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Objectivist Audiophilism


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#1 of 302 OFFLINE   Wayde_R

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Posted May 17 2004 - 05:21 AM

After Chu's post on Nousaine's story I've been doing a lot of reading on the topic (thanks for the links TimMc) I find it fascinating but some parts are troubling.

Nousaines "legend" number one is:

.1/ Fancy parts improve sound (capacitor dielectric, DACs, etc).

Aren't audio components only equal the sum of their parts? Is he saying Burr Brown DACs aren't capable of anything better than DACs you'd find on a $200 receiver or DVD player?

Power conditioners is one of his ten "audio lies". In it he quotes a Bryston manual that dispenses with the notion of power conditioning. Nousaine says this is how all more or less well designed equipment should be run.

Interested in the other side of the story I found this review on a Furman Power Conditioner on Secrets of Home Theater website. The writer claims of the Power Conditioner:

"...with the IT-Ref, a very thin veil that I did not know had been there, was lifted. The clarity was now like a crystal goblet that was squeaky clean. I could hear the rosin on the violin strings as if I were playing the instrument myself."

I am no electrical engineer but I thought AC into a power supply that includes a transformer is on an isolated circuit than the DC voltages being distributed from that power supply. I don't believe that noise or hum from the AC could be anywhere in the circuitry unless you had some grounding issues. Please correct me if I'm wrong. That doesn't include any inductance related noise which could theoretically afflict one of the aforementioned DC voltages at any point in the ciruit. But the component that brought the AC voltage to the power supply can do nothing to guard against this, maybe some aluminum insulation could help.

Then the review goes on to talk about this little gremlin I didn't even know existed.

“backwash noise (each component produces back EMF) from passing backward through the power cord of each component and getting into the power cords of the other components plugged into that same socket.”

I know I've got a lot to learn, but I think I smell a con
Happy Halloween!

Wayde Robson

#2 of 302 OFFLINE   Yogi

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Posted May 17 2004 - 05:57 AM

Quote:
Fancy parts improve sound (capacitor dielectric, DACs, etc).


I don't know about DACs but capacitors do sound different from one type to another. Same spec paper-in-oils sound different from poly caps in my amps for sure. No Nousaining that.Posted Image

Quote:
I think I smell a con

And I smell a flame bait.Posted Image

We'll wait and find out.
The truth is not out there but within you.

#3 of 302 OFFLINE   Wayde_R

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Posted May 17 2004 - 06:33 AM

No need to flame. I come humbly to this forum with an open mind, I would like to learn. The term "backwash noise" appears to have the symptoms of urban legend to me.

I feel like I'm hearing a fantastic story about someone a friend of a friend knew when they went to Thailand on a business trip. Maybe all my components have signals being reflected into them from my other components through the AC line after all. That would be fascinating.
Happy Halloween!

Wayde Robson

#4 of 302 OFFLINE   PaulT

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Posted May 17 2004 - 07:45 AM

Quote:
"backwash noise"
is the noise you hear when you are drinking a Molson's product and the Canadiens score a goal....Posted Image
"One of the problems of taking things apart and seeing how they work--supposing you're trying to find out how a cat works--you take that cat apart to see how it works, what you've got in your hands is a non-working cat." -- Douglas Adams

#5 of 302 OFFLINE   Chu Gai

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Posted May 17 2004 - 08:08 AM

On capacitors, consider the following link
"What's all this soakage stuff, anyhow?" by Bob Pease

John Atkinson of Stereophile and Nousaine have gone at this matter a few times. I don't have the particulars, but basically the story goes something like this. In the mid 80's Atkinson performed some blind tests with many listeners where film capacitors were substituted for electrolytics. This was subsequently reported in Hi-Fi News. Now Atkinson's conclusions were that there was a slight statistical ability for listeners to discriminate between the two flavors. In essence saying that people could identify the capacitor by the sound. Now this data was examined more closely by Nousaine who found that data instead suggested that there was an internal bias or reverse positives in the method or that film capacitors were in fact more audible. Atkinson, although he talked about it, never conducted further experiments or examined the original experiment for internal bias. Even with Atkinson's screw ups, the correlation was weak. Nousaine and others did perform additional experiments which suggested that there were no audible differences between film and electrolytic.

Now a lot of DIYers like to just replace things and don't always take careful stock of what they're doing. For example, if you replace a defective, dried up electrolytic with a film capacitor I'd rather expect you'd hear a difference. Especially since you never measured the capacitance of the older unit. Further, just because two capacitors have the same capacitance, doesn't mean they'll behave the same in an electrical circuit. Hence, there can be unintended, but audible consequences.

Maybe the way to read your first quote Wayde is to examine the word 'improve'. Replacing parts when you don't know what you're doing and if you don't have access to appropriate instrumentation might very well change the sound in many ways. However change does not necessarily mean improve. DIyers are jolly well proud of themselves when they can change something and equate that with better.

Regarding power conditioning, Nousaine is basically stating a tenet of what he considers good design and that's a relative immunity from normal power-born fluctuations and garbage. However, not all equipment has robustly built power supplies and many limited production audiophile type products don't have the kind of testing facilities that the big boys do. Power corruption is simulated and results observed in order to create a relative immunity. But what person wants to think that a 100 wpc amp they bought that cost what a Kia does is flaky? A brief story. On another forum a guy was talking about how much he loved his turntable. It was very good he said and capable of the most amazing musical reproduction. The only thing is, is that he was looking for ways to isolate the turntable from vibration because every time he walked, the damned thing would bounce and sometimes mistrack. This is good design?

If people don't perform competent tests then you're going to get things like the 'thin veil' comment in all its permutations. And if you do get an audible difference then you have to dig deeper. Otherwise you've got a very shallow review that really doesn't help anyone much. One of the best things about power conditioning type devices is that they've got an abundance of outlets for you to hook your equipment up to. Combine that with switched/unswitched outlets, sequenced turn-ons, and you've got a unit that does a bit more and may provide some tangible benefit to the user in the way of functionality.

If you believe in the backwash idea, you can spend a few hundred on a Monster type unit or you can spend around $60 for an Isobar with EMI/RFI isolated pairs of outlets.

#6 of 302 OFFLINE   Yogi

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Posted May 17 2004 - 08:21 AM

Quote:
the mid 80's Atkinson performed some blind tests with many listeners where film capacitors were substituted for electrolytics. This was subsequently reported in Hi-Fi News. Now Atkinson's conclusions were that there was a slight statistical ability for listeners to discriminate between the two flavors. In essence saying that people could identify the capacitor by the sound. Now this data was examined more closely by Nousaine who found that data instead suggested that there was an internal bias or reverse positives in the method or that film capacitors were in fact more audible. Atkinson, although he talked about it, never conducted further experiments or examined the original experiment for internal bias. Even with Atkinson's screw ups, the correlation was weak. Nousaine and others did perform additional experiments which suggested that there were no audible differences between film and electrolytic.


DBTs with swapping caps must be quite remarkably fast and automated considering the human audio memory lasts only about a second or so. So desoldering the old cap and resoldering the new cap and turning the amp on and off in between all within a second must be quite a feat.Posted Image
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#7 of 302 OFFLINE   Chu Gai

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Posted May 17 2004 - 10:09 AM

I don't think that's how it was done Yogi. What is it about California? The water? The gas prices? Huh? Posted Image

#8 of 302 OFFLINE   Michael R Price

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Posted May 17 2004 - 10:26 AM

I guess I've said this before in other discussions, but I'd like to point out that there are undisputed, easily measurable differences in the distortions created by electronic components and circuits. Distortion and noise measurements for amplifiers are quite common; several magazines check the jitter and signal linearity of CD players, etc. The problem, which is what we're really arguing about, is whether we can hear these differences. I sort of lean towards believing in it, because there were a few simple changes I made to my system that made a big enough difference to me, that I have a hard time believing I was fooling myself. Still, I'm not completely sure and it's definitely fun to argue about.

#9 of 302 OFFLINE   Yogi

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Posted May 17 2004 - 10:58 AM

Quote:
What is it about California? The water? The gas prices? Huh?


I think its a combination of both and I am not sure what 'Huh' is, but it could also be a factor.

So anyways how exactly is DBT with swapping caps done exactly?
The truth is not out there but within you.

#10 of 302 OFFLINE   Wayde_R

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Posted May 17 2004 - 11:03 AM

Hey Michael, no argument here. If I can see measurable data that this "backwash" produces distortion in my sound or that audible jitter can exist in the short run between DVD player and receiver, I shall assimilate the knowledge as my own.

Technical papers have been written on dropped packets due to photon loss through miles of fiber optics. High traffic networks routinely buffer against signal delay or “jitter”.

Put into perspective of HT systems.

Even a cheap digital coax audio cable is made far better than a SCSI ribbon cable. There is certainly no magic to the SCSI ribbon cable, they’re mass produced as cheaply as possible and usually comes free with a main board or SCSI hardware.

A digital audio cable provides a throughput 13.8 Megs per second (a fact I recently learned on this board). A SCSI Ultra2 cable will provide an 80Meg per second link inside a box literally deaf with inductive signal noise from chips operating at meltdown frequencies as well as fans to cool them.

If digital jitter and signal loss is a problem in the short clean runs in a Home Theater system how do servers work?

How does the internet even get off the ground for that matter?
Happy Halloween!

Wayde Robson

#11 of 302 OFFLINE   ChrisWiggles

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Posted May 17 2004 - 11:32 AM

You can never be completely objective when it comes to audio. Ever.

#12 of 302 OFFLINE   John Beavers

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Posted May 17 2004 - 12:02 PM

Quote:
I know I've got a lot to learn, but I think I smell a con



The con goes both ways. The truth, I believe, lies somewhere in between. The only way to truly learn is through experience, and in the audio hobby that can get expensive. I've managed to acquire a good cross-section of gear, wires, and tweaks, some at a reasonable cost, some not. I believe I've experienced enough to where I can formulate a "subjective audiophile analysis" of what is valuable and what is questionable, in regards to improvements in sound quality. What Chu is promoting, from what I can tell, is objective engineering/scientific dogma. In other words, our science tells us you should not be hearing any difference. And if you do hear a difference we can disprove it by setting up a double blind test, which you will fail. It's a no win scenario between the skeptics and the audiophiles who are relying on their subjective experience with these products. I can report what I've heard, which is mostly relevant to me, and Chu can counter it with dogma, which is mostly relevant to him. You can, if you are so willing, find out what's real by your own experience. You can accept dogma, I don't need to try it because I know it shouldn't work, or you can go by your peers subjective experience; as a guide as to what to explore. That's about as close to truth as I can come. Remember to enjoy the music now Posted Image

#13 of 302 OFFLINE   John Kotches

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Posted May 17 2004 - 12:24 PM

If you look back at some of the older DVD Benchmarks at Secrets, you can see measurable differences in the audio performance of most (if not all) DVD players when connected to a PS Audio Power Plant.

Here's an example player:

DVD Benchmark 2.

Cheers,
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#14 of 302 OFFLINE   Kevin C Brown

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Posted May 17 2004 - 12:36 PM

Backwash- I believe that this does occur, especially with more poorly designed digital components that dump a lot of digital "hash" back onto the AC line. Must be somewhat true Posted Image in that most power conditioners I've come across usually use some type of extra filtering for AC outlets meant for digital components vs analog.

But, not all power conditioning is created equal either. If you do look through the Secrets reviews, balanced power does seem have some tangible benefits. The trick is though, does any individual person have problematic AC to begin with? If you can figure that out, then you can figure out if you need some type of power conditioning.
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#15 of 302 OFFLINE   RobertR

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Posted May 17 2004 - 01:10 PM

Quote:
What Chu is promoting, from what I can tell, is objective engineering/scientific dogmaI

The definition of dogma is belief without empirical evidence, so what you're claiming is that the objectivist view of the lack of audible differences in some circumstances is not supported by any empirical evidence. This is clearly false, since double blind test results ARE empirical evidence, not "dogma". If you're going to critique the double blind methodology, you need to outline your reasons why you think it's flawed. Simply slapping a label on it won't suffice. Double blind advocates are able to show why "open" comparisons are flawed. It's incumbent on you to do the same.

#16 of 302 OFFLINE   ChrisWiggles

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Posted May 17 2004 - 01:38 PM

Not everything can be tested blind.

Test the impact of lighting. How can you possibly test that blind? IT's obviously not possible, you know when the variable (lighting) is changed. But clearly there is an impact, a huge one indeed.

Regardless, you have to realize that you *cannot* *EVER* under any circumstances, measure everything it is that you PERCEIVE.

These arguments are inherently stupid, since neither side is right. A lot of things can be defined and measured well with numbers, but certainly not our perceptions and/or preferences.

Back to my lighting example: is there anybody here that actually beleives that light waves somehow affect the sound? No. Of course not, that's foolish.

But is there anybody serious here that doesn't think imaging is drastically improved with the lights off and your eyes closed? I should hope not. And if so, give it a try...

#17 of 302 OFFLINE   John Kotches

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Posted May 17 2004 - 01:38 PM

Kevin,

The before/after was out of the wall at Stacey Spears' old house.

CHeers,
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#18 of 302 OFFLINE   Chu Gai

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Posted May 17 2004 - 01:41 PM

Some dogma Mr. Beavers. Level matching, ensuring the channels aren't skewed, and tossing a blanket over things. Wow. That made it real tough. All that left us with was our ears.

Science isn't a religion and it's not a dogma (a religious doctrine that is proclaimed as true without proof [syn: belief, tenet]). It is quite the opposite. Its claims are verifiable, falsifiable, nor do they require faith or prior knowledge.

The audio industry is full of pseudoscientific quackery, most of which survives on the placebo effect. Companies and individual toss out white papers and call them theories when in reality they're not even worthy of that term. Fables, tales, and the sort of speculation that comes after a hallucinogenic experience at a 70's Grateful Dead concert are more how I see this. People rail against science and call it 'science worship'. They use flawed approaches, biased scenarios, sloppy testing and call it personal experience. Person A does it and calls it tighter bass. Person B does it and calls is looser bass. All these erroneous ways of doing things will certainly lead to one thing, and that is inconsistency. And it is this inconsistency that strongly suggests something's not quite right in Kansas Toto. Eschewing science in favor of uncontrolled 'personal experience' is nothing more than a manifestation of an anti-knowledge and anti-science luddistic fram of mind.

How each of us arrives at our decision to do something is relevant to us and only us. Once though a claim is made and publically stated to be so, then that claim is testable. It is either verifiable or not. Kind of like Fleishman & Pons with cold fusion.

I know it's been a while Mr. Kotches since that test, but do recall what else happened to be on the circuit that the player was on? Also, for the hell of it, was the DVD player ever hooked up to something like an inexpensive surge protector with the usual token EMI/RFI filtration and measurements made?

If I were to eyeball and draw a straight line through the noise floors from say 500 Hz and up through both scenarios I'd get a bit less than 10 dB. Nonetheless, are you then saying that during musical or movie playback that a noise floor that is about 130 dB down is audibly distinguishable from one that is a little more than 135 dB down Mr. Kotches?
The graph, for those interested, is the following one.
Posted Image

#19 of 302 OFFLINE   KrishnaS

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Posted May 17 2004 - 02:03 PM

I have nothing to add to this conversation but Chu I just want to say that I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts. They make a lot of sense. I did a search on your name and waded through 2 years of wire debates - it was fun.

Back to your scheduled debate ...

#20 of 302 OFFLINE   Robert Hoffman

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Posted May 17 2004 - 02:28 PM

Chu, what is your setup?


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