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A Brief Guide to Audio for the Skeptical Consumer

Trollslayer

Distinguished Member
While some things do make a difference and there are extremely capable people there are also some people straight out of Life of Brian (follow the gourd etc.).
 

TomScrut

Well-known Member
Well I agree with most of that article, being generally very objective myself. Except points 2 and 3. In terms of point 2, DACs can have different sounds and presentations based on the filters implemented in the DAC. That's a pretty simple one to explain I think but I am no expert on the internal workings of a DAC. I have a Linn DS and a Classe CP800 and I can tell them apart blindly as I know what each of them sounds like.

As for point 3, I swapped power amps and had to EQ again as the bass had a lot more presence with the new amp. I presume this is because it can provide the higher currents my speakers reportedly demand with greater ease. But at low volumes, there generally isn't a difference IMO.
 

Dolus

Member
I would not take too much notice that as it is aimed at
Skeptical Consumers.

In the UK we need the Sceptical Consumer version. :)
 

lokyc

Well-known Member
My word, what a smarmy article!

I'm afraid I largely disagree with most of it. some of the info is out of date.

For example the issue with hi res audio. The recent thread on the Meyer/Moran posted a more up to date paper which disputed M&M's findings. As for Meridian, they have recently changed their mind. The issue isn't frequency and loudness, but time domain.

A lot of research is still being poured into psychoaccoustics and how we perceive sound. That is next exciting development. And only when we fully understand psychoaccoustics can we develop the tools and measurements to quantify it.

As for the comment all amps, if they provide the same response etc etc will sound the same regardless of topology.

Duh! That's completely not understanding hi fi in the first place. Clue; its in the name. High Fidelity. Fidelity: faithful to original.

Every stage in sound reproduction introduces distortion. In the words of John Bowers, the best system takes away the least.

Different topology tries to achieve the same thing with different methods. Size, efficiency, etc. If two amps can output exactly the same way, good on them. They just chose different ways of getting around real world constraints like hysteresis of capacitors, transistor distortion, electrical noise etc.

I could go on. But this article while is right to challenge the snakeoil touted around, unfortunately falls short by overgeneralisation and banality.
 

StuartKicks

Active Member
lokyc said:
For example the issue with hi res audio. The recent thread on the Meyer/Moran posted a more up to date paper which disputed M&M's findings. As for Meridian, they have recently changed their mind. The issue isn't frequency and loudness, but time domain.

A lot of research is still being poured into psychoaccoustics and how we perceive sound. That is next exciting development. And only when we fully understand psychoaccoustics can we develop the tools and measurements to quantify it.
Just because someone disputes something it doesn't make it so. I can without a shadow of a doubt propose that you would be unable to distinguish hi bit rate mp3 from lossless hi res audio files, you will of course dispute this, but it doesn't make it so.

As for the comment all amps, if they provide the same response etc etc will sound the same regardless of topology.

Duh! That's completely not understanding hi fi in the first place. Clue; its in the name. High Fidelity. Fidelity: faithful to original.
The only thing an amp does is take a small signal and make it a big signal which can move some woofers. It should be faithful to the input and no more. A good amp will add nothing, many good amps add nothing, they all *sound* the same. I propose that you would be unable to distinguish two amps from one an other, provided they measure well, are level matched and not clipping. You will dispute this but it doesn't make it so.

Every stage in sound reproduction introduces distortion. In the words of John Bowers, the best system takes away the least.
Does it, can you hear it, are you able to measure it, are you sure you're not just repeating long dead HiFi mantra?

Different topology tries to achieve the same thing with different methods. Size, efficiency, etc. If two amps can output exactly the same way, good on them. They just chose different ways of getting around real world constraints like hysteresis of capacitors, transistor distortion, electrical noise etc.
Yes.

I could go on. But this article while is right to challenge the snakeoil touted around, unfortunately falls short by overgeneralisation and banality.
The author and article are spot on. You seem to have gotten confused.
 
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lokyc

Well-known Member
How much u offering to blind test me?
 

lokyc

Well-known Member
True. Replying from a phone first thing in the morning isn't that great.

I feel we are actually in agreement more than we appreciate. My point is the reality is not as conclusive as the article makes out and it is too dismissive for my liking.

I think it will be difficult to find 2 amps with different topologies measuring exactly the same. They may measure the same at certain test loads/conditions, but it doesn't mean they will perform the same when playing music with lots of transients and mixed frequencies etc.

As for hires audio, it will take some time for the real deal to come through. One has to look at the recording and mastering process. Studio masters are coming out which most likely may not fully exploit what hires has to offer.

DSD as well is to solve a problem that no longer exist. Previously, recordings were made in DSD then converted to PCM. Early CDPs convert the PCM to DSD then to analog. But modern recording equipment now records in PCM or DXD.

Linn's 24/192 orchestral masters are something to experience. It it a matter of fully exploiting the mastering bandwidth of 16/44? Possibly. But time domain and filter tap lengths is something being looked at by Chord and Meridian recently. A lot of that seem to rely on internal upsampling and bespoke interpolation to fill in the missing time domain information. So I cannot see why a 24/192 cannot confer technical advantages. That is not to say there is much material which fully exploits this format. For this reason, technically there is a good case for DXD at 384Khz.

We can look at colouration from different perspectives. A system cannot "add" to a signal. It can only introduce distortion. Unless you consider harmonic distortion, fair enough. A system which sounds "bright" more likely dips the lower frequencies rather than adds to the HF. Unless its EQ boosting. But again its shifting the balance rather than say adding frequencies which weren't there.

Being skint, I would really like to believe in this article. I would really like to believe I don't need to splash cash. But the reality is, there is a difference in quality. That is not to say all money is well spent.
 

j0nners

Standard Member
I think you're missing the fundamental point of the article, which is that no-one can tell the difference between various amp manufacturers, high-res vs standard audio, expensive vs cheap cables etc.

Until the industry, in particular reviewers, starts using double blind tests, then claims to the opposite are generally bullsh¡t, and we will continue to put up with absurd products like "high-quality" HDMI and USB cables. The simple fact is that they won't ever do this, as it would expose pretty much everyone, bar some notable exceptions, as talking rubbish.

I don't want to pick on WHF as they're not the only ones at this, but reviews like this one for a hi-fi stand:

Custom Design Discrete Inert Hi-Fi 4 review | Equipment racks | What Hi-Fi?

With our usual reference system on board, the sound is tight, fast and nimble. The system’s top end shines, but the rack seems to hamper our set-up’s capacity to deliver deep, punchy bass. We want more weight in terms of a more rounded and detailed performance from our system. John Williams’ orchestral theme to Jurassic Park sounds a little light on texture and detail here, and dynamically it feels a little muffled, too.

are gibberish. No-one on this planet has the level of hearing sensitivity necessary to detect these kinds of audio differences due to the stand, unless the stand is so badly made it's actually falling to pieces.
 

TomScrut

Well-known Member
Hahaha! I do love those sorts of reviews.

I still think that spending more money generally gets better results (if done sensibly ie not on expensive cables and not without carefully picking the components and not just presuming its better as its more expensive). My system is a lot more valuable than my first one, and its a lot better too.
 

TomScrut

Well-known Member
They are dealers making money from addicts. It's all about the serotonin.
And giving good reviews to whoever advertises with them, even if the reviews have to be ridiculous while they are at it. I sometimes wonder why the magazines cost money to buy the amount of adverts in them!
 

andy1249

Distinguished Member
I think you're missing the fundamental point of the article, which is that no-one can tell the difference between various amp manufacturers, high-res vs standard audio, expensive vs cheap cables etc.

.
Regarding cables and the like, this is true , such items are pure fraud. No doubt about it.

Regarding amps , high res vs standard , this is not true at all.
If you read the AES papers properly and look at the data breakdowns where available you will see that there are always individuals that get either 100% or a statistically significant result.
What these papers claim from the overall results is that " on average" and as a a group , the people under test couldnt tell the difference!

That is a hugely important difference here , in no case does any paper say that no one can tell the difference and it is very wrong to take from them that they do say that!

Also regarding amps and dacs, the statement that any properly designed dacs or properly designed amplifiers would have no audible difference between them would probably be true if there was a standard or even general consensus that designers should work too, but there isnt and never has been in the audio industry.
Properly designed amps or dacs are therefore mythical entities! They dont exist, and I couldn,t imagine that anyone with an electronics background could ever make the claim that they could be the same when we are talking about an industry with essentially no standards and no rules to adhere to.

Add to that the modern practice of custom chipsets or circuitry being deliberately introduced into the signal chain for that "manufacturer" sound and you can easily see why most dacs and amps from most manufacturers do actually sound different.
 

Trollslayer

Distinguished Member
Jonners - I've read a lot of Andy's posts and he really understands this stuff.
Take that post seriously please.
 

mtenga

Distinguished Member
Agree with Andy1249. The guy from Sevenoaks Sound & Vision who tried to convince me of the value of a ten grand HDMI cable was only a little more than a fraud.

But I can certainly tell the difference between my current amp and a Denon I previously used with the same speakers. The Denon was just flat sounding with no oomph, if you want to be technical about it. The Anthem is the polar opposite. There is too much differing circuitry, implementation and design involved to suggest that all amps sound the same.
 

j0nners

Standard Member
Regarding amps , high res vs standard , this is not true at all.
If you read the AES papers properly and look at the data breakdowns where available you will see that there are always individuals that get either 100% or a statistically significant result.
What these papers claim from the overall results is that " on average" and as a a group , the people under test couldnt tell the difference!

That is a hugely important difference here , in no case does any paper say that no one can tell the difference and it is very wrong to take from them that they do say that!
I'll retract that statement for amps then, and rephrase it as generally people can't tell the difference. For high-res vs standard audio I would have to see the evidence of individuals consistently detecting the difference under double-blind tests to believe it.
 

TomScrut

Well-known Member
I'll retract that statement for amps then, and rephrase it as generally people can't tell the difference. For high-res vs standard audio I would have to see the evidence of individuals consistently detecting the difference under double-blind tests to believe it.
I went to a show where Naim were demonstrating and they did a test to see if the room full of people could tell which was high res or not. He played the first 30 seconds of one track three or four times and nobody could seem to definitely tell between the high res and the CD quality version. The room was about 50/50 with each one and I don't think anybody got them all right. Not exactly scientific but still worth sharing I think.
 

lokyc

Well-known Member
The thing is there is source, and there is source. There is also the test system.

Having heard a few Naims at fairs, dealerships and speaking to a few Naim dealers, most agree there is a signature Naim sound. ie there is colouration. Any differences between red book and hi res may well be negated.

Even at the Meyer/Moran thread where the paper is being disputed, I suggested the difference detectable in highre es vs red book tracks available in the public domain is down to better mastering and less compression. the high res material may not necessarily have made use of any more bitrate and depth than redbook. Nevertheless, some of the Linn stuff which were recorded for 24/192 release are astounding. And what I really want to point out is that there is more than frequency sampling that matters and high res isn't necessarily as baseless as it's often argued; which is mainly regarding sampling theorem.

As for the majority of people arguement. well that can apply to most things. Majority of us aren't Olympic Athletes. Doesn't make Usain Bolt's records untrue. Whether one individual can tell the difference, well that's up to the individual which we've always maintained.

While there is a lot of sales talk abouts, its not on this forum generally.

Sales talk is just sales talk. Doesn't refute there are differences in quality between products.
 

lokyc

Well-known Member
Err, it was one of their freebie downloads. Not sure if there was a redbook version. Will see if that link is still available.

Yea, I think I can limit the bitrate on the Majik. I could try that, but it might be a an unfair comparison as it may not be how a studio might master it in 16/44. Or maybe that's all they do, I don't know.

I'll check it out when I get home.
 

TomScrut

Well-known Member
The song in question BTW was Daft Punk's Get Lucky so there would be an element of mastering possibly called into question, but apart from compression it is a well recorded track IMO. I do have this in high res myself, and I do from time to time buy high res but normally where there is a better master involved. I got this in high res as I heard it was less compressed than what was put onto cd. So the Naim test I speak of must have made use of a downsample of the high res or I was lied to about the compression!

I do think that as Naim have an interest in selling high res music and players it would have been in their interest for a conclusive 'hi res sounded better', but that didn't happen
 

lokyc

Well-known Member
If it was Get Lucky, 16/44 vs 24/88, then this is clearly a Naim problem. It was definitely different. the 24/88 bass had much better extension. But then again, we both agree on how Linn and Naim DACs sound differently. The Naim is a bit more muzzled and I won't be surprised if the Naim can't show any difference. I'm not sure how much they've invested on hi res whereas Linn is firmly behind it.

I didn't want to use Daft Punk for comparison as it was comparing with a mainstream 16/44 which may well be compressed below the capabilities of Red Book. the improved depth and dynamic range in the 24/88 may well be within Red Book specs.
 

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