No, but I'd be willing to entertain the idea that 50% of all 'audiophiles' really don't know how to listen for differences and identify them. And I'd also be willing to entertain the idea that many audiophile hear stuff because of the power of suggestion. But, frankly, just because you can't hear it, or it doesn't make sense to you doesn't mean its not real.
For example, our newest CLC devise which has been broadly discussed. Don't know/don't care, but FWIW I have a CD transport that when connected to the system thru a DAC and placed in standby (as well as 'on') creates a brightness which is intollerable in a 2nd CDP/DAC which is playing. All are filtered. Brightness only goes away when I disconnect the transport. Some how this transport is dumping something back into the electrical system. I really can't explain it - doesn't make much sense. Is that real? To me it is. Wanna buy a transport? :-)
So, IMHO, to balance those folks who can hear things that make no sense to others because of the power of suggestion, there are just as many who can't hear things because of a pre-disposition that they can't exist lacking a scientific explaination.
I think we do hear differences....... at least I know I do. The real issue to me is whether these differences that are claimed by the manufacturer/reviewer/dealer/etc. as advancements, that we the consumer should invest in, truly that or just differences...........
Example: is cable a)that costs 2k better than cable b)that costs $300? or, just different? Is this years speaker better than last, or just different enough to get a new big review in the latest magazine that say's to run out and buy it.
At least with last years model car you can see that the new one has more HP/better MPG, etc.
I guess, to me, it's just consumerism at it's best(worst, depending on your view).
the human power to differentiate between tiny gradations is enormous, but doing the comparison is where it gets tricky. take color, for example: people can see differences between incredibly close shades/tints if they are side by side, but not if seen in separate contexts. I would maintain that it's the same with audio: you need to be able to A/B so you're not relying on your memory of what your system/component sounded like before the change. why is this so contentious? if you have a system where you can go back and forth between two variables and you don't hear an 'improvement' (let's not even get into defining that), why waste your money? if you can hear a desired change, who cares if someone else tells you you're 'wrong'. it's your money and your system!
I have a large collection of mostly vintage amps, preamps and tuners. All have been completely dissambled, updated and restored to better than factory new. For instance I'm lucky to have an industrial pc board washer and a paint shop to put automotive finishes on my gear. I regularly swap components back and forth and the differences in sound quality are dramatic in some cases and barely audible in others. Minor bias adjustments have a huge impact on whether an amp sounds slightly bright or warm. I have yet to find an original, older amp (i.e. broken in) that had the correct bias setting either to factory spec. or set for lowest distortion. I have never been able to hear a difference between cables and feel certain that impedance and component matching have the biggest effect on why components sound different in different systems. As with almost everything else in life, maybe yes maybe no, depending upon many factors. Psycology definitely is a factor, as is the state of your sinuses and barometric pressure.
"hi end audio is the 'wild west' of industries" ... " if it was regulated like other industries"
What a ludicrous statement. Hi end audio is about luxury goods. Same as designer clothing, perfume, haute cuisine. We could all live happy, content lives without ever owning any of it. It's discretionary.
Nobody is forced to buy any of this stuff, and I'd really rather the government concentrated on the important things in life, like education, healthcare, environmental policing, and resisting the temptation to remake the rest of the world in the image of the US.
I'm more worried about "not remembering right" than I am about "hearing wrong" (Musicslug alluded to that). There are subtle or stark differences in many components and even from one album (cd or vinyl) to another. I hear differences all the time. The problem for me is really feeling totally confident about my reference point. It helps to have an intimate knowledge of selected recordings, but still ...
Like the song says: Don't worry, be happy. Enjoy the differences or curse them, the key to this game is enjoying the music, preferably with someone close.
P.S. Since this is all about what is sent to the ears and then how the brain interprets it, don't discount mood, colds, aging, even food reactions (e.g., salt leads to more water retention) -- all that can alter how you perceive the music. Throw in all the extraneous stuff like differences in power integrity and humidity and things really go nuts. Throw in things like discovery and learning (we are all on a journey) and things are really never the same over time. Differences are all tied to a reference point and that keeps changing over time even when no componenets are changed at all.
Regulate the 'High-End"? How about regulating the "Low End" first! More snake oil salespersons there than in all of our hobby combined. Cables: I don't see Roger Penske connecting his Mercedes to the driver via coat hanger, do you? So good cables are paramount, though still only fine tuning.
I hear better late at night whilst I'm alone and not distracted. Yeah, auto-suggestion is a powerful tool! Critical listening...as opposed to just 'hearing'...is to be highly valued. Many 'philes work from the wrong perspective...they have the amp. they 'like' but the speakers they 'cannot wait to unload'.
FIND the speakers that suit your room and your ears and your music, then FEED them with a SUITABLE amplifier, DELIVER the amp. a great signal via a properly matched Pre-amp. and GENERATE or RE-CREATE the information from your source: the best one you can afford.
Connect all and enjoy! Remember, we are only playing back recorder music! (Exception: live broadcasts, a rarity these days).
SO, why bother listening for 'differences'?
im a firm believer that 50% of the things we hear aren't real but the other 50% is real,as for dbt tests i wouldnt trust any published test results ive ever read (for amplifiers) & ive read many,ive yet to read a published dbt where the volume levels were high enough to be able to discern any differences in amplifiers,also the testing methods in all the published dbt's that ive read are flawed & suspect in method & form.
jaybo did make a good point though,way too many manufacturers & reviewers make bold statements claiming out of this world differences in all kinds of stuff than cant possibly make a fart in the wind of diference in any system.
Reality is only one person's opinion and/or perception, those who claim to know objective reality are perceptually delusional. You absolutely cannot know what another person hears while listening to their system. I just find it kind of curious that even amongst those who claim they are in posession of an objective reality regarding perception of sound there is such a variety of equipment owned. It seems to me that if I were of the belief there was an objective 'reality' of sound perception, and I knew that one person who posessed that knowledge I would purchase the exact same equipment for my system. I would be perfectly content knowing that I had an objectively 'real' system.
While I understand the claim is for only a 50% delusional reality rate, the above argument is still valid. Which 50% (or is it some greater or lesser percentage) of perception is reality and which is delusional?
I guess in the final analysis I could care less what another person hears or doesn't hear. Good for those who can happily listen with Bose/Rat Shack, etc. and good for those who need to spend hundreds of thousands. It seems to me the contended listener is simply enjoying the sound of his/her version of reality.
On the other hand, perhaps we subjectivists are truly delusional. The path that you take to the peak of audio enjoyment is truly a dead end since it is only the delusion of faulty perception, you must realize that your enjoyment is a false reality. Now you can get really get sad knowing that your system is not really as good as you think it is. At this point you decide to just chuck it all, you simply can't be happy living in a delusional world :-)
Legitimate differences are most reliably heard at home in one's own system. And there, if I can't hear the difference between two pieces of equipment from the next room (and better yet, from down the hall), then the proposed upgrade is generally not one I am interested in. There may come a time that the improvement can no longer be heard that easily, though I haven't reached it yet. When I do, I hope I realize it is time to stop.
Not surprisingly, I find the differences in cables and interconnects are more subtle. For that reason, along with others, I am not likely ever to be a promising victim for the wire bandits.
"Not surprisingly, I find the differences in cables and interconnects are more subtle. For that reason, along with others, I am not likely ever to be a promising victim for the wire bandits."
Just to clarify: there ARE some cable differences I can hear from the next room. This was the case when I went from Linn black to Linn silver interconnects. There are obviously many others. I may even someday find a power cord that I can hear this kind of improvement with. It just hasn't happened yet (though I admit I haven't been looking very hard).
If a Mac amp from 1965 is Stereophile class "A" today, then where are all the "improvements" that the Stereo Industry raves about each month. If each new version is "way better" than it's predecessor, how come something 40 years old is still state of the art today?
Sugden is another brands that comes to mind.
No dobut some differences are not real, mood and how much attention you are paying are under rated factors for most people. As a rule remove all 'tweeks' (including expensive cables) from you system once a year and add them back sequentialy as a test. Another question you have to ask yourself is what percentage of the differences audiophiles claim to hear are improvements? I have really gone through a few systems changes recently that while they got me listening since things clearly sounded different the changes were not 'better' after longer term listening.
I think the answer is obvious.
If you don't hear, or don't think you hear, any difference or improvement by adding/subtracting something in your system, then don't do it.
I never really have understood the apparent "need" that some people have, for one fellow to tell the other fellow what he can and cannot hear.
I certainly understand people making helpful suggestions about gear selection, based on what has worked for them in their applications. But to make statements about people being "psychologically duped" is a bit over the top, in my opinion.
Twl, I don't think the 'answer' is all that obvious. For example I would never tell you you didn't hear something you said you heard, but I wouldn't hesitate for a second to tell you that under similar circumstances I did not hear the same result as you describe. We might even discuss why we did or did not hear the same thing. The reader can then ask questions to determine the likelyhood of his hearing the differences or lack thereof.
But for the uninitiated who is looking for support I think it is fair to inform an inquirer of all of the possible reasons for a products raves when the technology of the product is mysterious or nonsensical (to many at least), including the possibility that the product and its promotion is intended to appeal to a specific, and dare I say because of inexperience, a more gullible, person trying to blindly improve their system.
I will always agree with the "try it, if it works for you use it" approach. Where I draw the line is when you have to BUY IT to try it with the hope that you can resell it if you can't hear a meaningful difference.
How about some "audiophile grade" Q-Tips?
No, I'm serious (not about the "audiophile grade" part ;~)) but I know from experience that ear care/hygiene is very important for optimum hearing/listening. Here are a couple of things I learned:
A mixture of half and half white vinegar and isopropyl alchohol. Dampen a Q-Tip and swab the inside of your ear canal (dont jamb it up against your eardrum!) This solution kills most fungi (great after swimming) and removes wax and oils. The vinegar is an antiseptic and the alcohol dries out any remaining moisture and stimulates blood flow.
Another one is ear massage. Grab your earlobe(s) and pull down as you gently move it forward and backward. This stretches the muscles of the inner ear and makes them more pliable increasing sensitivity. Then, grab the top edge of your ear a little bit toward the rear, and pull it straight up and then fold it down and forward over the rest of the ear and stretch lightly. Repeat a few times. It feels good and you'll hear better.
A free upgrade!!
Newbee, I agree that it isn't necessarily simple in all cases to audition everything possible, particularly when purchases are involved that can be expensive.
I fully understand that, and of course I have the same predicament as all audiophiles in that regard.
I haven't listened to everything, and I have no way of knowing if there are things out there that may drastically exceed any product that I now own in my system. In fact, there probably are such things out there.
So, here's what I do.
I make every step that I possibly can to determine the veracity of certain claims that I may read or hear. If the claims seem to be somewhat possible for validity, then if the item is within my purchasing budget, and I am ready to do an upgrade, I try it.
Many manufacturers today have ways to try out their gear in your own home, as a trial. They may require payment up front, but if a refund can be provided after a reasonable listening trial, then your risk is minimized.
I use technical data and measurements in my own decisions, and I don't make light of their usefulness, to a point. But, I'm careful not to over-emphasize their usefulness, because it has become apparent to me that not everything in an audio system has a proper measurement protocol, and some things are not even considered in any currently existing measurment protocols.
So,for example, if I see that some preamp has an obvious impedance mismatch for my system, by a measurement spec, of course I am not going to consider that as a viable candidate for my system, unless I'm totally re-doing the whole system and can build around that item. Or if I have a 2-watt SET amp, I'm not going to consider some 82db/watt low-efficiency electrostatic speakers. So for "coarse" decisions, that method will work just fine to narrow down the pack somewhat. The measurements are quite useful for that purpose.
However, the dilemma occurs when there are numerous items that may spec out very similar, or everything measuring below what is generally considered the "threshold of perception". At that point, it becomes more subjective, because you go into "uncharted territory" that may be beyond what the specs can tell you.
Most of my equipment would be considered "unacceptable specs" to many audiophiles. Yet, to me it sounds better than anything else I've heard in all my 35 years of being an audiophile, inside and outside the industry. How could that be? I think it is because there is more to making a system than is normally considered, and that some "general rules" of audio are not always correct in all circumstances, and that specs can only take you just "so far".
In order to maintain my sanity, I simply make a good effort to check out what may be within my budget, and select items that sound good enough in the context of my system, for my desires. Then I just enjoy what I have. I don't go looking for products again, until I am budgeted for a reasonable upgrade from what I have presently.
Maybe others do things differently, but this works for me.
Do I imagine 50% of what I'm hearing? I don't know, but I rather doubt it. Regardless, I'm happy with what I'm hearing, and truthfully, to me and my audio system, nothing else really matters beyond that.