Understanding Subjectivism: How the Mind Changes Our Experience of Hearing

S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Something objectivists have often misunderstood or underestimated about subjectivism is just how deeply the mind changes the experience of hearing due to the effects of biases, preconceptions, and attitudes that all add up to expectations. Objectivists are just as susceptible to these tricks of the mind, much as they would not like to admit it. But what is the mind doing to our experience of sound, and how can we break this delusion- or can we break this delusion?
beolab fish rawr.jpg
READ: How the Mind Changes Our Experience of Hearing
 
Pogre

Pogre

Audioholic Warlord
Oh boy! This has potential to be a good one!

Great article Shady (so far, still reading)!
 
John Parks

John Parks

Audioholic Chief
Ooh - a naked Beolab 90!
1579108820058.png

Looks rather sinister unclothed...
 
D

davebugg

Audiophyte
Confirmation bias is a tricky thing when subjectivity is involved
 
davidscott

davidscott

Audioholic Field Marshall
Something objectivists have often misunderstood or underestimated about subjectivism is just how deeply the mind changes the experience of hearing due to the effects of biases, preconceptions, and attitudes that all add up to expectations. Objectivists are just as susceptible to these tricks of the mind, much as they would not like to admit it. But what is the mind doing to our experience of sound, and how can we break this delusion- or can we break this delusion?
View attachment 33362
READ: How the Mind Changes Our Experience of Hearing
Love those pics of the high end cd and tt. How can they not sound amazing? :)
 
J

JStewart

Enthusiast
Thank you for an excellent article supporting my bias toward objective measurements :)

Seriously though, I think many know the principles of the article to be inherently true. Where we lack is not giving them due consideration in our conscious thought. The world might be a different place if we did.
 
Alex2507

Alex2507

Audioholic Slumlord
The subjective listening tests talked about in the article are by necessity short term affairs. Picking speaker A over speaker B can still be difficult with a blind fold or an acoustically transparent screen. Hearing a difference is way easier than picking a preference but living with a speaker for a month or so better demonstrates just how much you enjoy listening to it and how often you go back for more.

I use a few of different songs that I've become very familiar with as a crude tool to access a speaker's capabilities. Not perfect by any means but way better than gauging the speaker by how much I 'like' it in three minutes with unfamiliar music. And I've become better at it over time. I'm convinced that a reputable reviewer who also takes measurements would be better at evaluating a speaker by just listening than I ever would be.

Harman's 'trained listeners' are an example of being better listeners as demonstrated by their How to Listen software from several years back. I made it to a grade 6 level pretty quick but those guys were at a grade 12 level or thereabouts according to Sean Olive.

Salk speakers are a good example of looks adding to perceived sound quality. I bet he could actually have happy customers with blose cubes hidden behind the grills.
 
L

lanion

Audiophyte
The placebo effect can be pretty huge.. maybe even more than the best upgrade could ever objectively improve something.

Placebo *surgeries* can even be nearly as effective as actual surgery in some cases, which is ridiculous (you get cut open, the doctor does nothing and then stitches you back up!). Citation : https://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g3253 . It was only done with elective surgeries, so no one's life was put on the line.


Its just important to keep that in mind in any review or testimonial.
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
The subjective listening tests talked about in the article are by necessity short term affairs. Picking speaker A over speaker B can still be difficult with a blind fold or an acoustically transparent screen. Hearing a difference is way easier than picking a preference but living with a speaker for a month or so better demonstrates just how much you enjoy listening to it and how often you go back for more.

I use a few of different songs that I've become very familiar with as a crude tool to access a speaker's capabilities. Not perfect by any means but way better than gauging the speaker by how much I 'like' it in three minutes with unfamiliar music. And I've become better at it over time. I'm convinced that a reputable reviewer who also takes measurements would be better at evaluating a speaker by just listening than I ever would be.

Harman's 'trained listeners' are an example of being better listeners as demonstrated by their How to Listen software from several years back. I made it to a grade 6 level pretty quick but those guys were at a grade 12 level or thereabouts according to Sean Olive.

Salk speakers are a good example of looks adding to perceived sound quality. I bet he could actually have happy customers with blose cubes hidden behind the grills.
If you are familiar with a recording, you can use it to gauge some aspects of sound quality, but no single recording will ever paint a complete picture of a speaker's character. One thing I think is ridiculous is when people try to evaluate a system at a trade show; they listen to one of two tracks in a complex and hastily set up system, and think that they can fairly judge a single component in there out of many? And that is ignoring the effect of their own biases and expectations which pretty much pulls out the rug from under the entire affair anyway.
 
Alex2507

Alex2507

Audioholic Slumlord
If you are familiar with a recording, you can use it to gauge some aspects of sound quality, but no single recording will ever paint a complete picture of a speaker's character.
Agreed but I would want to stress that some important aspects of a speaker like bass which is relatively expensive to reproduce and what TLS calls the speech discrimination band are easy enough to evaluate.

My favorite tune to use for bottom end is from The Wall Flowers, One Head Light because of a rolling bass line that I've seen make speakers at a Magnolia become unglued in short order. A PETT guy, dlr, has a full range, DIY, dual 10", omnipolar rig that gives the bottom end more detail than I've ever heard.

Dire Strates Money for Nothing has Sting doing backup vocals. I remember the rig I was listening to when I first realized that. It was an Oprah ah-hah moment for me. Up until then I was only ever using the tune for the crazy intro finishing off with drums and then the guitar riff to start the off the song for real. The demonstration of vocal clarity set the bar from there on in.

I can't recall the name of the tune by Chris Isaac (but I had been listening to it a lot) showed me how Anthem's ARC took the life out of the song regardless of the volume. As I said, familiar music is a crude tool and as you point out, the picture is incomplete but it sure beats not having nuthin'.

As many reviews as you've done lately, you must put some faith in your own initial opinion of a speaker. I'm not talking about evaluating components like amps or DACs here because everybody knows H/K watts are to die for. j/k. Hey, PENG. :) I am able to get a rough idea of a speaker's power handling by turning it up to the point of distortion and then seeing how loud I have to yell to be heard. I know, an SPL meter would be better and simple enough to bring. I don't know why I haven't done so in the past but I'm pretty much done auditioning speakers for now.

Thanks for the article. I'll have my blose lovin' nephew read it as reference material for his first speaker purchase. It'll give him some food for thought.
 
Pogre

Pogre

Audioholic Warlord
I always take a couple of Blues Traveler songs with me when I wanna check out speakers. Strong bass, clean sounding drums and their singer has a very distinct voice. Plus the harmonica too. They're not all I bring along, but they're on the list for sure.
 
davidscott

davidscott

Audioholic Field Marshall
Love me some Blues Traveler. Runaround is surely one of my Favs.
 
jinjuku

jinjuku

Moderator
The thread at audiophilestyle about this article is going to be a doozy. I'm Plissken over there BTW.

Nothing gets more snake oil than Audiophile Switches. I have the Uptone Etherregen in my rack and it's hanging off a LACP LAG into a computer with a 2 port Intel Server NIC. This allows me to play music in J River and swap the cables as the music plays. Not one iota of difference in a $640 switch that runs incredibly warm and my $90 Cisco SG-200, my $20 D-Link, or my $18,000 dollars worth of Cisco Nexus.
 
Bucknekked

Bucknekked

Audioholic Field Marshall
Something objectivists have often misunderstood or underestimated about subjectivism is just how deeply the mind changes the experience of hearing due to the effects of biases, preconceptions, and attitudes that all add up to expectations. Objectivists are just as susceptible to these tricks of the mind, much as they would not like to admit it. But what is the mind doing to our experience of sound, and how can we break this delusion- or can we break this delusion?

READ: How the Mind Changes Our Experience of Hearing
First off, a nitpick edit. Your last paragraph, first sentence. I think you mean "as a reviewer", not "as a review".

This just shows I read your entire article and not just the title. Your sentiment and article align very closely with my school of thought. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I'm sure there will be howls and gnashing of teeth from a certain quarter where the golden ears and the exceptional talent kids hang out. I believe Gene did a YouTube video today with a similar thought: snake oil and audio experts are ruining the hobby.

We've had this discussion on the forum from time to time and while the great preponderance of folks "get it", many a thread has gone down to utter confusion and nonsense over someones "exceptional claims" that provide no support.

I enjoyed the effort and the thread. Keep it up @shadyJ . When you write stuff, I always enjoy reading it.
 
Bucknekked

Bucknekked

Audioholic Field Marshall
Salk speakers are a good example of looks adding to perceived sound quality. I bet he could actually have happy customers with blose cubes hidden behind the grills.
As a Salk fan boy, you are 100% on the money. Seeing those gorgeous towers every time I sit down to listen does indeed improve the experience. The appearance didn't help me choose the speakers, but, they definitely lift my spirits everytime I go in my music room.
 
ryanosaur

ryanosaur

Audioholic Ninja
As a Salk fan boy, you are 100% on the money. Seeing those gorgeous towers every time I sit down to listen does indeed improve the experience. The appearance didn't help me choose the speakers, but, they definitely lift my spirits everytime I go in my music room.
Great crossover here:
@PENG asked, yesterday, about the difference between the BMRs and the Phil3s over in the BMR Review thread starting HERE.
I had to tread carefully in my answer because I do know that the differences are minimal. The Sound Quality between the two are so close, and Dennis' preferred voicing is so smooth and neutral. How could I account for the differences I HEAR and describe them without being a fool about it?! I think I did an OK job. ;) But c'mon: Beautiful Blue Salk-built speakers gotsta sound better, right?! :p

As I continue digging deeper into acoustics and speaker design, I hope I can start making more sense out of the effect I do hear from the Mids of the Phil 3.
 
Auditor55

Auditor55

Audioholic Chief
Something objectivists have often misunderstood or underestimated about subjectivism is just how deeply the mind changes the experience of hearing due to the effects of biases, preconceptions, and attitudes that all add up to expectations. Objectivists are just as susceptible to these tricks of the mind, much as they would not like to admit it. But what is the mind doing to our experience of sound, and how can we break this delusion- or can we break this delusion?
View attachment 33362
READ: How the Mind Changes Our Experience of Hearing
Good article.
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Something objectivists have often misunderstood or underestimated about subjectivism is just how deeply the mind changes the experience of hearing due to the effects of biases, preconceptions, and attitudes that all add up to expectations. Objectivists are just as susceptible to these tricks of the mind, much as they would not like to admit it. But what is the mind doing to our experience of sound, and how can we break this delusion- or can we break this delusion?
View attachment 33362
READ: How the Mind Changes Our Experience of Hearing
Tangentially related to this subject is this article just published on Fast Company: Humans are Hard-Wired to Dismiss Facts that Don't Fit Their Worldview. This is so relevant to the audio industry.
 

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