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pro audio & audiophile contradictions
Old 1st August 2009
  #1
Gear Head
 

pro audio & audiophile contradictions

The professional audio community generally views home audiophiles with suspicion (at least that is my interpretation from this forum and others). Ironically, however, the professional audio press typically evaluates audio products totally subjectively, whereas the audiophile press provides performance measurements in addition to, or in support of, the subjective evaluations.

Case in point: I have read the reviews of the Event Opal monitors both at mixonline and at SOS. In both cases, the specifications from the promotional literature is repeated, and subjective listening evaluations are summarized. There is no measured evidence that the speaker delivers the frequency response that is claimed, or that the amplifiers deliver the rated power, etc. In contrast, a speaker review in Stereophile, for example, will typically include instrumented measurements of the speaker's performance, in addition to a subjective evaluation.

I suppose that I am a member of each community and therefore have no axe to grind other than to wonder about this puzzling contradiction. (I have a modest home studio (Aurora 8, 32-channel mixer, monitors, 88-key weighted keyboard, misc. HW & SW synthesizers), and I have a home audio system that I enjoy.) It does appear to me, however, that the practitioners of black magic home audio equipment are more demanding that 3rd-party technical measurements be part of the discussion.

Why is the pro audio community willing to be satisfied with subjective product evaluations only, accepting the vendors stated performance as truth? Why is the audiophile more demanding of measured observations?

I am interested in your thoughts.

thanks

Keith
Old 1st August 2009
  #2
JSG
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I think most write-ups on gear in most major pro-audio publications are nothing more than paid advertisements. They are far from objective, and doing actual lab testing to verify specs would be expensive, and possibly too revealing. Just my opinion.
Old 1st August 2009
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kmmcdonald View Post

Why is the pro audio community willing to be satisfied with subjective product evaluations only, accepting the vendors stated performance as truth? Why is the audiophile more demanding of measured observations?
Engineers are involved in creating the sonic experience. They usually treat the gear like a musical instrument. What guitar player demands the 'specs' on a Strat?

What are the specs on a Neve? A U47? Who cares? Some engineers are going for accuracy, but not all of them and not all the time. Engineers have learned (the hard way!) that even honest specs don't really tell the story of what the gear can do to and for your sound.

Audiophiles are involved in re-creating the sonic experience. They are going for accuracy. They need to be careful not to introduce coloration of their own, or they will not hear the recording properly. Pristine playback is logically a more universal goal, and it is not surprising that specs play a larger part in the decisions.

Plus, for all the claptrap they believe in, audiophiles really do crave the seal of approval of science. Even the green flashlight comes with a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo about 'quantum energy' and so on. It's not enough that it 'improves your soundstage' - it has to do it in a science-y way.

The real question is why audiophiles will spend 5 grand on some junk to keep their cables off the floor, but won't ever, ever spend a dime treating their room!!
Old 1st August 2009
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
The real question is why audiophiles will spend 5 grand on some junk to keep their cables off the floor, but won't ever, ever spend a dime treating their room!!

probably for the same reason some engineers will spend 10,000 on a compressor/mic/flavor of the day preamp without having ever heard the damned thing.

or...

the same reason some touched engineer will buy a preamp because Joe McSlappy Nuts bigshot engineer has it yet wonder just "why oh why does my stuff not sound like that? so and so uses this"

or "hey, Lefty McMudpie says this so it must be true"




ignorance.

after observing the audiophile folks (and being somewhat of one myself) I have the greatest respect for their striving for great *sound*.... Lord knows , from the sound of it..often times good sound seems to be the LAST item of business round "recording engineer way"
Old 2nd August 2009
  #5
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Being an Audiophile is a Rich man's Hobby.
Being an Audio Engineer is a Profession.

You can only spend money being an Audiophile.
You can Make Money being an Audio Engineer.

Most of the Audiophile world is concerned with reproducing music accurately no matter what the cost, for their own satisfaction.
Most of the Pro Audio world is concerned with making music and recording it the way the artist intended it to sound. It's not all about accuracy in sonics. It's about making it sound "GOOD" however subjective that may be...
Old 9th August 2009
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
Audiophiles are involved in re-creating the sonic experience. They are going for accuracy. They need to be careful not to introduce coloration of their own, or they will not hear the recording properly. Pristine playback is logically a more universal goal, and it is not surprising that specs play a larger part in the decisions.

Engineers are involved in creating the sonic experience. They usually treat the gear like a musical instrument. What guitar player demands the 'specs' on a Strat?
Yes, but in the case of monitors/speakers (brought up by the OP), engineers and audiophiles are going for the same thing.
Old 9th August 2009
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
Engineers are involved in creating the sonic experience. They usually treat the gear like a musical instrument. What guitar player demands the 'specs' on a Strat?

What are the specs on a Neve? A U47? Who cares? Some engineers are going for accuracy, but not all of them and not all the time. Engineers have learned (the hard way!) that even honest specs don't really tell the story of what the gear can do to and for your sound.

Audiophiles are involved in re-creating the sonic experience. They are going for accuracy. They need to be careful not to introduce coloration of their own, or they will not hear the recording properly. Pristine playback is logically a more universal goal, and it is not surprising that specs play a larger part in the decisions.

Plus, for all the claptrap they believe in, audiophiles really do crave the seal of approval of science. Even the green flashlight comes with a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo about 'quantum energy' and so on. It's not enough that it 'improves your soundstage' - it has to do it in a science-y way.

The real question is why audiophiles will spend 5 grand on some junk to keep their cables off the floor, but won't ever, ever spend a dime treating their room!!
I think that's a really good summary. But I also think there's a lot of prejudice on sites like this against audiophiles that don't deserve it.

Sure there are nut bags out there who will spend money like crazy based on the most bizarre and suspect of advertising claims. But most of the people I see on head-fi or diyaudio are intelligent engineering or electronics inclined hobbyists who just love music as well as building and modding playback circuits.

There are all kinds of audiophiles. Loving music or diy electronics is not grounds for scorn or condescension.
Old 9th August 2009
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Teddy Ray View Post
probably for the same reason some engineers will spend 10,000 on a compressor/mic/flavor of the day preamp without having ever heard the damned thing.

or...

the same reason some touched engineer will buy a preamp because Joe McSlappy Nuts bigshot engineer has it yet wonder just "why oh why does my stuff not sound like that? so and so uses this"

or "hey, Lefty McMudpie says this so it must be true"




ignorance.

after observing the audiophile folks (and being somewhat of one myself) I have the greatest respect for their striving for great *sound*.... Lord knows , from the sound of it..often times good sound seems to be the LAST item of business round "recording engineer way"
Joe McSlappy Nuts........ROFLMFAOhehhehheh
Old 9th August 2009
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kmmcdonald View Post
the professional audio press typically evaluates audio products totally subjectively, whereas the audiophile press provides performance measurements in addition to, or in support of, the subjective evaluations.
Yes and no. A lot of the specs I see in audiophile magazines are worthless, incorrect, irrelevant (phase response of a loudspeaker), or all of the above. Often they pretend to be scientific to add credibility to what is really BS anti-science. Sort of like sellers of homeopathic products claiming that "clinical studies" support their bogus claims.

Quote:
There is no measured evidence that the speaker delivers the frequency response that is claimed, or that the amplifiers deliver the rated power, etc.
Agree 100 percent. This is a huge problem IMO. It wasn't always that way. In years past some pro audio magazines did test stuff and print the results. Magazines meant for professional EE type engineers have always tested and published.

Quote:
Why is the pro audio community willing to be satisfied with subjective product evaluations only
I see this is a symptom of the dumbing-down of society in general. In the 1950s and 1960s science was highly respected. Today it is sneered at by many.

--Ethan
Old 9th August 2009
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
I see this is a symptom of the dumbing-down of society in general. In the 1950s and 1960s science was highly respected. Today it is sneered at by many.

--Ethan
It's incredible that the country which put man on the Moon has one of the most ignorant populations on the 'Sciences'. Ask any random person on the street how the space shuttle stays in orbit (or why the astronauts are in 'zero' gravity) and they wouldn't be able to tell you.

GW Bush certainly put us back a decade+ on that front too

Looks like things are turning around for the better on that front now
Old 9th August 2009
  #11
It used to be the opposite. Pro audio did all the testing, design and theory. Then it cascaded down to the consumer level playback systems. Just review the AES journals from the 50's and 60's.

Now it's the consumer side pressing for better passive components, wire, tubes, etc. Now the "pro's" ignore science and objective testing for "vibe".

We now have a situation where someone will spend $50,000 to accuratly reproduce the sonics of 25 cent TL072 opamp.

Back when audio used to be pro, I wrote for several magazines and did comprehensive product reviews for REP magazine. Those reviews were brutal as they also included complete Audio Precision bench tests with the plots printed in spades.

Those managed to piss off a few manufacturers that were caught with their pants down or just total BS claims that were refuted with tests results.

The real demise of scientific analysis of audio gear has more to do with the collapse of the industry and the transfer of production from the established pros to the masses. The masses are not interested nor can they interpret test results. I suspect the government de-education programs have a lot to do with that.

"Specs, specs, we don't need no stinkin' specs!"

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 9th August 2009
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fleaman View Post
GW Bush certainly put us back a decade+ on that front too

Looks like things are turning around for the better on that front now
Now I've heard everything. The demise of pro audio science is Bush's fault?
What evidence do you have to support that contention?

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 9th August 2009
  #13
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

People are often really hung up on owning "the very best." Snake oil vendors exploit them and some folks who can't afford the highest quality gear feel threatened and demand an ABX test at every opportunity to prove to the world that it doesn't matter. It's "I'm more successful than you" vs. "I'm smarter than you." I fear these are really two sides of the very same neurosis.

There's a place in between where the really good sounding stuff is found. It only requires having an open mind and not getting hung up in identifying with what one owns. In my case, when I know there's better gear for the job that I can't afford to own, I'll just rent gear or studio time.
Old 9th August 2009
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
Now I've heard everything. The demise of pro audio science is Bush's fault?
What evidence do you have to support that contention?

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
You took that out of context. I never said pro-audio science at all, just 'sciences'. And yes, Bush had a policy of hindering sciences and promoting religion (specifically Christianity)...with his policies.
Old 9th August 2009
  #15
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Mr. Bush got blamed for everything else, may as well lay the dumbing down of science at his feet, too. That's the lib way.
Old 9th August 2009
  #16
PDC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vitodigiovanni View Post
Being an Audiophile is a Rich man's Hobby.
Being an Audio Engineer is a Profession.

You can only spend money being an Audiophile.
You can Make Money being an Audio Engineer.

Most of the Audiophile world is concerned with reproducing music accurately no matter what the cost, for their own satisfaction.
Most of the Pro Audio world is concerned with making music and recording it the way the artist intended it to sound. It's not all about accuracy in sonics. It's about making it sound "GOOD" however subjective that may be...
Yes. As a salesman of audiophile gear, I can tell you that there will always be a demand for publications, articles, reviews and forums, because most of these guys do not hear a difference themselves. Some guys have big male organs, hot sports cars, trophy wives with big fake breats. Some guys have audiophile gear.

I am amazed at how many audiophile manufacturers do not publish specs or include them in their manuals. Some of the high end tube guys do not give any info about the best tubes, biasing, etc. Many of the speaker and amplifier manufacturers make it really hard to match components, because they do not give any power rating references. So it produces 100W. So what? Is that half power or full, .005%, .05%, 5% or 50% distortion? What is the slew, damping factor, etc? How are we supposed to match things with the Super VooDoo Cable? It is really a joke and a sorry excuse for hiding behind crappy designs.
Old 9th August 2009
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Teddy Ray View Post
Mr. Bush got blamed for everything else, may as well lay the dumbing down of science at his feet, too. That's the lib way.
Of course, he was totally with scientists and the science community on the whole global warming thing. Totally forwarded policies in accordance with the science communities recommendations.

Same thing for stem cell research.

And of course, promoted the teachings of science in the classroom, along with biology and evolution.

Yup.

Old 10th August 2009
  #18
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Fletcher's Avatar
Back when there were REAL audio journals [the JAES, "db magazine" and R/E/P in the US, Studio Sound in the UK] they would have the "technical review" which verified the specifications of a unit along with the "subjective" / "in application" review. As fewer and fewer people [myself included] cared about the technical specifications the magazines cut back on the expense of actual verification tests and would often regurgitate the marketing fodder provided by the manufacturers... thus no "checks and balances" and some of the specs got more and more ridiculous.

Interestingly, around the time of this original post [which I missed] I began thinking more and more about the dichotomy between "audiophiles" and the "producers of consumable audio product". In the beginning they used common tools for a common result... the "best" audio possible. Then as time went on, after Les Paul planted the seed of "more function" as a production tool, the split began.

Audio quality on the production end began to be sacrificed for more "function" to manipulate the audio. 1" 4-tracks led to 1" 8 tracks... which led to 2" 16 tracks, which led to 2" 24 tracks and 2x 24 track machines synchronized for 46 tracks ... which led to digital 24 tracks [and 32 tracks, and 48 tracks] and finally 96 tracks of your favorite DAW through **** eating converters, Chameleon Labs mic-pre's [or Presonus, or Focusrite, or whatever else Banjo Mart has on special this week], with $100 chinese microphones in "acoustically" (sic) treated bedrooms with little more training than a couple of semesters of Full Pail [or equivalent "kordin' skool"].

While on the other side of the fence these guys ran out of ways to make actual improvements... so they end up with $3000- AC power cords, speaker wires that are 3 meters long and cost as much as a BMW 3 series... blah, blah, waka, waka, bull****.

2/3rds of the DAW kids babble "it's only going to end up as an MP-3 anyway" while the other third [like my oldest, but not my youngest daughter] are getting into vinyl.

Somehow, there is a happy medium, which I hope we will one day find again... but for the most part, there are damn few studios [like I'd say under 1000 world wide] that seem to give a rat's ass about "audio quality" and too few "audiophiles" who understand what is a good value and makes sense and what is "snake oil" being foist upon them by predatory sales guys who are only too happy to take the [obviously] too much money the "audiophile" community has to spend.

In the immortal words of David St. Hubbins... it's a fine line between clever and stupid.

Peace.
Old 10th August 2009
  #19
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kmmcdonald View Post
The professional audio community generally views home audiophiles with suspicion (at least that is my interpretation from this forum and others). Ironically, however, the professional audio press typically evaluates audio products totally subjectively, whereas the audiophile press provides performance measurements in addition to, or in support of, the subjective evaluations.

Case in point: I have read the reviews of the Event Opal monitors both at mixonline and at SOS. In both cases, the specifications from the promotional literature is repeated, and subjective listening evaluations are summarized. There is no measured evidence that the speaker delivers the frequency response that is claimed, or that the amplifiers deliver the rated power, etc. In contrast, a speaker review in Stereophile, for example, will typically include instrumented measurements of the speaker's performance, in addition to a subjective evaluation.
Its funny you said that for I've always encountered the opposite. Who takes the word from Sound On Stage of MIX Online? Surely no one I know that can use SMAART.

Audiophiles I've encountered tend to use names as sense of leverage to get their message across (XYZ said it, so you must believe it) where as the pro audio community will measure and perform shootouts using either TEF or SMAART.

Possibly we are in two different worlds for I am heavily into sound reinforcement.

Cheers!
Old 10th August 2009
  #20
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The German Christian replaced the Latin Pagan.... both were Roman.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fleaman View Post
You took that out of context. I never said pro-audio science at all, just 'sciences'. And yes, Bush had a policy of hindering sciences and promoting religion (specifically Christianity)...with his policies.
Old 10th August 2009
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fleaman View Post
And yes, Bush had a policy of hindering sciences and promoting religion (specifically Christianity)...with his policies.
Undeniably true.
Old 10th August 2009
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trashman View Post
The German Christian replaced the Latin Pagan.... both were Roman.
And quite unfortunate for the sciences that was!
Old 10th August 2009
  #23
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Old 10th August 2009
  #24
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Off topic ...

Fleaman,
I didn't mean to excite your political nerve.
I absent-mindedly hit the quote button instead of the reply button to post my equivocating response to the OP.

Christian thought informed what we know as modern science. I can understand your frustration with George Bush as an individual. But he in no way changed the philosophy of science itself ... he was simply making moral decisions that many disagreed with. (Kind of like how the Byzantines decided not to employ a European canon maker in 1453, who instead went to work for the Ottomans.) The scientific method stands rock solid ... unless of course you want to debate the subtler issue of epistemology.
Old 10th August 2009
  #25
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A lot of my favourite sounding gear has the worst specs.

I think if you use your ears and trust your instinct that should be enough- in a non scientific application. Many people do not trust their own judgement so they rely on specs, or marketing hype. For broadcast I rely on specs, for home/studio I just rely on the sound.
Old 10th August 2009
  #26
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trashman,

Not at all....I understood your comment

And I agree that Bush himself can't/couldn't change the scientific method.....but he certainly did the opposite of promoting/supporting it.
Old 11th August 2009
  #27
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It would seem to me that it all comes down to money. Years ago, as you guys have stated above, the magazines would print honest reviews. And in that same issue or the next one the manufacture of the unit reviewed would rebutt the review and explain the reason why it didn't meet the published specs or what was wrong with the review. All of that was visable in print. But today most all magazine's contact the manufacture FIRST before printing the review. And if the manufacture is also an advertiser, which is the most likely the case because that's why it got reviewed in the first place, they then can address the situation and correct the discrepency before it even gets to print. Just what do you think the magazine is going to do when the manufacture threatens to pull their advertising?

So it seems to me that money is the deciding factor on why a product gets a good review or even just ANY review in todays pro audio trade mags.

(Quick disclaimer for the pro audio trade mags - this is just my opinion and does not reflect the opinions of Thermal Relief Design, Inc. )

-Tony
Old 11th August 2009
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by tmarra View Post
It would seem to me that it all comes down to money. Years ago, as you guys have stated above, the magazines would print honest reviews. And in that same issue or the next one the manufacture of the unit reviewed would rebutt the review and explain the reason why it didn't meet the published specs or what was wrong with the review. All of that was visable in print. But today most all magazine's contact the manufacture FIRST before printing the review. And if the manufacture is also an advertiser, which is the most likely the case because that's why it got reviewed in the first place, they then can address the situation and correct the discrepency before it even gets to print. Just what do you think the magazine is going to do when the manufacture threatens to pull their advertising?
-Tony
That's why one has to take any review with suspicion. It didn't used to be like this. My reviews in REP pissed off a few as they had no idea what the review would say until it was published. Then we would take the angry calls from those manufacturers. Once it was explained that the test results were solid and that they could be sent for comparison, the bitching stopped. Some did not like getting caught lying. The readership loved it. (hint to MIX, etc.)

Today it's all spin, whatever it takes to sell a mag or product, truth be damned.
Audio reviews are political now. Just like everything else these days...

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 11th August 2009
  #29
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I've had a fantasy for years about a review newsletter that accepts no advertising.

Another thing about magazines is that it was not uncommon for people being interviewed to talk up gear and techniques they would never actually use on a session. It was sort of a contest of who could get away with spinning the wildest yarn and then watch people try to record that way.
Old 11th August 2009
  #30
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The OP raises a very good question from a valid observation.

It does seem most audio mags are kind of an introductory to the world of recording for newcomers and serve to expand the home studio base for manufacturers who support the wages of the mag with advertisements.
That is business. Supply and demand by marketing more supply.

There are a plethora of manufacturers all clammering for the "golden goose"
must have product.

I am not an Audiophile and i presume it is much the same.

Either end of the audio chain the old saying still applies. "A fool and his money are easily parted."
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