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  1. #1
    Senior Member ralphpnj's Avatar
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    I can't make this stuff up

    As much as I might want to I can't make this stuff up, in other words this month's clown update direct from the pages of the premier magazine for the musings of those fabulous "professional" audio reviewers, otherwise known as clowns, The Absolute Sound. (Issue 232, April 2013)

    First off we get a very well reasoned letter questioning the review procedure for AudioQuest DragonFly DAC. To his credit the reviewer, Alan Taffel, does acknowledge his error but then he goes on to write:
    Contrary to your assumption, the MM-1 (Note: the MM-1s are B&W powered desktop speakers with built-in DAC) did not sound better being directly driven by USB. We can only surmise from this that the PC's USB is laden with jitter
    News flash: Jitter can be measured!!! But hey, Mr. Taffel is a professional clown and clowns don't measure, they just "surmise".

    Next we have the clown in chief, oops I mean editor in chief, Robert Harley waxing on about sins of commission versus sins of omission in his monthly editorial. While most of his points are very well stated and surprisingly coherent, he ruins the whole effort with this last paragraph:

    Those who attempt to remove human "subjectivity" from audio engineering forget that the listener isn't a passive observer, but a fully active, engaged, and even creative participant. From nothing but patterns of varying air pressure, we conjure in our minds living and breathing musicians. The traditional yardsticks of sound quality are meaningless without recognizing the vital role our imaginations play in music listening.
    Now I for one am very confused. Doesn't the process of subjectively reviewing over priced high end audio equipment involve listening to music? And as stated by Mr. Harley the reviewer/listener's imagination comes into play during the listening required during the course of a review. Yet somehow that imagination, or at least the imagination of professional clowns, oops I did it again, I mean reviewers, is able to selectively filter out the real from the imagined. As I said I can't make this stuff up!
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  2. #2
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    Very well stated. I call Absolute Sound absolute rubbish.

  3. #3
    Senior Member ralphpnj's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dyohn View Post
    Very well stated. I call Absolute Sound absolute rubbish.
    The truly sad thing is that much of the equipment that TAS reviews really deserves to be given a high quality and thorough review. The kind of review that includes things like double blind listening tests, extensive sighted listening, careful measurements, evaluations of all of the equipment's functions, etc. For example in the same issue i quoted from above, there is a review of the new Oppo BDP-105 where the reviewer only uses the Oppo to listen to two channel CDs and SACDs - no mention of multichannel playback, DVD video, blu-ray, 3D blu-ray, network streaming, internet streaming (netflix playback), USB input, DAC, etc. And of course not one single measurement.

    But what can one expect from a magazine that claims that wav files are superior to flac files, that a $500 USB cable "sounds" better than well made $20 USB cable and that the jitter from a SPDIF connection is clearly audible.

    So I guess you're right: TAS is really TAR!
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by ralphpnj View Post
    The quote from Robert Harley read: "Those who attempt to remove human "subjectivity" from audio engineering forget that the listener isn't a passive observer, but a fully active, engaged, and even creative participant. From nothing but patterns of varying air pressure, we conjure in our minds living and breathing musicians. The traditional yardsticks of sound quality are meaningless without recognizing the vital role our imaginations play in music listening."
    Yes, our brain actively influences how we perceive how we hear. No one should dispute that. However, the one big drawback of subjective reviewing is that Mr. Harley's vivid imagination -- i.e., what his brain does with all of those non-audio factors such as appearance, knowledge of brand name, price and so on -- is impossible to reliably transfer to other listeners. The good vibes that Harley's subconscious attaches to a thick-milled front panel with special blue lights may well invoke the opposite response from someone else.

    It is always interesting how many "enormous" differences under sighted listening conditions shrink significantly in size when auditioned under truly blind conditions. I just wish the subjectivists would stop the silly pretension of insisting their imaginative perceptions are always and only due to some obscure technicality that anyone with golden ears could hear. If you don't hear what they hear, you become a clod with an inferior system.

    Now that Mr. Harley has admitted he has an imagination, it'd be nice if he could take the next step and admit that perhaps some of what he hears is due to that instead of claiming that he is hearing the difference between a signal at -112 dB vs -110 dB or some picoseconds of jitter, etc.

  5. #5
    Senior Member ralphpnj's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mlsstl View Post
    Yes, our brain actively influences how we perceive how we hear. No one should dispute that. However, the one big drawback of subjective reviewing is that Mr. Harley's vivid imagination -- i.e., what his brain does with all of those non-audio factors such as appearance, knowledge of brand name, price and so on -- is impossible to reliably transfer to other listeners. The good vibes that Harley's subconscious attaches to a thick-milled front panel with special blue lights may well invoke the opposite response from someone else.

    It is always interesting how many "enormous" differences under sighted listening conditions shrink significantly in size when auditioned under truly blind conditions. I just wish the subjectivists would stop the silly pretension of insisting their imaginative perceptions are always and only due to some obscure technicality that anyone with golden ears could hear. If you don't hear what they hear, you become a clod with an inferior system.

    Now that Mr. Harley has admitted he has an imagination, it'd be nice if he could take the next step and admit that perhaps some of what he hears is due to that instead of claiming that he is hearing the difference between a signal at -112 dB vs -110 dB or some picoseconds of jitter, etc.
    You're grasped and distilled my point perfectly. Thank you for that very well written and well thought out post.
    Living Rm: Transporter-SimAudio pre/power amps-Vandersteen 3A Sign. & sub
    Home Theater: Touch-Marantz HTR-Energy Veritas 2.1 & Linn sub
    Computer Rm: Touch-Headroom Desktop w/DAC-Aragon amp-Energy Veritas 2.1 & Energy sub
    Bedroom: Touch-HR Desktop w/DAC-Audio Refinement amp-Energy Veritas 2.0
    Guest Rm: Duet-Sony soundbar
    Garage: SB3-JVC compact system
    Controls: iPeng; SB Controller; Moose & Muso
    Server: SBS on dedicated windows 7 computer w/2 Drobos
    Last.fm

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