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In Reply to: Meaningless, really. posted by Jim Austin on September 21, 2005 at 12:43:26:
The subjective reviews exist for people, audiophiles, who CAN and DO appreciate the sonic differences described. If this represents but a tiny fraction of the readership (those Golden Eared AND experienced) then what good is it, and in fact this would suggest that for the vast majority of the readership the high-end (not necessarily the high-priced) is an exercise in futility, a vanity fair!; and BTW your musings about wealth that appeared at Prop Head just a little time back suggest that you actually are leaning in that direction.
One doesn't begin to the appreciate the benefits of superior musical reproduction by becoming indoctrinated in a dogma. Atkinson found himself immersed in a dogma at one point in time, the DBT dogma (because it's practice in audio is little more than a exercise to support another). Did he shed that dogma because he got in touch with reality, or did he simply exchange it for another.
Look, I've had plenty of conversations just like the one we are having today many many times here at the AA. However in virtually every cases the other party was typically a naysayer of one sort of another. Personally I never thought I'd be having it with a naysayer, a particularilly odd sort that doesn't even know he is one, that writes articles for the "As We See It" column in Stereophile.
Meaningless, indeed!, in that like most naysayers your viewpoint is immobile, the changing of which is as futile as banging ones head against a rock.
Maybe the column name shouldn't be change, rather change the name of the publication itself ... it's starting to become an insult to the legacy of JGH.
You may enjoy the last word it you so desire ... I've had enough!
Differences among the best high-end components are becoming so small that it is increasingly hard for a self-professed golden ear, let alone a professional reviewer, to hear describable differences. Those who work at it can still come up with something to talk about, but we are all working these days at the very limits of human perception, where the detection of tiny differences is often more a matter of feeling—of responding to the sound at an emotional rather than analytical level—than of observation. There is a tendency to reach out toward what we are hearing, meticulously winnowing every aural cue that we can hang an adjective on. And at this point, the question of what is a real perception or an imaginary one becomes significant.
This was written in an AWSI column by The Man Himself, in 1987. He continues, later:
Perhaps what bothers me so much about the Belt affair is the alacrity with which supposedly rational, technically savvy individuals have accepted, on the basis of subjective observation alone, something which all their scientific and journalistic background should tell them warrants a great deal of skepticism. But then, perhaps I shouldn't be that surprised.
Read the whole thing. Apart from stating, in no uncertain terms, precisely what you've accused me of polluting his legacy by repeating, it also illuminates the whole IC affair with the light of his analytical, common-sense approach, as applied to L'Affaire Belt" . (Thanks to TJE for sending me this link a few weeks ago.) Not that this matters, but I had not read this piece when I wrote my May AWSI. I'm glad I hadn't't, because if I had I probably wouldn't have bothered and we'd all have missed this fun.
In short, perhaps you should reexamine what you THINK high-end audio is about...especially if you intend to continue to hold up JGH as high-end audio's patron saint.
Firstly we must place this quote in it's proper context. Picture a scenario where some seemingly irrational, from a scientific point of view, tweak(s) are gaining currency in your favorite hobby. Despite the apparent absurdity many members of the critical press appear to be jumping on the bandwagon, i.e. picture this (all quotes from AWIS - L'Affaire Belt, J. Gordon Holt, December, 1987, except where noted):
"This guy is clearly a three-layer nutcake, right? That's exactly what I thought when I first started hearing about all this. But then I heard more. Mr. Belt, I learned, has been demonstrating his devices to various audio people, individually and in groups, and most of them were reporting that his gadgets do in fact improve the sound. Martin Colloms, for example, and his associate Paul Crook felt that differences could be perceived when a sheet of Mr. Belt's electret foil was placed under a CD player. John Atkinson felt that he heard a difference between when an LP was "polarized" correctly and incorrectly in a demonstration run by the English magazine Hi-Fi Answers at the show. Jimmy Hughes, chief reviewer of Hi-Fi Answers, was—despite admitted skepticism—so impressed by what he heard that he extolled the virtues of the Belt devices across four pages in the October 1987 issue of the magazine! Jimmy also demonstrated to our own Alvin Gold much of the effects claimed (see "Pure Gold," Vol.10 No.6)."
Recognize any names? We then learn that JGH had no such luck with the miraculous devices:
"I am still damned if I can hear them doing anything at all. But then, I didn't expect to. And maybe that's the key to this whole phenomenon."
He then proceeds to make hay of Belt's 'scientific' thinking and for that matter his ethics, makes some very interesting observations on the topic of scientific objectivity and subjectivity featuring wonderfully lucid thinking that at least entertains the possibility of cause and effect, but concludes:
"There may indeed be something to all this, but I have a gut feeling that it's utter nonsense."
I'm guessing JGH didn't have a PhD as he apparently didn't have the confidence to completely rule out a 'something'. But as to a more practical 'something' we have: "I submit that the reason is because of another kind of potent although unmeasurable energy source: that of suggestion."
This then leads directly to the first quote:
"Differences among the best high-end components are becoming so small ..." [see previous post]
So why this? Go study 50-60 of JGH's and if you conclude that his subjective observations are in concert with the claim in the quote. I content you will be left shaking you head and going ... "but, but, he said" ... very likely stupefied if in romantic zeal he has achieved demi-god status in your mind.
But the quote proceeds a summary of what science has revealed about the unreliability of human perception, and the claim of small differences along with the known science of perception provides the device to solve one of the dilemmas that Holt clearly finds so unsettling ... that "veteran listeners who have built professions on their ability to hear what's going on in reproduced sound", those "supposedly rational, technically savvy individuals" (from the second quote) are reporting the effectiveness of the Belt tweaks.
What do I think? I think he got a little carried away, got swept up by the tide as it were. I mean in the quote you get the impression that products in the hi-end are damn near indistinguishable.
But just the month before he gave the ARC SP9 a good spanking. Well OK the quote did say "the BEST high-end components" (emphasis added), no harm done. But in that same review we have:
"By critical consensus, the SP11 is the best-sounding tube preamp Audio Research has ever made; certainly it has few, if any, peers."
Hmmmm ...? Few if any peers? But weren't there any number of hi-end manufacturers around at the time that had their own statement pre-amplifiers? Seems like a discordance with the 'best damn near indistinguishable' statement.
I could go on, pulling statements from Holt reviews to prove the point but why bother. Point is that when the industry is going through one of its spectaculars lots of mistakes are made and a great deal of stupid and regretful statements are made. There couldn't be a better time to understand this I might add.
But I'd like to conclude with an observation. When JGH decided that a stance in favor of rationality and science was warranted he had the balls to do so himself. He didn't need some PhD with crapolla audiophile experience to stand in for him. He made his own appeal and his own mistakes. That why we respect his legacy wouldn't dear suggest that the odd transgression here or there has any real bearing on the big picture.
...you were giving me the last word. ;-)
you have to fall on the sword and do the right thing. A times that may mean shutting up, at others, speaking out. I thought it best to provide a meaningful context for the JGH quotes you so triumphantly rolled out.
And anyway when I said I had enough I meant I had enough of your regurgitating the same arguements over and over, and indeed, had enough of regurgitating my own contrary opinions (to you). Thus while I thought I had provided sufficient context to understand the exclamation I'll allow that perhaps I was negligent ... after all there are those considered quite intelligent and expert within their chosen fields who can appear, in fact may be, quite dense when they step into others.
...that your suggestion that I--we--were somehow tainting JGH's legacy seems a bit silly when you see that he said pretty much the same thing himself, even if he did express other points of view at other times.
FWIW, your apparent anger/outrage is unjustified, and not shared.
JGH didn't say "pretty much the same thing". If you had said the same thing as JGH, I would have no beef with you. There are two critical differences:
1) He actually took the trouble to try the tweak under question.
2) He didn't make a flat-out pronouncement as to whether the thing could work or not.
I'm still waiting to hear why you think your flat-out pronouncements should be accepted as infallible, both by Atkinson and by Stereophile readers. You have already admitted that other persons with greater qualifications might not agree with your views.
I'd also be willing to bet that your views have changed over time. If that assumption proves to be true, please explain why we should accept your 2005 beliefs instead of your 2001 beliefs or your 2008 beliefs.
> I'm still waiting to hear why you think your flat-out pronouncements
> should be accepted as infallible, both by Atkinson and by
> Stereophile readers.
Because they are _opinions_, Charlie. Nothing that is published in
Stereophile is inteded be taken as infallible fact, which is why you
can often find me publishing contrary reports on things. As I wrote
years ago in the magazine, I regard the Truth as unattainable, like
the peak of a high mountain. What are apparently contradictory views
may well be views of the same mountain from different sides.
The only thing I ask from any of my writers is that they report what
they honestly think, regardless of the consequences. That is just
what Jim did in his May "As We See It," for which I thank him.
As I mentioned in an earlier posting that you may not have seen, the
Stereophile writer who does possibly come in for some justified
criticism is _me, because of all the Stereophile writers who have
written about the IC -- Jim and Sam Tellig in the magazine, Ken
Kessler and myself in our enewsletter -- I am the only one who hasn't
In random order:
1) The very title "As We See It" more than strongly implies that these are the views of the magazine as a whole. The fact is that you don't just choose random editorials that support random viewpoint from say, Lipshitz or Aczel.
2) Austin didn't represent his opinions as opinions, but rather as facts. For example, "There's some interesting science behind the Intelligent Chip, but it is not especially novel, and it's happening between our ears, not between the chip and the CD." He makes it sound as if he had proof this were the case.
Contrast this with Stereophile's earlier dismissal of Belt's tweaks, "So why not just dismiss the whole business out of hand? Because there is a possibility that, as unlikely as it seems, Mr. Belt might actually be on to something." Or Stereophile's dismissal of the Tice "Magic Clock", I would never discount a product merely because I don't accept the explanation offered for its operation. Most cable manufacturers present questionable arguments on their products' behalfs, but I still find significant sonic differences among cables."
It's especially disturbing because on this forum Austin has admitted that he has previously rejected tweaks out of hand (speaker cables) and yet now accepts them as valid. How do we know he won't change his mind about this one?
3) You could find anybody to support any opinion conceivable. Geoff Kait would say that all tweaks (including the IC) work great. Austin says all tweaks works great, except for the IC and maybe mechanical supports under power cords. We could find any number of people that think nothing makes a difference except loudspeakers.
The point is that each of these people are drawing a line somewhere. Logically speaking, there are only two valid places to draw a line:
a) The only real differences are those we can measure. Everything else is psychological.
b) There are more things we don't understand about sound reproduction than we do. When we have credible reports of an effect, we must investigate it and not dismiss it out of hand.
Stereophile has had a history stretching back more than 40 years that is consistent with (b). Now with Austin's editorial Stereophile has dipped a toe into the "objectivist" waters of (a). This diminishes the very foundation of the magazine's philosophy.
4) Austin had not listened to the tweak in question when he wrote the editorial.
5) Much of Austin's editorial is based on unfounded assertions. These range from the absurdly ridiculous, "the imaginary differences are far easier to sell [than the real ones]", to the shamefully libelous ones, "There's money to be made from people's open-mindedness (if you want to call it that), not just from daft tweaks and obvious snake oil like the Intelligent Chip."
No one could claim that what Austin wrote was inconsistent with his beliefs. After all given his lack of experience and, apparently, interest, one can't invoke passion or disdain ... it's not necessary! They are simply his views.
Yet those views appeared in the "As We See It" column of Stereophile. Now if invoking DBT as the sole arbiter of audible differences, and using language that can be used support the notion that the hi-end is little more than a vanity fair, is consistent with the editorial view of Stereophile then please simply confirm this to be the case. We could then take Austin's writing as little more than a typical cheap shot at the audiophile community, morn the passing of a era at the publication, and ignore it.
He actually took the trouble to try the tweak under question.
Listened, heard no effect, and attributed the effect others claimed to hear to the power of suggestion--the same conclusion I reached about the IC.
He didn't make a flat-out pronouncement as to whether the thing could work or not.
He had a lot more space to work with, so he could spare more words, and he was, I admit, a bit more delicate than I was. But he had the luxury of approaching the subject cautiously--not something I could do in the space I was allowed. But clearly he concludes, by the end of the article--by the middle in fact--that the technology is bogus. "I've got a gut feeling that it's total nonsense," or something like that (I'm quoting from memory).
I encourage everybody to go back, re-read what I wrote, then read this:
> > Without any concepts of how scientific knowledge is gleaned from intuition, hypothesis, and meticulous investigation, or what it accepts today as truth, anything is possible. Without the anchor of science, we are free to drift from one idea to another, accepting or "keeping an open mind about" as many outrageous tenets as did the "superstitious natives" we used to scorn 50 years ago. (We still do, but it's unfashionable to admit it... The notion that a belief should have at least some objective support is scorned as being "closed-minded," which has become a new epithet. In order to avoid that dread appellation, we are expected to pretend to be open to the possibility that today's flight of technofantasy may prove to be tomorrow's truth, no matter how unlikely. Well, I don't buy that. < <
I did go beyond what JGH said in one important way, and it was, indeed, the main point of the May column: I suggested motives--that these beliefs persist in high end audio because they are profitable. But other than that, though the tone is different, the gist is remarkably similar.
Austin wrote, "[JGH] Listened [to the Belt devices], heard no effect, and attributed the effect others claimed to hear to the power of suggestion--the same conclusion I reached about the IC."
If you are in anyway suggesting that what JGH did was comparable to what you did, you should be glad that I was not reviewing your thesis. There is a night-and-day difference between performing an experiment and sharing the results (as JGH did) as opposed to sharing your opinions without the benefit of any experimental results (as you did).
Austin asserts that he couldn't put forth a nuanced view on the IC due to the limited space he was allowed. I have a hard time accepting that this was the actual problem. Here on the Audio Asylum, where there is no shortage of space, Austin writes things like, "The IC CAN NOT possibly work."
Now, Jim, let me ask you a question. Did you ever change your mind about anything pertaining to audio? Or were your opinions somehow fully formed (like the newly born Athena springing forth from Zeus' head, wearing full armor and uttering a war cry) before you had any experiences with hi-fi? For instance, did you ever think that there was no way that speaker cables could sound different, but then had some experiences that caused you to reconsider your position?
Now, Jim, let me ask you a question. Did you ever change your mind about anything pertaining to audio?
Yes. And you?
Power cords. I thought it was unlikely that changing out an A/C cord could make a difference. In fact, switching from a high-quality standard A/C cord (a shielded, heavy-gauge Belden) to a fairly inexpensive aftermarket cord (VERY heavy gauge, triple-shielded, with a distributed ferrite layer), made a difference that was comparable to a component upgrade...and that was on a relatively low-powered integrated amp.
Charles, I think because I said something that made you mad, you've grabbed ahold of an image of me and won't let go. You insist on making me something that I'm not, on attributing to me opinions that I don't hold. In fact, I'm quite open minded. The IC is fairly unique in being so scientifically accessible. Unlike most things in audio, it's fairly easy to conclude that it can't possibly work, except in the realm of perception. I can rule it out. And I can't say that about very many things in audio.
Mr. Wendell Narrod, please examine what you wrote to Mr. Hansen. "You are actually beginning to sound unstable". That is an ad hominem remark, and inappropriate for this forum.
Fair enough. I find stridency, in debate, to undermine an argument because it moves the focus from the issue to the messenger. I have zero interest in the IC but have previously stated that I find it intellectually dishonest to make a judgement without an audition. Clearly Jim and Charlie aren't going to convince each other to reconsider the other's position. Perhaps it's time to move on and, hopefully, the two parties will choose to do so. JA has stated his position and I would be surprised he changes his editorial decisions
based on this discussion. My last post on this subject. I'm bored.
> JA has stated his position and I would be surprised he changes his
> editorial decisions based on this discussion.
Charlie did give me much to think about, but no, I am not convinced
that Stereophile did anything inappropriate. Reflecting on what I
wrote about the GSIC, I think that over the years, each bullshit,
bogus "explanation" offered for some new tweak has eroded my tolerance
for tweaks in general. If that partial closing of what once a
totally open mind is found offensive, my apologies. I am what I am.
In addition, I am increasingly aware of the ridicule audiophiles are
subject to from outsiders who could benefit from what companies like
Ayre have to offer but turn away, put off by, among other aspects of
our hobby, the fringe of bullshit that surrounds audiophilia.
My 2 cents.
suit you to pick from the weeds of the legacy of the man, context be damned, to create an association with like ideas/statements/whatever, is something I leave to you. I've said enough to demonstrate what I think of the merit of such an exercise. As regards the JGH legacy I'm mostly interested in the forest, not the weeds. But I thought I had already made that clear as well.
is how the "electret" mentioned in the JGH column resembles the "Intelligent Chip" -- the difference being that one goes on top of your CD player and the other goes underneath it.
I wonder if you use both, then you get double goodness . . . or if they counteract each other and you get nothing.
And inside the player is best of all, see ref to demo of the New Machine at Deja Vu tomorrow on General :-) nt
Have you followed Hansen's advice about retracting your "literally incredible" (his words) definitive explanation yet? Seems he's greatly concerned about the potential damage it may do to you. Good thing he's so willing to stomp his foot and demand an apology from those who ridicule you over it, eh? Odd really since in his consulation he pretty much says that's exactly what you could expect ... kinda makes it sound like it's you own damn fault, in fact after reading it I'd imagine that many a reader would come away thinking you're rather obtuse! How do you take that shit man?, I don't recall seeing a peep out you over it.
What's that other thing you're on about? ... a demo ... and I would, like, give a damn exactly why?
The new machine uses Intelligent Chip technology. The machine can upgrade up to 5 discs simultaneously in 2 sec. There appears to be some advantage having the "chip" inside the box, though I'd say even outside the box it's pretty damn good.
Obtuse? Who, me?
Please don't confuse these two issues, as they are totally and completely separate.
When Stereophile in essence endorsed Austin's dismissal of a tweak without even trying it, they crossed a line and undermined the good work they have been building for over 40 years. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the IC or whether it works or not. The fact is that when there are consistent reports from credible sources that a tweak works, then it should be investigated in a fair fashion. If they test it and find it ineffective, that's fine. (They've done precisely that on many occasions.)
Stereophile crossed another line when Austin accused Kait of ripping people by selling them snake oil. The assertion was that Kait knew the IC was worthless and was just selling it to make money. While it is possible that was the case, Austin offered no evidence of this whatsoever. Furthermore, if Stereophile has decided that their mission is to protect their readers from false advertising claims, there are *far* more egregious examples of such, including ones where it is patently obvious that the claims are cynically made knowing that they are false.
I am something of a student of the history of high end audio. I try to learn from the mistakes of others so that I don't have to repeat them. In my opinion, Kait made a big mistake in marketing the IC in the way that he did.
If you look at the history of all of the crazy tweaks ever offered in the marketplace, they pretty much are consigned to one of two fates:
a) Either they are eventually accepted; or,
b) They fade into obscurity as a failure.
Interestingly enough, virtually all tweaks fall into category "a" -- speaker cables, tip-toes, cable risers, LP treatments, CD treatments, cartridge demagnetizers, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Out of the thousands of tweaks invented, I can think of only three previous instances *ever* when tweaks have failed to eventually become accepted in our niche market:
1) The Tice "Magic Clock".
2) The Peter Belt tweaks.
3) Various tweaks offered by Peter Moncrieff (liquid coatings, etc.)
Looking at these, we can see that they all share one common characteristic -- their construction principles and operating mechanisms were not clearly explained by their inventors. The main reason for this was undoubtedly because it would have been far too easy and inexpensive for competitors to copy these ideas if the method of construction had been explained.
These three tweaks (out of the thousands that have been invented) must have failed for one of only two reasons:
a) They did not provide the actual benefit claimed. People tried them regardless of the validity of the marketing explanations, but found them not to operate effectively; or,
b) They did provide the actual benefit claimed, but without a credible story people were reluctant to purchase them fearing they were being taken advantage of. In other words, they didn't want to be like the crowds admiring the Emperor's new clothes only to be pointed out as fools later.
Given that there were many adherents of each of these three products, I suspect that the latter is the true reason for their failures in the marketplace. Students of marketing know that there are two main tools used to sell products -- sex (if you buy this product, you'll be more attractive to the opposite sex) and fear (if you don't buy this you won't be cool, or smart, or sophisticated, et cetera). In these three cases, one of the fundamental marketing principles was working directly *against* their success -- people were afraid that they would be seen as fools if they *did* buy it.
Kait unwittingly fell into this same trap. Based on history, I don't see how the IC could possibly be successful given the way Kait has marketed it. Please note that this has nothing to do with whether or not the thing actually works. Please also note that this has nothing to do with how Stereophile should judge products.
I read the damn thing, have problems with it, articulated those same so many times now that blowing my head off somehow seems more inviting than doing it again, but as regards your assertions they charged Kait with willfully ripping people I disagree.
To me it's a simple case of you having thrown an tantrum during which you said a great many silly things and now clearly lack what it takes to back down.
Go sell you story to someone else.
Just out of curiosity, could you give me a couple examples of the "great many silly things" I said? I'd be curious to get your perspective.
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