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Old 15th December 2002
Here for the gear

Originally posted by Ethan Winer
The only way we can further our knowledge is by methodical testing. This is known as the scientific method.
Aha. Now I understand where you're coming from. Perhaps your epistemological foundations are strictly naturalistic. I can't quite go that far with you, and I think that there are plenty of papers written that share observations without double-blind testing and are nonetheless valuable. I also doubt that many people reading this forum have "knowledge" in excess of 1% that was derived from the scientific method. However, for this particular issue, I do agree that being more scientific is important. Thanks for taking the time to answer my question by clarifying your disagreement more fully. If you don't mind, I would like to respond to a few things.

All of the "facts" presented in that article are anecdotal opinions.
Gee whiz, Ethan. They took a lot of measurements, found some similarities that led them to group things, and presented the data. Didn't you read beyond the first page? If so, are those measurements again useless because they didn't do the testing in a blind fashion (i.e., because they knew at the time what kind of amplifier they were measuring, you can't accept the measurements as valid)?

The closest I have is my Audio Myths article I wrote for Audio Media magazine a few years ago.
Thanks for the ref. I scanned your article and didn't see anything suggesting that the measurements presented in the article are invalid or irrelevant.

> The main thing I came away with was the observation about relative differences in lower and upper harmonics and 2nd and 3rd harmonics. Isn't that still a valid generalization, albeit perhaps with plenty of exceptions? <

One reason that's irrelevant is because nobody aims to record with distortion. I'm not talking about Pete Townshend's guitar tone, but recording engineers trying to capture a performance accurately.
Whoa, there. You just lost me. I may be a neophyte, but I've already heard from lots of recordists who are exceptions to your statement. Many people find certain types and amounts of distortion to be musically useful in certain applications. You're moving beyond sounding dogmatic to sounding downright elitist.

And how does this make the measurements of harmonics from common tube and non-tube pre-amps irrelevant? If you don't want distortion, then it would seem very relevant to understand how those devices introduce distortion, and the relative amounts of different harmonics likely to be introduced. Even if there's much more to understand, isn't this an important part of the overall picture?

Another reason that harmonic distortion alone is irrelevant is because whenever there's HD there is also IM distortion. And IM distortion is always damaging, even when a little added harmonic content might not be.
Saying that HD alone is not the complete picture would be more accurate, don't you think? I cannot yet fathom why you say that the technical information presented in that article is irrelevant. Was their measuring method inaccurate? Was the measurement methodology fundamentally flawed? Is harmonic distortion in general simply irrelevant? Isn't it the topic of this thread? Is this whole thread irrelevant?

Honestly, I can't help but think you must have stopped on the first page of that article and not even gotten to the meat of it, since the faults you find with it here are from the fluff on that first page. And I can't help but agree with you about the quoted statements. I just didn't see them as being particularly representative of what was most important in that article.