Music and Measurements: What Do you Think?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Lee Scoggins, Dec 11, 2002.

  1. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Friends,

    I just read an interesting comment in Stereophile by William Z. Johnson, designer and founder of Audio Research, where he comments on why audio is so difficult to scientifically measure. He says:

    "hi-fi is one of the few industries where products are measured one way and used in another way...Every measurement that we're aware of falls into the realm of what we call repititive, or static, measurement. In the real world, the simplest musical signal has component signals one ten-thousandth the size of some of the other signals present, and at many, many frequencies at once. It simply defies the abilities of static circuitry measurement."

    This IMHO gets to the point that it is very difficult to apply even wonderful modern scientific techniques to describe audio phenomena. In many discussions here on the board we often fall on two sides of this coin. Those who don't believe you can measure everything and those who do.

    I am curious...what do you believe?
     
  2. John Watson

    John Watson Screenwriter

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    In the early 80's, my early adapting brother wondered why I wasn't careful to only get DDD disks?
    I replied that I was hearing the disks - whether ADD or (horrors) AAD, through analogue equipment anyway, ie, my ears [​IMG]
     
  3. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  4. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    regarding DDD - didn't i just read somewhere that some of these discs were not "true" DDD, but more like DAD? something about the boards or mixing equipment were really analog?

    anyway, regarding the article, i firmly believe that we cannot measure or capture everything.

    music is full of dynamics, nuances and "essences" that simply cannot be analyzed. how in the world are you supposed to capture that kind of stuff?

    besides all the technical stuff, it's literally impossible to measure the affect it has on a human being. this is what kills me about audio. if someone says they hear "it", then who am i to say that they aren't? and how am i supposed to measure that anyway?

    if a piece of music really gets to me, then i'll overlook just about any issue. i certainly won't care that it wasn't recorded using the highest bitrate or that they didn't use original source masters or that the compression was too high.

    if i like the music, then that's good enough for me.
     
  5. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  6. Tim Hoover

    Tim Hoover Screenwriter

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  7. Phil A

    Phil A Producer

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    I've always maintained, I don't know how one would go about measuring soundstage depth, height or width with regard to a particular musical source. Also the difference from one room to another could be significant let along measuring stuff like the timbre of instruments or voices. Measurements are good for the sake of measurements and not very useful when it comes to evaluating music on a given system in a given listening space.
     
  8. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    to touch upon tim's post about overdriving the guitar amp.

    that reminded me of (what i call) the "lo-fi" sound that's been pretty popular...especially in electronic music. it has that kind of hissy, distorted, muddy sound.

    if you tried to measure that, i'm sure the numbers would be atrocious (sp?). but it sure can sound cool.
     
  9. John Watson

    John Watson Screenwriter

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    Yeah, I once made a tape with my oldest 45's, and used a "mute" button to better absorb the scratches. And I wrote "lo-fi 45's" on the label [​IMG]
     
  10. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  11. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    I personally think it's a lot more likely that a component that measures well, will sound good too. And that a component that measures poorly will also sound poorly.
    For example, I won't buy speakers unless I can find a freq response curve somewhere.
    Stereophile (which is ironic in terms of where the quote comes from) and www.audiovideoreviews.com (go to Loudspeakers, and then look for the reviews with thre red NRC logo next to them) are my 2 favorite places. The NRC is one of the pre-eminant speaker R&D facilities in the world, just over yonder in Canada. S&V is OK and Home Theater mag is just barely acceptable (it's obvious their graphs don't have the same resolution as the 1st 2).
     
  12. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  13. John Watson

    John Watson Screenwriter

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    Lee, the use and abuse of statistics and measurements has filled many books.
    I think the comment in Spinal Tap, "as long as its got dubbly noise reduction" aptly sums up the consumer's awareness of what all the techno jargon and data means [​IMG]
     
  14. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  15. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    Lee- I agree with your example of negative feedback and amps. But I truly don't know of any other cases.

    But I also somewhat agree: if I am comparing 2 components, and they both subjectively sound the same, but one measures better than the other, I go with the one that measures better.

    I do look at measurements more for speakers. It just amazes me when a speaker with a poor freq response response gets a good review. And you cannot argue with the fact that the NRC and Floyd O'Toole (I think that's his name) have done many studies examining what people say sounds good, vs the measurements. "Spiky" or "divoted" curves are bad. Rolling hills are OK. Flat still sounds the best to listeners. (Article in the latest Audio Critic with example spectra and listening test comparisons.)
     
  16. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Earlier pricey Wilson Audio speakers often had frequency response problems.
    Fortunately I never liked them until the Sophia and the much improved Watt Puppy 7.
    [​IMG]
     
  17. Zane Charron

    Zane Charron Second Unit

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    One thing we have to remember is that the main component of listening to music is the listener themselves. Everyone not only has various dips and boosts in their hearing for whatever reason, but each listener has PREFERENCES to specific frequency ranges, possibly due to the aforementioned dips and boosts. Some like their highs boosted a bit or the lows or mids dropped or the sound generally EQ'ed differently. It might sound different or poor to someone who has a different freq response in their hearing or who prefers a different EQ curve.

    So it's very true that measuring audio phenomenon is a very subjective thing, at least in how it relates to listening to music and what we think sounds good or bad. Which is why you should never buy audio equipment without first LISTENING to it (if you're an appreciator of good sound anyway).
     
  18. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    Zane- You might want to take a look at the latest Audio Critic. They have the interesting article I mentioned above where they *correlate* listener preferences to different examples of freq spectra. There are basically no surprises in that poor (choppy) looking response curves are *not* preferred by the listeners, and *smooth* curves being preferred.
    This isn't some hi fi mag (or Consumer Reports [​IMG] ) doing the tests either. It's...
    http://www.nrc.ca/corporate/english/index.html
     
  19. Zane Charron

    Zane Charron Second Unit

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    Hmmm, interesting. So much for using logic!

    I don't have access to many home theater/hi-fi mags over here (unless I want to pay $10-12 an issue), but I'll take your word on it. Maybe all things (peoples' hearing) being equal, a generally 'flat' freq curve is preferable to one with various dips and peaks. The law of averages, maybe?
     
  20. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    kevin - i clicked your link, but couldn't find the specific article. can you help me navigate?

    also...

     

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