phone rigging beside him. I on the other hand could hear the phone. He asked, how could you hear the phone? Simple, I'm listening for all the details in the music, the phone did not fit in with the music.
    To become an experience listener takes many many hours of listening. At first I would experience listening fatigue. And you begin to worry about your hearing. But if the volume is reasonable, and you aren't damaging your ears, eventually you overcome this fatigue. I am convinced that music listening has more to do with your brain processing all the info than what your ears are hearing. With practice you'll be able to listen to your stereo for long hours and not be fatigued when you shut everything down, assuming your listening on a good gear.

  7. #7
    BooBs are elitist jerks shokhead's Avatar
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    Talking

    Quote Originally Posted by Wireworm5
    I'll make the comparison of audio gear to televisions. Where I work there are a rack of tvs displaying horse racing. What all the tvs do is convey the imformation, the race, winner, loser etc. However each tv screen picture is different, some bigger, sharper, true color, bright,dark etc.. All these differneces don't change the race results, but we can now debate the best way to watch the race. Is it better to watch on the big screen or the small, which tv conveys the actual colors and lighting of the venue. Of coarse the tv that conveys all this imformation the best is the one we probably prefer to watch. With a more accurate picture we can now anaylize the track,horse, the jockey, etc..
    So it is with audio, the more accurate a system the better we can analyse the details if you care to analyse them.
    A trained ear can hear differences Example: I had my stereo blasting, my friend who was listening could not hear the phone rigging beside him. I on the other hand could hear the phone. He asked, how could you hear the phone? Simple, I'm listening for all the details in the music, the phone did not fit in with the music.
    To become an experience listener takes many many hours of listening. At first I would experience listening fatigue. And you begin to worry about your hearing. But if the volume is reasonable, and you aren't damaging your ears, eventually you overcome this fatigue. I am convinced that music listening has more to do with your brain processing all the info than what your ears are hearing. With practice you'll be able to listen to your stereo for long hours and not be fatigued when you shut everything down, assuming your listening on a good gear.
    Ears have to hear it for the brain to process it. What the ears dont hear,the brain cant process. It starts with hearing. To bad mine are shot. After a few hours of music,the ringing just gets to loud. Bass heavy and treble light.
    Look & Listen

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by gonefishin
    Not to mention that there are more differences among speakers than simply the frequency response.

    dan
    Frequency response, dispersion, and distortion seem to be the most important things in determining the sound of the speakers themselves. The listening room and placement are also very important.
    "Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony."
    ------Heraclitus of Ephesis (fl. 504-500 BC), trans. Wheelwright.

  9. #9
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    I read somewhere, and tend to believe, that the human ear developed more as a direction locating device that anything else. That our ears are better suited to sensing phase and image, that is the timing of the sounds we hear.

    How sensitive are human ears? Consider how accurately we can locate the direction of a sound. With your eyes closed, you can probably point to the source of a sound within a degree or two. Consider the model: The speed of sound, the distance between two ears, and the distance to the source. There is a difference in the distance the sound traveled as heard by ear no. 1 and ear no. 2, perhaps handful of milimeters. At the speed of sound 270 m/s (???) that amount of time difference is minute. Yet our brains take this difference and can accurately calculate a direction in three dimensions. Wow.

    IMHO, this is where loudspeaker quality really makes a difference. More importantly, this is where the quality of the recording makes a difference. Some recordings sound great, others sound flat. Interestingly, some of the best recordings I have were done carefully on quality analog equipment. Go figure. I think some engineers in the digital age have become sloppy in their work, a la movie soundtracks.

    Just an opinion. Sticking to it.

    jocko

  10. #10
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by jocko_nc
    I read somewhere, and tend to believe, that the human ear developed more as a direction locating device that anything else. That our ears are better suited to sensing phase and image, that is the timing of the sounds we hear.

    How sensitive are human ears? Consider how accurately we can locate the direction of a sound. With your eyes closed, you can probably point to the source of a sound within a degree or two. Consider the model: The speed of sound, the distance between two ears, and the distance to the source. There is a difference in the distance the sound traveled as heard by ear no. 1 and ear no. 2, perhaps handful of milimeters. At the speed of sound 270 m/s (???) that amount of time difference is minute. Yet our brains take this difference and can accurately calculate a direction in three dimensions. Wow.

    IMHO, this is where loudspeaker quality really makes a difference. More importantly, this is where the quality of the recording makes a difference. Some recordings sound great, others sound flat. Interestingly, some of the best recordings I have were done carefully on quality analog equipment. Go figure. I think some engineers in the digital age have become sloppy in their work, a la movie soundtracks.

    Just an opinion. Sticking to it.

    jocko

    I agree there is so much more than the overly simplisitic Frequency response/dispersion(off axis ability/ and distortion that so many focus on. Not that these are not important but too many good examples of those three things are not very good to listen to music on.

    Take Single Ended amplifiers - they have much higher distortion attributes - but are clearly audibly musically superior to any SS amplifier (there are of course degrees and one needs to hear good examples of SET and of SS). I own SS and have heard some of the greatest most expaensive examples and they simply don't serve music - they serve numbers.

    A number of people have worked on this including L.L. Beranek of MIT, and Kondo-San of Audio Note Japan and Sony, Peter Qvortrup Audio Note UK and most good SET makers no doubt. These folks are more concerned with time base distrotion and non-harmonic amplitutde distorion. We listen to musical events and are far more geared to "find" information we decide upon - in a crowded bar you can better hear a person you want to hear through the noise (without that person being louder) and that is a dynamic factor in our brain ear that is better than any measuring device which cannot measure for that. Ie; a wall of sound all at the same volume level but we can peceive the thing we wish to hear ABOVE or as being louder than the rest. With speakers of course it is critical to have them as balanced and matched to each other as is humanly possible precisely because of what you note as how sensitive the ear is to basically time delay issues.

    The problem is the industry is good at trying to dumb everything down for people -= look for an amp that has low THD, high power, and then meaningless garbage like high current or high damping factors, or speakers with flat response and low THD. There is a grain of truth in all of this but one grain in the Sahara is all it is.

  11. #11
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    RGA: Please don't bring a generalized, bias, and inaccurate statement that SETs are musically better into this...That's a never ending debate based on preference alone that can never be resolved. Red-herrings are bad, m'kay?

    Texasreefer: RGA is right about distortion though...at some point numbers become meaningless and outside the scope of human hearing. I've heard tubes with distortion in the 1-2% THD range that sounded pretty good to me, no clipping, distortion audible etc...Some 0.003% THD SS receivers and amps sound pretty bland, despite low distortion figures.

    As for speakers, the truth is your teacher is wrong! Most people CAN hear small changes to response (even as low as 1 dB).
    I have a pair of speaker that allow for the quick substitution of a resistor value on the positive terminal, so that impedence is added or subtracted. This works as part of the crossover to alter the frequency response of the tweeter ever so slightly. The change from a 2 ohm resistor to a 0.5 ohm resistor will "brighten" the sound considerably, but the speaker still measures +/-2 dB from 45-20,000 Hz. More significant than the 1 dB change in frequency is the response of each frequency (or small range of frequencies) relative to others. Say if the bass response is slightly elevated at +1 dB, and the treble is flat (for simplicity), the treble will sound relatively warm or soft. Bump it up 1 dB and it may sound neutral.

    Another neat trick is to mess around with the balance dial on your amp or level setting on your receivers. On my HT receiver, a 1 dB adjustment can actually throw off the center image and soundstaging just a bit. Hard to tell with hard rock, but soft jazz, or female vocals makes this evident.

  12. #12
    M.P.S.E /AES/SMPTE member Sir Terrence the Terrible's Avatar
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    RGA: Please don't bring a generalized, bias, and inaccurate statement that SETs are musically better into this...That's a never ending debate based on preference alone that can never be resolved. Red-herrings are bad, m'kay?



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  13. #13
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Terrence the Terrible
    Sans the stupid
    HEY!!!! I resemble that remark!!!

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