Thanks for sharing this video.
IMO its a pretty honest assesment of things…keep an open mind and weigh all things honestly…
I have said "“tell it like it is, not what you want it to be…” many times,
So when you buy a piece off new gear and its not working out for you but many others like it just dont jump in and agree…state your experience in a positive honest way.
Recently I had 2 high priced headphones here and really was dis-appointed in both of them and many folks have these and absolutely like them alot…
I stated my experience and honestly stated such…and most folks understood my viewpoint and preference etc…and its a positive exchange vs hey your an idiot and are just wrong…
IMO its more about sharing the joy of listening and the music!!
All the best
I also enjoyed this video. Thanks for sharing.
I’ll nitpick on one thing Currawong said, and then I’ll expand on something I agree with.
The nitpick: His discussion that simplicity is a false goal (that’s a paraphrase) actually isn’t in-line with current scientific thinking. In physics in particular, we’ve observed that the underlying realities of nature are actually rather simple. They’re weird (really, really weird) but we keep discovering that we’re able to distill some previous knowledge into simpler explanations as well as unify what were once separate theories into single theories. For example, Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell were able to unify what were the separate bodies of knowledge about electricity and magnetism into a single theory of electromagnetism. Then, Einstein took their work and unified it with gravity in developing his theory of relativity. These unifications (among others) suggest that there is probably some underlying unifying “theory of everything” - ie. the entirety of physical reality is governed by one or two very simple laws. I submit that we call “complexity” is actually an emergent property of a great number of simple things happening simultaneously. However, the emergent properties that exist because of lots of simple things happening in conjunction are also legitimate areas of scientific inquiry. Biological and medical sciences are examples of where complex systems are studied. This point is however tangential to Currawong’s main argument and a lot of my words here are written because “we all live in a covid quarantine.”
The expansion on Currawong’s point: I’ve been wrestling with this “subjective vs. objective” issue in audio for a long time. My current thinking is that the framing of “vs.” in the middle of the two ends of the spectrum creates a false dichotomy. Currawong is spot on in how observation is one of the core tenets of scientific inquiry. In science, observation is both objective and subjective. An objective observation is called a measurement. A measurement is a comparison of some trait with a standard. When we say a headphone cable is 1.5m long, we’re comparing the length of that cable to the length of some standard, in this case the meter. Subjective observations are typically used in qualitative descriptions of traits. Newton’s first law of motion - “an object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an unbalanced external force…” - is a qualitative description. Arriving at that conclusion required a lot of subjective interpretation of observation. In that law, the state of being at rest is measureable. The presence or absence of an unbalanced external force is also measureable. The interpretation of meausrements is subjective - and still very scientific. It takes both the objective measurements and the careful, systematic, but still subjective interpretations of observations to create a complete picture of a phenomena.
I see why objectivists get upset with subjectivists. No matter how carefully done, interpretations can be wrong. In audio, terms like “warm”, “bright”, “wide”, and so many others get thrown around a lot and often in inconsistent ways. I think this inconsistency fuels the objectivists’ fire. However, it’s equally valid to - carefully and consistently - describe and characterize sounds. I see the vice-versa as well. Subjectivists get frustrated with objectivists because the quantities measured are usually insufficient to describe the qualities of the sound. In audio reality - just like natural reality - having both the quantitative and qualitative data paints the whole picture.
One last point, the subjective and objective often inform each other, further undermining the “vs” framing between the two. We have words like “short” or “tall” that are subjective interpretations of a trait - height (which is a length) - that can be objectively measured. I can tell you that a particular person has a height of 1.5m - that’s about 4 feet 11 inches for those of us Americans and Brits. If that particular person is an adult, most would agree that said person is “short” - a subjective interpretation of the measurement that is generally considered an accurate description. However, if that particular person was an 8 year-old child, that measurement would be widely interpreted as and agreed upon as “tall”. When the context is known, both subjective terms “short” and “tall” are useful in communicating something about the trait of height. In audio, terms like “warm” or “bright” play a similar role. But it’s important to remember that those terms are also connected to some range of measurements in some contexts.
This is getting really long. I am an educator by trade and this quarantine is shutting down a key aspect of who I am (can you tell? ). Thanks to all who read this far. And an additional thanks to all for making HiFi Guides a forum where these kinds of things can be discussed with much less of the trolling and bomb throwing found in other corners of the internet.
Well, given dark matter, dark energy and the quantum/gravitation split I tend to think there’s a way to go yet. So perhaps a little premature to infer an ultimate super-simplicity is waiting to be found. IOW, things may get more complex before they start getting simpler again.
But that quibble aside, I totally like your thesis of subjective and objective co-existence. Can we get it passed into law, grin?
My own pet peeve is the lack of an agreed-upon frequency response reference curve. Something like an ISO standard would be nice. It doesn’t have to be “correct” in some hypothetical sense of the word. It just has to be agreed upon. I can calibrate every aspect of my photography work chain and know I’m in agreement with everyone else that does the same. Frustrating this isn’t in place in audio. This is not a matter of declaring one FR good and any deviation bad. Just because we have thermometers doesn’t mean there is one correct temperature to set my house thermostat to.
I just want the Tower of Babel of FR graph compensation targets to go away. And imagine audiophile recordings which have a published or embedded FR response curve for the production equipment used. Today I decide I actually want to hear what the artist intended. So I EQ my system to match that FR (hopefully simply by pressing a button on my DAC).
Extremism in anything is not generally a good thing. Extremist objectivists and subjectivists are two sides of a coin with most people indeed being somewhere in between.
I think Currawong was making a point I feel strongly about, measured performance which is inaudible may be technically interesting but not really relevant in terms of listening. There are some out there (and one website based on it) that are obsessed with figures and reducing whether audio gear is good or bad to simple metrics like SINAD and getting excited about improvements in SINAD that are completely meaningless in terms of audible performance. There is a tendency from that extreme to show disdain towards subjective opinions, yet chasing inaudible improvements in measured values is itself a form of subjectivism, the irony of which appears to be genuinely lost on some.
I do think measurement is important, but have a few caveats. Measurement is not just about having an expensive toy to do measurements with, it is about understanding what is being measured, applying a standard measurement protocol to provide repeatability, understanding the concept of uncertainty and repeatability and ultimately also recognizing the limitations of some measurements (particularly those sensitive to operating parameters). And then there is the ultimate elephant in the room - sound preference is inherently subjective and measurement does not tell you if you like something.
If this all makes me sound a subjectivist, I’m not really and I have little time for the florid language of some subjectivists nor for audiophile snake oil. I am somewhere on the spectrum, I value measurement but ultimately if I like something then I like it and I don’t stress over chasing nirvana by obsessing over SINAD (something I think is having a baleful effect in some quarters).
If it doesn’t need to be correct, then why have a standard at all, just use raw graphs.
I think you’ll find that the majority of people here on this forum are thankfully not naive enough to feel compelled to pick 1 side/train of thought and drink the kool aid.
You would think that the measurements only camp would also be interested in knowing the science of audiology as well…but the numbers are their bottom line (even if those numbers are measuring an irrelevant variable, lol).
Like the majority of sensical minded people, I believe all data is relevant, including subjective listening. Matter of fact , I’d be interested in the measure of subjective opinions, if that makes any sense at all, lol.
I’ve mentioned this before.
But the reason the ASR like objectivism is so attractive to people new to the hobby is it solves a problem for people.
With so much stuff sold direct to customer there is no longer a good way for people to listen to a wide variety of equipment, boiling the assessment down to a single number like SINAD then becomes very attractive to someone looking to spend a significant amount of money on something.
You know you are doing the “right” thing because “science”.
The “scientific method” starts by asking a question forming a hypothesis and designing experiments, not by taking random measurements and drawing a conclusion.
To be fair this sort of objectivism predates the internet, people new to hi-fi often went through the “I want to hear what the artist intended phase”, I poo poo’d valves at one point because of the additional distortion they introduced, their just wasn’t the echo chamber to reinforce it, so most people just moved past it as they heard more stuff.
I see I failed to explain the context I was thinking about. What I’m talking about is an agreed-upon curve to do compensated FR graphs with. All the reviewers with their Mini-DSP EARs rigs are posting compensated graphs. They rarely indicate which of the two EARs compensation curves they use. And even if they did, most people wouldn’t know what that meant.
I’d love it if all we see on the internet were raw FR graphs. Just don’t see that happening.
The problem comes when people start comparing things, to do that then measurements need to be measuring the same parameters in the same way at the same conditions using measuring tools suitably calibrated and accurate. Otherwise it is apples and pears. I have seen people go into meltdown over thermal effects that should be understood by people putting measurements in the public domain, not doing callibration routines etc. So they are comparing apples and oranges.
The tendency to identify a more or less is better or worse metric is widespread and can have hateful effects. Manufacturers are very adept at releasing products with an incremental change in these metrics every year and persuading people that they need that irrelevant gain in SINAD or whatever. And just look at automotive engines if you want examples of the unfortunate effects this can have for corporate behaviours and the perils of over optimizing for headline brochure figures.
This doesn’t mean I am against measurements, I value measurements but I worry about the fixation on figures and presenting measurements in a way which is misleading and which can be used to take advantage of those who don’t really know what they mean.
I thought that was the ‘heavily audiophile policed and enforced’ Harman whatchamacallit?
A bit like searching for the meaning of life instead of not just enjoying living it? lol.
This might be whats called a “poll”?
Ultimately it’s about the music. If your gear facilitates an enjoyable music experience then it is doing its job. I think one of the pitfalls of audio is ending up in a place where music is a means to listen to equipment rather than equipment being there to help people enjoy music.
Another pitfall with the hard core measurement approach is it doesn’t consider build quality, durability, functionality, industrial design, the UI, manufacturer support and warranty etc. I personally think these aspects are more important than an all but irrelevant gain or drop in SINAD, but that’s just my opinion.
I agree for me it’s all about the music but if some gets off over kit, graphs and cables etc then FairPlay to them each to their own.
I’m sure if I had a spare £500k and the space then a speaker set up would be my choice…but I know i’d still love listening to my £100+ iem’s while I conducted the rest of my life
Both sides are relevant to many people.
I started out as a “measurebator” but over time I have shifted and learned like many of us that the hobby can be different for folks…
I like good stuff, well built that measures well, works well, etc…its more a total all around affordable experience that I look for…
Sometimes simple, sometime complex, interesting designs…etc…
and then its down to the enjoyment of listeing to good music that makes you feel great!!
Listening with a Bottlehead Crack and HD600’s…an amp with tons of distortion compared to todays .00000X measuring SS devices…(which I have as well)…and am smiling at what I am hearing…
Its all good…
Enjoy the music, while you can…and yes play with those knobs and tubes too!!
When you have 3 variables and you change 2, you learn nothing.
In case your measurement setup can not be fixed, it needs to self-compensate or log the variables.
Frequency sweeps are bad. When you want to break open a crate, you kick it once, not gently shake it for an afternoon. Fourier transform and all that…
Frame of Reference
“It is a lot warmer today” → Can still mean it is freezing!
Delivering 9/10 performance for 10/10 price or 8/10 for 7/10 price.
Some things can not (yet) be measured
What good is a $1000 headphone that sounds the price, but makes your ears fall off after a minute?
Well, that’s in the eye of the beholder, perhaps having their ears fall off saves them from the endless pit that this hobby becomes, it would be their endgame because they can’t continue lol, really a good value if you look at it that way
I’m a fan of him ! he’s a genuine man that really like this hobby unlike some reviewers that only do audio reviews for $$$$