well put. i will add that the stakes for a great review are higher than ever. positive exageration is almost manditory for a smaller company to see a bright if shortlived future.
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Personally, I think bias towards a particular type of presentation (sound wise) tells more. ST seems to like the British sound.
Hearing is a funny thing and it's not all about frequency measurements. I'm 54 years old and my last hearing test back in late 2006 showed my hearing (as frequency goes) to be well above average. However, my "Hearing" is not as good as it us to be. You know sound is not a single frequency. Your ears can become directional and your dealings with multiples of frequencies combined may diminish. It could be a mental thing! Try running a 60hz buzz and see when you can "Hear" a frequency an octive above. Then turn off the 60 hz and see how loud that frequency was before you heard it.
When I read reviewers articles, I try to look at what they liked over the years. It shows their biases. I found the bright, sterile sound of some audio equipment horrible. I like a little warmth and harmonic texture. Human voices don't sound sterile in real life! I look for reviewers with similiar tastes. We are ALL biased you know.
As for dealers "Experts" give me a break. Most learn a few buzz words and proclaim to be golden ears. It takes time to learn audio and to learn equipment. Every once in a while, you run across a true audiophile at a dealership. You can usually tell because they will dfiscuss all equipment equally and know what they sell is not for everyone. They also want be 20 years old!!!!
Sometimes, like audio, somethings measure like crap but sound good. In hearing, I think experience and other things matter also rather than basing solely on a frequency hearing test.
Just two observations in defense of older reviewers.
First, I believe much of a person's reviewing ability depends on knowing what to listen for. When I started this hobby, I couldn't tell the difference between a lot of things, like mid-fi versus high end. I find the more I listen, the more I can tell -- and this is a mental aspect, not just hearing. I expect reviewers should be fully ramped on this.
Secondly, I believe the more common hearing loss is at the high frequencies, and that this goes gradually. For example, at some point one may not hear the highs as well as before but still be able to hear them (at effectively lower volume/intensity). When the highest highs become completely inaudible, the next highest highs are heard at reduced volume, etc. on a rolling basis. If one listens to live music, say at concerts, one can get a fix on the observed loudness of the highs that can still be heard and compare that to reproduced music. If one can still hear something at 15k Hz, even though it may not be as subjectively as loud as when one was twenty years younger, one can still compare live versus recorded.
The fact that so much of music is not at the far extremes of frequency also supports the reviewers' reports. E.g., I am not going to discard JA's opinions now that I know he can't hear to 20k Hz.
Point about Beethoven is well made. And Gee? How DO those old fart conductors do it? Maybe there is something besides hearing measurement?
This goes right to the heart of:
Objective (Measurements) vs Subjective (experiential)
The folks worried about pristine hearing still are stuck in the measurement camp....
0.00002 % distortion @ 100Watts.....
Old and famous conductors usually conduct a bunch of very experienced or very talented musicians. They have more to worry about every musician getting to the right flow and tempo of the music, guiding everyone to be in-sync with what is happening. They have less to worry about a musicians's clarinette to be off pitch, sharp of flat, as most musicians of caliber have mastered this aspect.
This is why I think older conductors are busy keeping the whole puzzle in place, but mainly in regards to the overall placement of the notes and pace. Their undertanding of the structure of a piece, and their ability communicate it in waving that ''baton'' and get everyone to follow together is the skill and talet they most need to have.
They probably have to have less of the type of ear needed to discern one flat note from a trombone playing in the back, unlike what the high school teacher needs to have when teaching music to younger or less-experienced musicians who may not yet be able to produce a constant note with regularity and the right pitch.
Just my opinion, but based on some experience too....
I haven't kept up with the literature in decades, but there used to be a debate about whether HF hearing loss was natural or noise-induced, with some evidence that populations not exposed to noise did not suffer HF hearing loss with age. At the same time and in the same journals, there was wide spread speculation that exposure to high amplitude music at rock concerts would lead to a rise in HG hearing loss -- noise doing the greatest damage about a half octave above the actual exposure. And, of course, anyone who shoots firearms without ear protection is just asking for it.
Having been involved with psychoacoustic research in my early career, my hearing has been tested hundreds of times and found to be quite good. But a couple of years ago, I developed the symptoms of Manier's disease, with tinnitus and LF hearing loss. Yet it hasn't interfered with my enjoyment of stereo music, and I'm particlurly fond of chamber music and jazz where imaging and detail are so critical.
Standard threshold hearing test will not correlate well with the ability to discern audiophile/musical minutiae. It's a well observed phenomena that musicians and engineers who have had decades of frequent exposures to extremely loud music and show signs of permanent hearing damage are still able to hear subtle sound qualities. To a large extent knowing what to listen for can more than compensate of some impairment in physical ability.
When I read reviewers articles, I try to look at what they liked over the years. It shows their biases. I found the bright, sterile sound of some audio equipment horrible. I like a little warmth and harmonic texture. Human voices don't sound sterile in real life! I look for reviewers with similar tastes. We are ALL biased you know.
A PERFECT answer. I tell people the same thing.
It matters not so much how every reviewer hears, but how a reviewers hearing (and taste) matches up to your own preferences.
If reviewer "A" always loves equipment and set ups that you hate, avoid his recommendations.
If reviewer "B" hits the bulls eye most of the time, raving about the same things you like, then give that equipment a shot to see if it works for you.
I have listened to so many systems that I can sit down with someone and get input on what they like and recommend changes that will get them closer to where they want to be. It does not matter if the changes are what I like, only that I understand what direction THEY want to go.
That's why so many different kinds of equipment are popular and why there is disagreement as to what is best.
"Perfect hearing" as described above correlates to the upper frequency response of the system and, mostly SPL. That's only one parametre -- and, outside a FR window (say 15-16kHz), not the most important one IMO.
Coherency, correct reproduction of instruments in relation to one another, etc are more important. So an experienced listener (reviewer) even with losses over 15-16kHz should be able to give a good report on what's going on.
As always, personal "bias" or taste isa important to understand if the writer's opinion is consistent and thereby, of any value.
Any reviewer who admits to hearing impairment might fear putting his/her job and/or reputation in jeopardy. Recently, John Atkinson published the results of his most current hearing test, and he hears quite well for his age. Would he have published it if the results were not so good?
On the other hand, Jonathan Valin recently admitted to some recent milg high frequency hearing loss in one ear, and he is to be commended for his honesty.
At 77 years of age,. I'm probably among the eldest among the membership here at Audiogon. I'm blessed with good hearing. I'm sure some of the ultra high frequencies have been compromised, but as some have said before in this thread ... the audio hobby continues to be enjoyable if you know what to listen for.
At this point, my worry isn't with my hearing ... my worry is living long enough to listen to the thousands of recordings I've amassed over the years.
Respect your elders guys ... you'll all be here soon enough (if you're lucky).
Oregonpapa- To anyone who complains about the effects of aging, just reply- Yeah, man, I agree, getting old sucks. The only thing worse is not getting old!
Schubert- Interesting idea. I know I f'd up my hearing due to the combined effects of rock concerts and scuba diving in my teens and 20s, but I still get great enjoyment from music and can easily distinguish "live" music from a distance, no matter what the circumstances. For example, coming down the staircase of a noisy Grand Central Station, I was immediately aware that the guy selling CDs in the "food court" area had switched from the recording to playing himself.
I didn't get "Musician's Earplugs" (molded inserts that go into the ear canal, onto which are installed attenuator discs of varying dB---5-10-15) until I was in my late thirties. By that time I had developed a moderate case of tinnitus (ringing), which is somewhat annoying. I would guess most live concert attendants have as well. See an audiologist and have a pair of molded plugs made for yourself before your hearing suffers any more damage!
Just my two cents on this interesting topic. Personally, I believe the degree to which humans loose hearing as they age varies and under normal conditions is small. Obviously if there is anything medically wrong or an unusual accident this is a different story. In any case, the point about a "reviewers" abilities are nevertheless called into question. I would point out this is why people should opt to hear/read from a relatively large number of reviewers. Theoretically all should be similar, but practically there may and likely will be differences and it is at that point that you need to further investigate (listen yourself, check technical specs, etc.).
I'd say the emphasis should be on hearing for oneself ... in one's own home. Many times when reading reviews, I have to shake my head at the music the reviewer uses to conduct his review. So much of what is recorded today is drenched in artificial digital reverb that I wonder how equipment can be fairly evaluated through it.
Good topic--very important for older audiophiles to eliminate fatiguing distortion from their audio chain. Clarity of sound improves sensory interpretation of sound. I do believe in the idea that more music listening improves perception of sound, if not acuity, because more synapses are formed as we carefully listen. As more synapses are formed through learning new information in life, your brain becomes stronger as new information is committed to memory. In my experience, at least, I feel I hear my music better as I listen more often. Much has been learned about the brain's adaptive powers.