I just got a new job, and work with a group of EE's. One of them has his Masters in electrical physics and loves his audio. I was dicussing AA with him (the Audio AA) and he chuckled, leaned back in his chair, casually tapping his pen on the desk and said..." The funny thing is, there are no explainations for the electrical vs. audiable difference in audio. It is more about magic than any measureable science. We can figue out the sicence down to millonths of milli-watts, ohms, or even voltages; but the largest variable in any equasion still remains.... The listener. So next time you are exoperementing, and come across what sounds good, Go with it."
Just because a EE says it does not mean it's gospel. I'm a EE who thinks that audible differences in audio cannot be fully explained electrically. And conversely, equipment that does well electrically does not necessarily mean it will sound good.
I think the biggest disagreement I have with some fellow engineers is I don't believe in the notion that if it cannot be measured, it is unequivocally not there.
(majored in ME) most EE stuff, IMHO, is designed for ultra-stable enduring performance that reliably measures well. That's just the rudimentary basics that might begin to sound adequate. Howevr, most tests are about steady-state signals that don't occur in music, which is why they're the beginning of sound but far from its completion IME.
♪ moderate Mart £ ♫
...and that the ear is many times more sensitive than the most exact measuring tool (even if that tool is measuring exactly, and in the same way, that parameter which the ear is perceiving, which is doubtful).
These points are uncontroversial.
It has nothing to do with 'magic' nor with 'emotion', just fineness of human perception.
Another implication is that variations in how individuals hear things makes audio reviewing, especially of cables and power devices, a black art indeed! Why anyone would listen to what any reviewer would have to say about a cable, when his room and system is completely different than one's own, is mystifying to me.
But now I am off the point a bit.
EEeeeek another EE that has a poor metrological back round.
Very few EE's have training in metrology and little is presented
is usually simple scopes power meters and the like.
The idea of using 'high-end' analog test equipment on audio is
to most people aberant; maybe so, but it is useful and then one
can 'measure'-'record' the test responses and correlate
these the 'measirements' to acoustic phenomina.
SWR, S-parameters, RF charting -polar-Smith, etc. are
far above the need of audiophies you can not use thses thing for
audio,, such is the attitude, and yes you can!
The only real need is to collect data from a very large base
of listeners to get an useful 'subjective' collection of what
is considered good sounding > > high fidelity.
Fidelity is 'measurable' we ( all in general) just have not
learned how to apply the new equipment nad understand what is
'displayed' in refernce to audio characteristics.
"but the largest variable in any equasion still remains.... The listener
So next time you are exoperementing, and come across what sounds good, Go with it."
Now I'm confused....
I have a question... What does "sounds good mean?
From a post below..
"Ask yourself, "what was it about the sound that made me feel so good when I heard it?" and work backwards from there."
My question here is, what sound? The sound you may have heard live, un-amplified, while the instrument was being recorded. Or the reproduction?
If I spend time seaching out chances to hear live, un-amplified music and THEN ask myself "what was it about the sound that made me feel so good when I heard it?"
I now have a basis for determining how well my system is doing.
If, on the other hand, I only listen to playback systems, I can only say which playback system gives makes me feel good.
It may be that REAL instruments heard live, without microphones,amplifiers and speakers don't sound good to me at all.
Please understand I am talking about accoustic instruments here.
I love electric guitars and the like, but I would never judge a system by a recording of such. Well, if I knew the circumstances of the recording...Fender Tele thru a Fender twin...I know what that sounds like.. but still there are tone controls etc....
My main point... If this hobby is about reproduction, we need to know just what we are trying to reproduce...and if we fine no joy in what was recorded and are trying to make a reproduction of the recording of a sound that we didn't like in the first place better than real....
Then I agree with the EE. But, to me that's not Hi-Fi, that's puting a sound system together that makes good noise. It's a production system, not a reproduction system.
but if the listerner liked what was recorded and knows what made it sound so good to him when he heard it live, then he is equipped to judge which system is doing a good job at reproducting the original sound and which system is not. Seems basic to me.
*One is that what we think we here is imaginary, or purely emotional, and unconnected with what's actually emerging from the speakers. It happens sometimes. If that's the case, we can't measure it.
* The other possibility is that there really is something diffrent about the sound,something coming out of our speakers (or at least reaching our ears) that causes us to have more pleasure, at least now, under current circumstances. If that's true, than we can measure it--the underlying thing, I mean--in principle. Whether we know exactly what measurements to make, or whether our instruments are sensitive enough, are different questions. Questions a good-enough engineer ought, some day, to be able to answer.
NOW...what I suspect this fellow was trying to say, and I've thought the same thing myself, is that the experience of appreciating music is intrinsically emotional, that our pleasure in it is just that--pleasure--and that such emotional responess can't be measured, and can't be linked to things that CAN BE measured in a trivial way. That's true, and obvious. But we can still go back to the source and ask--what was it about what we heard that made us feel that way? Whether it's better (as it clearly is in this case) or worse (as it may well be in other rooms and circumstances)isn't the point. We loved it this time, next time we may hate it. If it's different, and we can, by paying careful attention, figure out what it was about the sound that made us feel that way, then, guided by our senses, we can measure it. In principle.
Ask yourself, "what was it about the sound that made me feel so good when I heard it?" and work backwards from there.
That there are "real" differences in how people hear things. As an analogy, consider this: three friends go to see a movie. One has 20/20 vision, one is short-sighted and has forgotten his glasses, and one is colour-blind. They each percieve the same stimulus in different ways, but the differences are not "imaginary" - they arise from the differences in sensory equipment, modified by the brain's post-processing. A great example of the effect of post-processing can easily be seen if you're short-sighted: girls look much better when they're far away, because your brain fills in the detail that your eyes can't properly resolve. Is this an "imaginary" effect or a "real" effect? When dealing with the vagiaries of perception, what does "real" really mean anyway?
Where is the emotion steming from, Is it the reproduction, or the actual piece of mucic you hear. I hope there are some that can relate, but the first time I heard "River of tears" By Clapton, it was on a sony reciever witrh a pair of rca speakers, juxtapose in the room so they were behind me, I was not listening seriously per-say, and it stil gave me the hint if a chill like all good music does.
Thanks for the follow up- I thik this is a technical debate that had been danced around for a long time.
Please elaborate..I must be just too dumb to understand your point..
Are you saying he is closed minded...or, that he doesn't care, or that people who hear diffs are fruitcakes, or, what?
Being an EE myself, I know that measurements only tell about the parameters being measured (assuming they are accurate). However, when evaluating something as complex as music reproduction, human hearing, mental processing and perception it is impossible to identify all measurable parameters and to know which ones are relevant and to weight them in order of importance. This does not even address parameters which may be important but are not currently measurable.
I wish I could have put it so well. It is a wonder how of couple of years of college gives us the right to figure out everything about energy. Again great message.
I had thought my question was clear...sorry...
I did not understand what the EE's position was..so I asked..
And, btw, I do agree with your point..
I know you thought you understood what I thought you meant when you thought I knew what you were thinking, but clearly you didn't know what I knew you knew....(:-(....(now it's clear))
That no matter how hard we try to explain what makes something sound great, we can't. Due in great part to the only variable left in the equasion. The human. You are dealing with an intangible thing, i.e. emotion. You cannot explain that through numbers and formulas.
I think it was a very valid point, and mabye audio engineers need to start thinking outside the electron.
You use the word "firend" way too casually....
I personally think all engineers should take some of the requisite phd courses, the ones that are designed to force them to realize that what they learned in school is defined as the "box", and that paradigm shifts will only occur when they think outside that box..
A good engineer learns well what is taught...a better one understands that what is taught is what is needed to be taught to provide consistency in product (that being EE's)..and the best engineers figure out how to improve what is taught..
But, I really didn't understand your friend's comment...
Can I exhale now??
You are very right in your thinking!!! Kudo's MY FRIEND!
The first EE said to the second EE...
But seriously, I'v never heard a stereo or sound system reproduce a Les Paul plugged into a Marshall amp like the real thing,(never got that chill from a stereo) EMOTION is a big variable in all them equasions
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