A question for all the tweak skeptics out there.

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Mike Knapp, Apr 1, 2002.

  1. Mike Knapp

    Mike Knapp Supporting Actor

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    Most of the tweaks I use are either very cheap (under 20 bucks) or I will only try them if I can return them and get my money back if they dont work. I suppose most of the other tweakers are the same.
    So I ask this.
    What would motivate us to "believe" that something made a difference when in fact it did not?
    The placebo effect?: This should really only work if we knew we couldnt return the product. Then we would need to justify the money spent in some way and convince ourselves that it made a difference. Since we can return the items that dont have an effect, and few are returned....well?
    Peer pressure?: This is a powerful one if you are in the presence of the people. But c'mon, on the internet? If someone would convince themselves to spend 300 dollars (and keep the item) on something that did not perform just to be accepted by an internet group they have deeper problems than "imagining" the differences in tweaking.
    Lack of proper testing procedure?: We dont subject everything we buy to some rigorous tests to judge it's worth, is it really reasonable to expect different when spending 100 bucks on a pair of interconnects?
    So, what exactly is our motivation? Why would we spend "foolish amounts" of money on something that yields no results when all we need do is return it or just keep our mouths shut about getting it in the first place? Why do you think we subject ourselves to the constant ridicule?
    In every crime story, the prosecution must provide motive. The skeptics seem bent on prosecuting (or is that persecuting? [​IMG]) us...so, where is our motive? What do you think makes us tick?
    I asked for opinions so of course there are no wrong answers.
    Mike looking for some clues Knapp
     
  2. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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  3. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    The placebo effect is more complex than your statement it shouldn't play a role if something can be returned. It is the power of suggestion and this power pervades the field of audio to which I'll attempt to confine my responses. It is a part of human nature, of yours...of mine. It may seem somewhat offensive to some because it challenges our reality and we don't like to think our senses have been fooled....that the experience was not in fact based upon reality. This is unsettling for after all, we're human and we like to believe we can rise above placebo effects through force of will. But the fact is our senses deceive us regularly. Mirages, optical illusions, the moon on the horizon, being told a very hot object is going to touch our skin then comes the ice cube.

    Items that don't work are not returned for a variety of reasons....laziness, the cost of time and effort, a person finds out the 'free return policy' does not include shipping and handling which they'll have to eat both ways and probably add insurance to boot, and may well have a 10, 15% restocking fee, they look at the item they bought and compare it visually to the one they replaced...sure is a lot prettier than the home depot cable. An item may well not be returned because the purchaser made a change in the speakers placement during the changeover and now the sound is just a little bit different, maybe even improved. They now listen to their system with greater attention with the addition or switch of whatever it was and now they hear that little triangle in the background or the faint shimmer of the cymbals or that extra vocalist they didn't realize was there. Perhaps the change was in fact real and because its real they perceive difference as better. Maybe the change had to do with a small but audible increase in loudness but they're not aware of it. In fact, they may even swear there was no difference in level because their SPL meter said there wasn't (btw, I'm sure you're aware there are far superior methods to ensure level matching than an SPL meter). Yet now the sound is more focussed. The original component became defective perhaps due to oxidation or a bad solder joint or because their child or spouse inadvertantly kinked or pulled something. They don't know this and turn to another product, probably not the same one, and say this product is better than my old one. Well, hell yes, the other one was broken or needed its oxidative layer trimmed off. They're bombarded by magazines that they buy, internet sites that they visit, where they read about their hobby. Within the useful infomation, and even the useful knowledge, is interspersed misinformation and I'm hoping that most of it is quite unintentional. They've read rave reviews and want to enjoy that same feeling the reviewer experienced. Their well established friends swear the product made a change for the better. Unbeknownst to them that speaker they bought, that sounded so damned good at the emporium, now that they have it in their homes just doesn't sound as good so they look for ways to modify the sound and turn to a tweak. They're listening to the tweak and the wife, husband, mother-in-law, comes by and says, gee that sounds great. They succumb to upgradeitis. At first they buy something because it may have been good and the media did a great job of selling it. Now they're reading about something that can improve even they're already fine system. They read about terms they're unfamiliar with or which may even be bogus...interstitial distortion, crystalline distortion, phase shifts, eddy distortion (god it must by awful to be eddy)...they see graphs, some based on actual measurement, some that are theoretically generated and believe that improvements in these and other areas must result in an audible difference. They relate cost to improvement.

    As far as peer pressure on the internet, well you're not going to get too many cable advertisers or disk treatment manufacturers to subsidize your site if you publish no difference was found or take them to task. Your traffic may even decrease as you'll alienate people who want to read about the latest whatever.

    Since many 'manufacturer's' don't test or use the catch all phrase 'my ears guide me' let yours guide you, in situations where there is dubiousness people need to evaluate a product themselves. And they try, but don't know how. $20 won't break most of us, maybe $100 won't either. Many retailers make a not modest income on that amount of change.
     
  4. Mike Knapp

    Mike Knapp Supporting Actor

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    Or perhaps the theory of Occam's Razor should be applied? Especially after reading your last barage of probable excuses. [​IMG]
    Maybe they really do just work?
    Mike
     
  5. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    It's fun to tinker with our systems and talk/debate about it on the internet. Lots of us can't stop or don't want to stop. We enjoy playing with this stuff as a hobby, and the joy of fiddling and listening is enough to make us want to try anything. Sometimes we think we hear a difference, sometimes not. Either way we had fun trying. And if we think we hear a difference we are justified in continuing these fun tweaks. The fun won't end! And we CERTAINLY don't want to be told that there's no proof that something works. That'll ruin our fun! [​IMG] So we'll ignore any "proof" and go about our merry way. Ignorance truly is sonic bliss! [​IMG]
    Mike your posts in this thread reads like this to me:
     
  6. JimN

    JimN Stunt Coordinator

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    I like Philips answer. I do science all day at work and I am not interested in strict scientific experimentation and statistical analysis with my hobby. I like to tweak and change things around. I listen and make sure it doesn't sound worse. If it sounds better (IMO) or does not sound worse (IMO) then I will keep it in the system. Almost all of my tweaks are low cost and home made so the cost is not a real consideration. My only real costly tweak ($399) is a B-P-T balanced power unit on my den system. No one is removing that from my system unless they pry it from my cold, dead hands.
     
  7. BruceD

    BruceD Screenwriter

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    I'm sure everyone has various pieces they have tried in their systems and been anxious about whether they made any difference or not.

    Like anything else the more expensive the item, the higher the expectation about what difference it makes.

    Relating one of my own experiences, I bought a highly regarded external DAC (EVS Millenium II) for almost $1K with great anticipation it would improve my listening experience. I tested/evaluated for 30 days (more than 200 hours) against my CDP's internal DACs. I do have a reasonably resolving system, but couldn't tell the difference between the two even though I adjusted each to the same output level @1kHz (voltmeter on preouts).

    I'm sure the placebo effect may have still been a factor, but not to convince me that the new DAC "sounds better", even though I did expect the new DAC to sound better.

    Oh, by the way, I returned it.
     
  8. Mike Knapp

    Mike Knapp Supporting Actor

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    Phillip,
    Thats a good reading I think! Fun is surely a large part of tweaking. Now, here is why you are wrong....[​IMG]
    Bruce,
    Your example is exactly why I always discount the "placebo" effect. There are too many examples of those like you that wanted an effect and didnt get it, or found the cheaper of the two tweaks to work better. The placebo should trick you into hearing a change even when none exists. There are many, many tweaks I dont subscribe to, the ones I do use really do make a differnce. If I was "fooling myself", why wouldnt I do it all the time, even for the ones I dont think work after trying them? I thought they would work when I tried them or I wouldnt have expended the efort.
    Lying about tweaks working or tricking yourself into thinking only some of them do makes no sense at all.
    Mike
     
  9. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    They might just do that Mike.

    The list of items, concerns, whatever you want to call them, are all very real possibilities. The consumer wouldn't be in this quandry if those selling the products would step up to the plate with something more than testimonials...something more than electrical measurements...something more than dismissing or not even knowing what has been published in the area of hearing or contracting with a specialist in that area to facilitate work based on fundamental grounds....something more than pulling scientific words out, misapplying the word theory to their beliefs and having the unmitigated gall to not even bother to substantiate their claims. But they'll make sure they contract with a good web provider, a site designer, a good accountant to maximize their actual profits and minimize their taxable income. They'll throw out the words patent pending and we'll not understand that there is in fact no patent pending, there never was or maybe the patent claim was rejected. The better ones understand marketing and how to say something without claiming anything at all and it'll fool us. They maintain a presence on some audio sites and communicate with audiophiles establishing what some feel is a relationship. They shirk their responsibility and point the finger at us, saying trust your ears. And so we try to do that, succeeding at times, failing at other times. However, if we don't take proper precautions we'll fail quite a bit and we'll be looking to sell that product that we bought and buy a 'better' one.

    To my mind this is hardly an attack on 'believers' by a 'skeptic' (scientist). The attack on believers comes from those who sell products with dubious if not fraudulent capabilities. They're the ones attacking because they're preying upon your trust, taking advantage of gullibility, and taking your money.
     
  10. Mike Knapp

    Mike Knapp Supporting Actor

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    Surely there are charlatans and rouges about, but Caveat Emptor is more than just a saying, it is sage wisdom!

    Mike
     
  11. Jim A. Banville

    Jim A. Banville Supporting Actor

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    My opinion is that some people think that almost any tiny thing can (note I didn't say "will") affect the audio/video performance of a system. Why does a "believer" think that tweak "A" works, but tweak "B" doesn't? Who knows? Probably some subconscious preconception. The mind is an incredible and mysterious thing. Go ask "crazy Joe" under the bridge why he thinks he is being watched by the CIA [​IMG]
     
  12. Frank_S

    Frank_S Supporting Actor

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    Very interesting topic MIke! Lately I have been questioning what has been responsible for transforming my 2 channel playback into a much more enjoyable experience. Forgive me for the long winded response but I feel it is best to give you all the information up front.
    I upgraded my speakers last November from B&W CDM7SE's to Nautilus 804's. I placed them on the same platforms as my CDM7's when I got them home and played them pretty much constantly for a week. I was not happy with what I was hearing at all, in fact the dealer called me a month later and asked if I was enjoying my new speakers and I said, quite frankly no. He said, give them some more time to break-in and let me know what you think in another month or so. He said he would be glad to take them back and do whatever to make me happy. After a couple of months there was still no improvement so I started tweaking a few things.
    First, I replaced the platforms that my speakers were placed on with 3/4" thick solid ash, bought a laser pointer and made a custom holder for it so that I could position the speakers almost perfectly equidistant from the listening position. This helped give me peace of mind that the speakers were toed-in and aligned as best as could be in my room.
    Second, I replaced the stock rubber feet on my Classe pre/pre with vibrapods.
    Thirdly, I upgraded my speaker cable to Harmonic tech. Melodyline which is their entry level cable. I had been using Home depot 12 gauge.
    Each tweak improved the overall presentation of my system incrementally and the combination of all 3 has offered noticable improvement.
    After analyzing each change to my system I realize that I question which of the 3 actually made the biggest difference. I find myself asking these questions and I will ask you also.....
    Did my speakers finally break-in just as I made these changes which would have naysayers argue that speakers don't break in or did the upgrade in speaker cable make the difference which would have cable non-believers say that cable cannot improve the sound or did the vibrapods help control vibrations in the preamp thereby altering/improving things further? [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  13. Tan_N

    Tan_N Stunt Coordinator

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    Frank,

    You can always do a back test and remove the vibrapods the replace the cables back to the homedepot ones... do one at at time or both... it's all for the love of this hobby...
     
  14. Mike Knapp

    Mike Knapp Supporting Actor

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    Jim,

    Just because you are paranoid doesnt mean that everyone isnt out to get you! Crazy Joe might just be right.

    Frank,

    My guess, through my own experience, would be that placing the block under and repositioning the speakers would have the most profound effect of the things you mentioned.

    Speaker wires next and then the vibrapods.

    I have always wondered how a skeptic would respond to a challenge at my home. Suppose they listened to my system and felt it was the best they had ever heard. Then I revealed all the tweaks I have done to make it sound that way. Which tweak would tey tell me was not needed? And how could they possibly make that determination? Even if you remove just one, it will mess with the balance of all the others. This is a system after all, not a bunch of crap working independently of each other.

    Adding tweaks should be done with great care and not too many at once. You must hear the results of one at a time and allow time to hear what effect the new tweak had on the ones already in place. Sometimes it is not good.

    Mike
     
  15. Danny Knapp

    Danny Knapp Stunt Coordinator

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    I agree brother, but some only see the higher $$$ and assume it's better!

    Are they better? No one knows.

    (At least I don't know)

    I buy el cheapo connections and they work fine w/o glitches or blips or bleeps.

    My room is not the best layout for speakers and well...I know my sound isn't perfect...but I'd rather leave it "as is" then spend so much money and so many hours on it...ahh!! It's too much for me! I admit it! I can't tweak audio!!
     
  16. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    Anyone else see the inconsistency here?
    So Mike, I can evaluate each tweak one at a time when I install the tweak, but I can't evaluate the tweaks by removing then one at a time??? That doesn't make any sense to me.
     
  17. Mike Knapp

    Mike Knapp Supporting Actor

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    Sure you could, as long as you removed them in the same order they were installed in.

    Lets suppose I install 5 tweaks in order.

    #1...sounds good

    #2...sounds better

    #3...sounds better still

    #4...sounds great

    #5...sounds perfect!

    Then you come over, have a listen and determine that #3 is not needed. If you remove it you have messed with the entire balance of the rig. Tweaks #4 and 5 have never been tested without #3 in place.

    So, unless you know the order in which they were installed you cant make an accurate determination as to which is important or not, without further experimentation.

    Mike
     
  18. jeff peterson

    jeff peterson Supporting Actor

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    Oh no, Mike...it's headache time [​IMG] What if you remove #3 and decide the sounds sounds better STILL (#6); ie, #3 in the mix added to your delight and 4 and 5 improved it, but would have improved it even MORE without #3.
    The bottom line, it never ends...
     
  19. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    Worse yet, what if #4 supercedes #2, thus the removal of #2 has no effect once #4 is in place.

    Oh, I'm getting a headache!!!
     
  20. Jim A. Banville

    Jim A. Banville Supporting Actor

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