My take on subjective vs. objective

I’ve been thinking about these words lately and feel there is a disconnect with how these words are being used in audio forums and how I would normally use them. I think of subjective statements as statements of value judgement while objective statements are statements of material fact, whether true or false. "The cat is on the mat." That’s an objective statement. "It is good and proper for the cat to be on the mat." That’s a subjective statement. So if an audiophile declares that one cable sounds better than another, that is on its surface a subjective statement - a statement about a preference. But there is an objective statement hidden in it, and that is that the cables do indeed sound different, as measured objectively by the listener’s senses, presumably by their hearing alone. The argument comes in as to whether they can still perceive that difference if they don’t have any other information to work with other than their hearing. Can the ears alone distinguish the sound or is the sound perceived to be different only when other senses are involved? This argument is purely an objective one about what can actually be perceived by the ears alone or what requires other senses to be working in conjunction with the ears in order for the difference to be perceived.

So the people that get labeled "objectivist" are the ones who want to know what can be heard when other sensory data is not available. The ones labeled "subjectivist" are the ones that want to know what they can perceive as sounding different when they are fully informed about what kind of equipment they are listening to. These are both objectivist. One should be called hearing exclusive objectivist while the other is called fully sensory informed objectivist.

A similar situation in the visual would be to compare lengths of things by eye. If a person looks at a piece of dowel sitting on a table, and then looks at another piece of dowel nearby and declares that one dowel is longer than the other, that’s a perceptual measurement they have made by eye - an objective measurement. They could also subjectively declare one length to be better looking than the other. They could then put the dowels side by side to give the eyes a more direct perspective. It may be noticed that they seem identical in length when right next to each other, so they then measure them with a gage that repeatedly and consistently reveals that one dowel will fit into a slot a bit easier than the other, so that indicates that one is slightly longer than the other. But maybe it’s not the one that the observer thought was the longer one. Maybe one dowel weighs more than the other, so this gave the observer a sense that the heavier one must be longer. It’s still all objectivity here. All objectivity requires perception. Tools give us different ways to assist our perceptions and perhaps draw logical conclusions. If the person insists that the heavier one is longer visually even though it fits in the slot easier, they are making an objective statement that it looks longer, not that it actually is longer.


This discussion includes enough over analyzing that I am compelled to make an attempt to contribute.


I think of objective as being certain and without question.

Example: Speaker A has more drivers than Speaker B


I think of subjective as being open to bias.

Example: I prefer the sound of Speaker A when compared to Speaker B.


All listening tests are affected by personal preference so are therefore subjective.  If A/B testing were to show that the listener can reliably identify a difference in the sound when a change is made to the system, it demonstrates that there is an audible difference.  If another listener cannot reliably identify a difference in the same setting, it most likely demonstrates that the listener is unable to perceive the change.

Some people have the ability to taste or smell things that the majority of people simply cannot and some of these people are literally paid to taste and smell things.  It stands to reason that some people are also able to hear things that the majority of people simply cannot.  It's also reasonable that some of these people would enjoy music and become members of a forum such as this.

If a person that can hear things that the majority of people simply cannot also has an amazing audio system, it is very reasonable that they will be able to describe things that the majority will simply never be able to experience.  Horton Hears a Who comes to mind.  I do believe that some audiophiles suffer from expectation bias and placebo and have convinced themselves that they are hearing more than they really are.


....maybe enjoy what you have until you don't and decide to change Something.

Mostly subjective with a twist of the objective towards an objective.

Same old....just different frosting....

Thanks y'all for clearing the air on all that... ;)

@nonoise, Thank you. I hope you feel the same about your system.

@asctim , I'm afraid you have lost me. I am after all, a very simple minded person. 

@cd318 , that sounds logical.