Perception


I’ve been very happy with my system lately, since I added new speakers and a new amplifier.  I felt it was totally balanced and almost anything I played on it sounded good.  Then a friend came over who had greatly admired my previous system configuration.  This friend owns decidedly mid fi audio equipment  and listens mostly on headphones.
 In short, he didn’t like my current system.
Now, I’m starting to listen to my system through HIS ears and have wondered if it was a mistake to upgrade.
I don’t know if this is a question of perception or weak-mindedness.
So much of the enjoyment of our rigs is in our head.  The system didn’t change.  My perception of it did.
 I now have to fight off his perception and get back to my own.
 I don’t think I’m a unique case. So much of what we perceive in audio is controlled by our psyches.



7c67ab18 c2ce 4b45 9523 fc4a71684ce0rvpiano
It's called instilling doubt. People do this all the time ... and not just in audio. Usually, it is people who don't know what they're talking about. Sometimes, it is done out of jealousy and envy. Sometime's it is just innocent banter. If you're a seasoned audiophile (which you are), you not only can hear, but you know what to listen for. Your friend with the mid-fi headphone system does not.  Your ears are more experienced than his ears. Listen to your's ... and perhaps get a new friend.

Happy listening ... 

Frank
It’s quite common for audiophiles to wonder where their system stacks up in the overall scheme of things. It doesn’t even necessarily help matters to go to the shows and go listen to friends’ system since almost everybody is in the same boat. How do you know where you are on the performance curve and how do you cost effectively move upward on that curve? That’s the $64,000 question.
I had a friend whose system literally gave me a headache. I mean leaving his house one night my head literally ached. It was very hard sitting there listening to it to say exactly what was wrong. All I knew was every time I was there I wanted to turn the volume down. Whatever it was, it was too loud. This was years ago, back when grain and glare and listener fatigue were just words on a page not yet that well established with real live experience. So I guess always something there to be learned if you're willing.

One time he bought this sweet pre-amp, by Tim Paravicini I think. Suddenly I wanted to turn the volume up! It sounded a whole lot better. More engaging. Involving. Where it had been off-putting and fatiguing now it was drawing you in.

But this guy, he was always tinkering. By the next visit he had somehow tinkered it back to the same sterile off-putting fatigue-inducing presentation.

The few times he came over to hear my system he studiously avoided anything outright critical yet always managed to make clear his disdain for what I'm sure he regarded as overly warm if not euphonic. 

Like I said he was always tinkering. One time he brings over the best DIY interconnect he ever made. In his system it sounded exactly as good as the $5k IC it was copied from. He was dead sure of it. Could not hear any difference. In his system.

In mine it was night and day. Easy as pie to hear the difference. They were nowhere near the same. There was no denying it. He heard it too. Not only that, but the one he had made, we compared it to the cheapest/oldest I could pull from my old cable drawer, and it wasn't even as good as that! He could hear it. Clear as day. Which he absolutely could not in his system.

Pretty obviously one system is a whole lot more resolving and revealing than another. Equally obviously its possible to be totally confused about this, even to the point of getting it completely backwards and upside down. 

The thing is, this guy was really happy, happy to the point of smug, with his great system. The only thing that ruined it for him was trying to prove it. Which was stupid in the first place. If he was so happy, what more is there to prove?

Capiche?

Aside from all the psychoanalysis, there's also the fact that we all hear differently. We need about 450 genes in order to hear something. 67 genes can cause some kind of hearing loss. There are over 400 genetic syndromes that cause hearing loss or degradation. That, and it's rare that two people taken at random have the same genetic makeup, let alone are close, for hearing. 

Now, combine what we want and favor to hear with how we hear and you'll never arrive at a consensus. Factor in a dominating personality that isn't yours and all bets are off.

I stopped worrying about how others feel about my system a long time ago.

All the best,
Nonoise
This is fascinating and I think reflects differences in taste.  For the OP, who cares what your friend thinks.  People not only perceive things differently, they have different tastes and there is no objective definition of good sound.  

I personally like sound that is forward to a point where there is wonderful detail but it can't cross the line from forward to bright.  A hint of tinnyness or if the tweeter has a metallic edge, I go from enthusiastic to repulsed. 

Alternatively if a system is dark or laid back, I find it inoffensive but am never going to be wowed.  

Now, I know folks who are less sensitive to higher pitches and their line for brightness is different than mine.  I know folks who love a warm, laid back sound.  In both cases, good for them.  

If you like it, everyone else can go pound salt.  Think of it this way, would different upgrades make you happier or your friend happier?    
Scientists are working on ways, to help those with hearing problems, as an effect of their genes, whether damaged through mutation or inheritance. https://mediu https://www.hear-it.org/genes-dna-and-mutations-and-hearing-loss For the time being; I’ve avoided washing mine in hot water, or drying with excessive heat. I’m also eating a lot more cheese. https://jacksdailydose.com/2017/06/19/hearing-loss-protection-from-cheese/ Those affected by tinnitus, might want to investigate that last reference.
The dismissiveness of other opinions is interesting. Especially so, when opinions are so readily and abundantly proffered here. : )

Being open to feedback, trying to understand it and learn from it, is wise. I see it as one aspect / factor in our development along our audio journey. Evaluate it in context to yourself.
Not that I needed a reason to eat cheese, now I have an excuse. Thanks for the link.
Pounding salt is also good advice.
Great topic/thread... Surprising someone has not poisoned it yet... 

To me... Besides education... This is what the forum should be. 
I, at one time, had someone very close to me who has spent 80 years of her life worrying about what other people think. I still cannot understand why. 

Frank
I  know for myself and my ears only what is musicality in my audio system...After experimenting this superlative quality, after years of experiments, with a low cost audio system, and with all the relative qualities of the sound that this implied,i feel happy with my music and cannot stop listening anything...All the rest is personal preferences bias, side grade, not always for the best, or upgrade at a very high cost (for example I dreamed to buy a Berning amplifier to replace my already marvellous Sansui AU 7700). But I am happy now with what I have and nobody can influence me and saying that my system is bad...For the price my system deliver music to my ears and they are King and Queen of their Kingdom … At the end trust only your sense of pleasure with music, if all your files gives to you love waves it is because your system is near the peak of the audio mountain...

I hang with musicians, most of whom couldn't care less about hi-fi. Evan John's system was a boom box. Lots listen to music on their computer's speakers, any disposable money they get goes to buying another instrument. Unlike hi-fi components, vintage instruments increase in value over time.

The one audiophile musician I've known (a real good drummer, he's lately been in Albert Lee's band) had stacked Quads for speakers. One thing musicians and singers recognize instantly is correct timbre, at which Quads excel.

not trying to be disrespectful in any way.....but to the OP.....arent you at the age now where you could really care less what anybody else thinks about what you have ?

so your friend doesnt like the sound of how your system sounds .....big deal.      do you like all the things he does ?   Probably not.

enjoy what you have and stop worrying about what somebody else says or thinks.
Hi,
if in personal doubt, then something is not correct; this feeling usually leads to new changes not always to the right direction. Take your time enjoy what you have know and learn at the same time. Treat your ears and soul with live music, visit places with better systems (not necessarily more expensive) and be confident on your next possible steps. Usually a major change such as speakers and amp requires time to get used to and appreciate. Your opinion and taste is more important as is you wallet.
Richard, you heard my system and told me how well Jazz sounded, but Classical wasn't as good.
I understood ( and, agreed for the most part).

I never thought to rethink my system when you commented, as I really like what it does for me.
I would take your friend's comments with a grain of salt.
Bob
nonoise:"Not that I needed a reason to eat cheese, now I have an excuse. Thanks for the link."

Hello nonoise,

     I don't mind you eating all that cheese, either.  It's all that cutting of it you're constantly doing that bothers me.

Tim
Audiophiles oft feel a little bit sensitive about performance. It’s completely natural, everybody does it. The more you worry about it sometimes the worse it gets. 🥵
My larger point with this post (other than my friend’s opinion) is how our perception of sound can be influenced by outside factors.
 I’m sure many a system has been modified by a bug in the head of a perceived flaw that does not necessarily exist.  In other words, extraneous factors can go into the appreciation of an audio system.  
Sound is such an amorphous thing.  One day we can love our system, the next day, hate it.
 I just believe that’s one of the bugaboos of being an audiophile for a lot of people.
If that’s not you, more power to you.
nonoise:"Not that I needed a reason to eat cheese, now I have an excuse. Thanks for the link."

Hello nonoise,

    I don't mind you eating all that cheese, either. It's all that cutting of it you're constantly doing that bothers me.

Tim
Think how bad it would be if I had 4 stomachs and a cud to chew.

All the best,
Nonoise



rvpiano OP
My larger point with this post (other than my friend’s opinion) is how our perception of sound can be influenced by outside factors.

>>>>Danger! Danger! Memory buffer register limit exceeded!!
Purely from a psychological standpoint, it is much easier to create doubt than affirm correctness. 


My system is for my enjoyment... it’s job is to emotionally engage ME. With this this in mind, I NEVER ask guests if they want to listen or what they think. 


If they request a listen... fine... I will “play requests if possible”... but I still don’t ask for an opinion. 


And, this has never been an issue... I’m guessing less than 1% of guests care enough about audio to even ask... which you might expect would be the polite thing to do.... show interest in your host???
I just make an experiment that modify the imaging of my speakers from the place I listen to them, with a little copper bell and 2 pieces of stones(shungite+herkimer diamond) suspended from the center ceiling of my audio room; if I ask for someone opinions I invite sarcasm and scepticism... My experience and listening are guenine for me, for others they are at best placebo and illusory...
IMO I find that most people cannot tell what sounds good until one points out what the system is actually sounding like.  I also find that most people have not actually heard enough to understand what makes a system sound the way it does and how to change it for the better.

I was at recently at a friends home and we swapped in another piece of equipment.  The other people there right away said I like that better.  The person whose system it was said well I don't think that way and pointed out why he felt his piece sounded as good or better.

So I realized that his opinion is just that, his opinion.  I could have sat there and explained what and why but why bother.  Each of us likes what we like.  I don't need anyone to say anything different.  Go with what you prefer which could be a more warm musical system versus a more resolving system, etc.  It doe snot matter.  If you like what you are hearing and it makes you want to listen to music, then that is all that matters.

Happy Listening.
According to the research (e.g. Cox), most rectilinear rooms sound bad, however well they have been constructed. Like 2/3. Almost all of the remaining third are merely OK. Only a tiny proportion, on the order of 1%, are good.

Let alone the irregular rooms. Let alone the flexing drywall sounding like a bad out-of-phase woofer. Enter the room tuning industry.

Voice is glorious on my ESL system, in my room. Everything else, not so much. Wonder what it will be like in my new, purpose built two channel room?
After 35+ years in Audio , and having owned a Audio store to get a near ideal system  today you would need to spend 6 figures to truly be as good or better then live from 20 hz- to 20khz, and even then to an extent you are still in part
at the mercy of the recording. That being said I learned Long ago ,
justbuy rock solid engineered equipment ,preferable lightly used then upgrade the parts quality with premium parts , including the Loudspeaker crossover
and you can have Very solid performance for a fraction of what  it would cost 
to buy new and far better sounding then the Stock new piece of equipment 
unless spending Big money !! It is your perception  that counts, Period !!
Let’s briefly explore what the OP is referring to in his statement that his “larger point is how our perception of the sound is influenced by external factors.” Which I assume he means non-audio system related factors. That’s why I think the statement is so interesting, and even revolutionary. But, as I intimated people just don’t want to hear about it. They really don’t. They’ve got enough problems with room acoustics, cables, fuses, burn in, rf, vibration and things they can wrap their hands and heads around without worrying about things that go bump in the night. They don’t wish to get away from anything not in the audio path. Just give them some good old “rock solid engineering” and they’ll be happy. 🤗
I don’t know if this is a question of perception or weak-mindedness.

In general, we trust in our own ability to discern good sound. Much is personal taste, of course, but with so much time and money invested in this hobby of ours I think many of us hope for validation when others hear our systems. When a fellow audiophile/music lover dislikes your system, especially after a major upgrade, it’s bound to make you question yourself, your choices, your taste, at least a tiny bit. Seems like a very human reaction and not weak-mindedness at all.
I think Geoffkait is spot on about this thread... I go myself to the extreme with a fact I experiment with and that is not in the "audio path" : a tiny cooper bell suspended by the center of my ceiling audio room with 2 stones that change my perception of the imaging (shungite+ Herkimer diamond)...No sarcasm coming, only silence...
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I am referring to something much more mysterious than suspending a bell or crystals somewhere in the room or in the house somewhere or even tiny little bowl resonators. The reason I say that, gentle readers, is because it’s too easy to explain the suspended bell’s and crystal’s operation as simply affecting the sound waves in the room, which I consider to be part of the audio signal.

What I’m actually referring are completely independent from the audio signal - electronics, speakers, cables, digital cable, power cords, house wiring, room acoustics. So, I do not (rpt not) include acoustic resonators like bell and crystals in what I’m referring to. Or anything that affects vibration or RF. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, what’s left, right? 😬 At any rate, I suspect this is more in line 🔜 with what the OP was driving at when he wondered what *external factors* affect the sound we perceive/hear.

At this point, gentle readers, it might be a good time to fasten your seat belts. 🔛
I grew up playing in orchestras, so I was around the sounds of instruments for years - nearby and all around me.  Judging the sound of an audio system is easy for me:  How much does that sax sound like the real thing?  Is it sitting there off to the right 8 feet away, or is a facsimile spread all over the sound stage?  When all the instruments play together in a crescendo, can I still clearly identify each one and where it is?

This is much the same theory that spawned the magazine title "The Absolute Sound."  Forget the personalities involved at the mag.  It was the concept - that we should strive for our systems (and recordings) to recreate the live performance as best they can.

My suggestion is to get out and listen to live music as much as you can.  The more you do, the more confident (or disappointed) you'll be in your system.
As a former classical musician myself, I do know what real instruments and voices sound like. What I’m referring to are external factors that affect our perception of recorded music. No recording can equal the sound of real music.
And every recording is different, and is going to contain some differing form of distortion from the live event.  We can’t hope to build a system that is going to account for the vagaries of every different recording. So, we can accept the limitations of each recording or choose to concentrate on that distortion which annoys us.  We have to convince ourselves to accept some form of compromise or drive ourselves crazy.
nonoise:
"Think how bad it would be if I had 4 stomachs and a cud to chew."


Hello nonoise,

     Geoffkait's been telling everyone you have all those things, are a methane machine and you get milked once a day.  My sympathies, it must be udderly awful.

Tim
The external factor in the above example is the workings of our mind.
Yes, I know. Specifically, it’s the working of our subconscious mind. It’s how external factors affect the subconscious mind, which I would call internal, not external, in terms of how sound is perceived/heard. In other words, It’s something we can’t control. It’s how our hearing influenced by our local environment. But maybe you have something else in mind, so to speak.
Old rhyme: A centipede was happy – quite! Until a toad said, in fun, "Pray, which leg comes after which?" Which threw her mind in such a pitch, she laid bewildered in the ditch, considering how to run. Analysis Paralysis(long/exhaustive version): https://www.competitivedge.com/frog-and-centipede-story-paralysis-analysis
Good one! I’m familiar with that one. Have you heard the one about ignorance and bliss? 🤗

The fasten seat belts sign just came on.
It's called suggestibility.  The makers of adverts know all about it.  Just a question of planting the seed of doubt, or the seed of lust (for something bigger and better).  Different people may have different levels of resistance to it, but I don't think anyone's immune.
That’s silly! Nobody in the high end audio business buy this speaker employs such despicable and unprofessional tactics buy this speaker as psychological advertising buy this speaker or subliminal advertising to try to one up the competition.
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Yeah, that seems like something that would definitely work. 🤗 What could possibly go wrong with that idea. Geez, the person calling for the TT doesn’t even have to be at home. 😬
I agree with twoleftears. Suggestibility is insidious.
geoffkait,

That is what I have in mind.
That’s what I am gathering. That’s called superstitious. Problem solved! 🤗
External factors abound in audio life but as time passes, one must develop a thick enough skin to shrug it all off. 

Whenever my choices were challenged or disputed, my first reaction was disbelief. After hearing what others considered the correct sound, my reaction turned to relief. Relief that I was right all along.

Yes, I've heard better systems but they were over 10X the cost of my system. So, in the context of what I know and how it accounts with my wants and situation, I'm very content now and not subject to others criticisms. 

This reminds me of that old Devo song, Freedom of Choice and this passage:

In ancient rome there was a poem

About a dog who found two bones
He picked at one
He licked the other
He went in circles
He dropped dead

All the best,
Nonoise



Auto suggestion is an important factor in the perception process...if you make a move introducing some new factor in the room or the audio system, you enhance your normal perception process "per se"...Independently of the action, real or ficticious of the new device or factor introduced, perception is always enhanced in abnormal situation...Superstition is only the artificial re-enactment of this original scenario when something new is introduced that make an improvement for perception ….
Superstitious?........... Hardly!
False conception of causation. A misunderstanding of science or causality. Fear of the unknown. In other words, the very definition of superstitious. No offense to you personally. If I may be so bold I suggest you wear an aluminum foil hat whilst listening to music.
By that great philosopher Stevie Wonder, your definition holds.

Anyway, I like the paper hat I’m wearing