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Audible Component Differences...A Nousaine Story


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#1 of 84 Chu Gai

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Posted May 13 2004 - 07:52 AM

The following story was recounted by Tom Nousaine. So should you tweak?


Quote:
A few years ago I tested the idea that devices that cannot be differentiated by themselves may have audible consequence when used in series. So I constructed two systems one of which was decidedly what i called Tweak using an outboard DAC, a vacumn tube preamplifier, a high-end Bryston power amplifier, expensive networked Monster speaker cables, $100 a meter interconnects, spikes everywhere they would work, Teknisonic vibration dampers to isolate the speaker cables from the floor and very careful cable dress.

The other was definitely Geak with a 20 year old solid state preamplifier built from a low priced kit, a used $200 power amplifier, interconnects randomly drawn from a junk box, 16-gauge car speaker cable (zip cord) with a 6-foot length for one channel and a 25-foot length for the other with the cable wrapped around the power cords several times.

The digital outputs of a Marantz Cd-player drove the Tweak system and the analog ouputs of the same cd-player drove the Geak system.

Once installed I found the systems both had response that was within 0.2 dB of each other but the Tweak system had a 2-dB channel imbalance which I compensated with the balance control on the Geak system.

Using an ABX comparator I was unable to hear any difference between them myself. I then invited a number of enthusiasts one at a time to audition them A/B with programs that they had personally found to be the most revealing for finding audibility differences.

ALL of them said they thought they sounded different. But NONE of them were able to differentiate when nothing more than a blanket was covering the inputs on the rear of the PSB Stratus Mini speakers (reference device with measurements taken in the NRC) hiding which set of speaker wires were connected to the speakers.

Someone following this debate might then conclude that bias-controls obscure differences that were audible under sighted conditions. But actually all the sighted information, except the answer to the question, was always available. The ONLY factor introduced was the elimination of a bias mechanism, subjects are inclined to report differences that do not have audible source, that is known to have consequence.

In this experiment I tried to include every item that I had heard people report as having audible consequence, not directly tied to frequency response or other known audible atrifact, either by itself or in tandem.


#2 of 84 Kevin C Brown

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Posted May 13 2004 - 12:49 PM

Chu- I really hate info like that. Makes me re-think "upgrades". Posted Image
If it's not worth waiting until the last minute to do, then it's not worth doing.

KevinVision 7.1 ...

#3 of 84 Lewis Besze

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Posted May 13 2004 - 02:10 PM

Yeah I remeber this story I think it was published in Stereo Review,or it's successor[S&V].
My favorite was when Nousaine burned several cds to various people[some were audiophiles],he intentinally dithered the signal to introduce distorsion,then burnt it to several CD-Rs.He also made the same song bit perfect copies on the same CD-Rs for reference.First he didn't tell what was the difference,and some actually did preffered the distorted copies.The subjects were free to use any CD player in their posessions,and were invited to take them home and spend considerable time with it.Then he revealed that one of copy of the song was altered cosiderably,but didn't reveal which.
None of the contestant could reliably "guess" which one was the altered song.Posted Image

#4 of 84 Yogi

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Posted May 13 2004 - 05:55 PM

Quote:
None of the contestant could reliably "guess" which one was the altered song.


Which means people can't distinguish between clean and distorted sound in a true DBT, right?
The truth is not out there but within you.

#5 of 84 Chu Gai

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Posted May 13 2004 - 11:28 PM

It simply means that some things don't have an effect even when compounded. How often do we read in reviews from the snotty, my system is just so revealing and don't you wish you had all this stuff so you'd be cool too and I take every precaution posssible to not contaminate my signal, critics about the spectacular benefits to be realized from something or other? To bolster their supposed credentials, they list their attached equipment (stuff you'll never be able to afford but ya wants to!) as some sort of figure of merit much in the same way that scientists who publish in peer reviewed journals list their equipment, sources, calibrations, etc. For example, look at this equipment vitae from 6moons for their review of the Silverline Bolero speakers.
Quote:
Digital source: Pioneer DV-535 DVD player feeding the Bel Canto DAC2
Analog Source: Sota Jewel table, Sumiko Premier FT3 arm, Micro Benz MC Silver cartridge, Bryston BP-1.5 phono stage
Preamp: Herron Audio VTSP-1A
Power Amp: Art Audio Carissa, Art Audio Symphony II [for review], Herron Audio M150 & Bryston 7B-ST monoblocks
Cables: JPS Labs Superconductor interconnects and speaker wire, DH Labs D-75 digital interconnect, JPS Power AC, Digital AC and Kaptovator power cords
Powerline conditioning: Audio Magic Stealth, Ultra-1 Z-sleeves by Z-cable
Sundry accessories: Vibrapod Isolators
Room size: 12' by 16' with 9' ceiling, speakers set up on long wall in quasi Audio Physic orientation
Well god damn! These guys must really know audio, huh?

Nousaine broke every rule with the Geek system. Junk interconnects, wrapping speaker wire around power cords, preamps and amps that you'd find in the salvation army junk bin, you name it.

He also broke a couple of other rules. He level matched. He then tossed a blanket over the connecting wires. Now does Tom get his blanket from the Navaho reservations and have it impregnated with peyote and mescaline to dull the senses and render the listener's ears insensitive? Or is Tom pointing out that if you focus on what's important you can get a kick-ass system even if you're on a budget?

#6 of 84 Angelo.M

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Posted May 14 2004 - 12:19 AM

Chu:

There are 2 important tweaks conspicuously absent from Nousaine's rig that would have absolutely, unquestionably and indisputable transformed his system into a thing of unparalleled beauty, revealing the essence, the substance, the liquidity, the fundamental truth of 2-channel performance itself, placing the performers in the room with you, with a soundstage as wide as one's imagingation.

I think you already know what they are:

Posted Image

and

Posted Image


#7 of 84 Chu Gai

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Posted May 14 2004 - 01:01 AM

Think how good that beer will taste when it's resting on a chilled Shakti stone. Makes me thirsty even this early in the morning.

#8 of 84 Bill Blank

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Posted May 14 2004 - 04:23 AM

Kind of along the lines of Angelo's response, I find a six pack of one of the local brewery's (Victory) beers often improves the sound of my system 10-fold.

Bill

#9 of 84 Lewis Besze

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Posted May 14 2004 - 05:56 AM

Quote:
Which means people can't distinguish between clean and distorted sound in a true DBT, right?
This wasn't a DBT people used their own rig or anybody's they choose.The only thing they could rely on was their "ear".

#10 of 84 Kevin_R_H

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Posted May 14 2004 - 06:21 AM

Chu,

Well, I would be hesitant to quote Tom Nousaine. I mean, I really question the audio credentials of anyone who would use the words "high-end" and "Bryston" in the same sentence.

Kevin

P.S. - just kidding...

#11 of 84 Danny Tse

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Posted May 14 2004 - 06:39 AM

I believe you can only get valid DBT results when listening naked in a dark room. And take off those glasses to minimize room reflections.
SACD not listed at sa-cd.net (updated 8/26/2009)

#12 of 84 Angelo.M

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Posted May 14 2004 - 06:49 AM

Quote:
I find a six pack of one of the local brewery's (Victory) beers often improves the sound of my system 10-fold.

Gives new meaning to "liquid midrange."


#13 of 84 Rich Wenzel

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Posted May 14 2004 - 06:50 AM

you know, i have very mixed feelings about this....

first off, i agree DBT's are very valuable. I also think they are not 100% conclusive.

If none of this stuff makes any difference, the only things we should look at are features and reliability...

if that is the case, how does this industry exist?

why do i bother with anything but the cheapest stuff?

Why are their class A, A/B, B, D, H etc amps? Do they all sound the same?

I don't know the answer. I will eagerly accept that DBT's should be used as a form of ordering, i.e., what makes the biggest difference to my sound quality, but if I am willing to accept them as fact and all inclusive, there is no reason for brands like BAT, CJ, etc...And I am not willing to do that, yet.

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#14 of 84 Wayde_R

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Posted May 14 2004 - 07:51 AM

I've done a DBT not long ago.

I was prone to believe the CD using digi outs did practically nothing audible for the sound quality. In the store my friend had a $2000 single disc cd player (forget the brand something like Monsoon) and a $100 changer being sold in the back room used. Both connected to the same system playing the same CD.

The best I can describe is one kinda sorta almost seemed to sort of have a "different" sound to it, but I wouldn't have called it "better". I couldn't possibly conclude that one favoured the mid-highs or anything intelligent like that. I really don't know if I even heard a difference or imagined it.

But if these were different speakers and amps I'm sure there would be a difference.
Happy Halloween!

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#15 of 84 RobWil

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Posted May 14 2004 - 08:13 AM

Quote:
I find a six pack of one of the local brewery's (Victory) beers often improves the sound of my system 10-fold.

That Victory Hop Devil is superb!
that's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

#16 of 84 Chu Gai

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Posted May 14 2004 - 08:20 AM

first off, i agree DBT's are very valuable. I also think they are not 100% conclusive.
Anything poorly done will give spurious results. This wasn't a DBT per se, just some rudimentary level matching and a blanket. Quite remarkable don't you think that this levels the playing field?

If none of this stuff makes any difference, the only things we should look at are features and reliability...
Says who? What about...
ease of use
service
availability
resale value
appearance
preferences for a certain methodology
status
bragging rights
exclucivity
warranty
add whatever you want

if that is the case, how does this industry exist?
Same way lots of industries exist like cosmetics, shampoos, bottled water, sugar, salt...marketing and advertising with hopefully bona fide science making sense of it all.

why do i bother with anything but the cheapest stuff?
Because of items that I listed above for starters. Because you're human. Because as your disposable income goes up so does your appreciation or desire for things that reflect upon it. Would Emeril serve his creations on Chinet and Wallmart plates?
But consider for the moment the persons who post here and elsewhere and they're looking for a soup to nuts system for say $2k. Maybe less. Now if he drops $200 on interconnects when he could've done it for $50 and he drops $400 for some Monster Power Conditioner when he could've done $50 for an Isobar and he drops $600 on a CD player when he could've got a pretty decent all-in-one for say $200, then there ain't a hell of a lot left over for speakers and a receiver is there? What about some prudent thinking here? He's left with $800 going the 'everything matters route and with the other approach, he's got $1700. Do some careful refurb receiver shopping, maybe a used SVS and he's got a pretty fair amount of cash to drop on some nice speakers. Maybe enough for a case of beer and pizza to have his friends over.
When you've got tons of money, you just don't care anymore. When you're on a budget, with a mortgage, kids, rising taxes, planning for retirement, things get a little more real.

#17 of 84 Bill Blank

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Posted May 14 2004 - 08:25 AM

Quote:
That Victory Hop Devil is superb!


Indeed it is, though I prefer their Golden Monkey, a 9.5% Belgian Tripel. Lately I've been on a Whirlwind Whitbier kick seeing it's spring time and all.

Best part is the brewery is one block down the street should I need another 6-pack!!

Bill

#18 of 84 Angelo.M

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Posted May 14 2004 - 08:34 AM

Chu:

Supremely well-said. Posted Image

Now, let me treat you to a...

Posted Image


#19 of 84 Wayde_R

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Posted May 14 2004 - 09:54 AM

So, Chu. Would you say you subscribe to Nousaine's objectivist audio philosophy?

He has a list of 16 audio urban legends. Is there anywhere this is in print on line so I can read it? I'm interested in this "attitude".

I've often wondered what planet audio reviewers are on when they describe a $7,000 surround processor/pre-amp pretty good "for-the-money". I love/hate that phrase "for the money" to me it's lazy writing, no more than a nod and wink to their colleagues and it relieves the writer of the responsibility of expressing himself.

If I spend $7K on a single component they better open a new proctology wing at the local hospital cause it's going to kick some serious arse.
Happy Halloween!

Wayde Robson

#20 of 84 Yogi

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Posted May 14 2004 - 10:24 AM

Quote:
This wasn't a DBT people used their own rig or anybody's they choose.The only thing they could rely on was their "ear".


But from what you are saying the CDs were unlabelled sort of like in a DBT and they were allowed to play them in whatever system they liked. So with respect to the recording this was a double blind test because none of the subjects knew which recording was which. They were administering the test onto themselves without knowing which was the 'good' and which was the 'bad' recording, so in essence this was a DBT, since all bias was eliminated between the test taker and the test giver, right?
The truth is not out there but within you.


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