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Old 10-06-2016, 03:24 PM   #4
White Noise
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Re: Audiophiles

Oh boy audiophiles.... I used to be one, then I figured out math. I see them kind of like wine connoisseurs, I think they care way too much for very small differences (sometimes making them up to justify the money they spend- confirmation bias much?). I do think it's worth noting that they do have some points when it comes to the measurement of human hearing. Basically, if we assume that listening ability, like so many other human traits, is distributed on a bell curve, then the scientific average represents only the average person's listening ability. Surprisingly, very few people will actually fall precisely on the average, for the most part, 50% will fall above it and 50% below (and some very far from it). In theory, audiophiles like to think they're the .6% that statistically fall more than 2 standard deviations above the average in a bell curve. The problem is there's no consensus on what the standard deviation for human hearing is. Apparently most of the studies people will quote to outline the limits of human hearing are decades old, and there's not enough money in this stuff to get better data.
So is CD quality audio enough (it can capture frequencies out to 22khz, 10% beyond average listening ability)? If it's not, how much farther do we need to go? Where is the limit? Bear in mind, some of these guys just want to see bigger numbers because they don't know either, but if the number is getting bigger, it can't be bad, can it? (actually, it can't help very much and can be very expensive, but who cares when you can throw 25k at your system and not think twice?)
And then you have the subjectivist camp that won't even look at measurements, they only listen to the sound and decide if they like it or not (that's where you get people looking at $1000 cables and seriously considering them, even though they are often measurably worse than something you can get on monoprice for 10 bucks).
Personally, I have pretty good hearing, I can hear a difference between my USB DACs running out of my laptop and the DAC playing the same files burned to CD in my SACD player (I got it used for cheap, I'm pretty reasonable for an audiophile ). And vinyl is not necessarily better, but it is very different from digital (very different way of storing/retrieving information, audio included). I also use cables from monoprice because they use copper conductors (not 99.999% pure oxygen free uber-copper, just copper) because it's factually better than using cables with aluminum conductors. I even throw cork pads under all my audio components to keep vibrations from moving from one part to another (especially my turntable). But that's about the limit for me. Sure, I'd like to hear a Schiit multi-bit DAC, which claim one of the lowest noise floors in the world through the use of hardcore math, and pick up a reasonable tube amp, just to try it out, sometime, but I don't feel a need to try every phono cartridge I can get my hands on thinking it will somehow make Discovery's beats that much more beat-y.
But that's just my audiophile experience, I think it's worth noting that most of these guys, if they even are musicians, don't do electronic music, and electronic music has very different stuff going on from acoustic music. There's no reference for what your synths "should" sound like, except for other recordings for the most part (which all face the same limitations of recorded audio). And if you use softsynths, then every reference out there is touched by a lowly PC motherboard at some point (at least for the CPU to run some numbers), which is what most digital audio snobs want to avoid (lots of possible noise interference). As an audiophile turned musician, I can say all the money I spent on gear didn't do for my hearing what working on music has: you probably have a better ear for what you're doing than any audiophile because you are making it, not just consuming the end product. So I wouldn't put too much stock into what audiophiles say when it comes to electronic music. I think people who make this stuff and know what they're doing are going to be much more helpful than audiophiles.
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