Stirring Up Trouble


Part I

Stirring up trouble. Not usually a hard thing to do on this site. But my last attempt fell flat, probably because it was tucked into the end of a post about interconnects. So I’m going to try again and do so more explicitly.

Audio is fun, in part, because of the “discussions” it gives rise to. Is Nap Eyes “inspired” by the Velvet Underground or is just stealing from them? (Lots of talk about transparency and imaging on this forum. I would argue that nothing does that better than the Velvets first record. From the first notes, I’m taken back to the Factory in the mid-60s. There’s Andy in the corner, I see everything through lava lamp lighting, and Edie and all her gorgeous acolytes are dancing are dancing on risers with those great haircuts, the white boots, and all of the great eye make-up. Only downside: if I found myself in that scene, I’m sure that I’d shoot heroin. Maybe not such a downside, after all.


This should also probably be parenthetical but the evidence is awfully strong that Dylan wrote “Rolling Stone” about Edie Sedgwick. Fact: She was an uptown girl, family had a lot of money, she went to the best school but she only got juiced in it. Fact: Warhol spurned in a terrible way. One minute she was glamour girl #1, the next she was out on the street. Her family had tired of her and weren’t interested in sending her to some spa/rehab for the 43rd time. Not yet fact but the evidence is awfully damning: Bob and Edie had a little thing, a short affair while Bob was married to Sarah. Listen to the song in that light and a few things click into place.


But back to audio. The battles that rage here are legion. I just found a new one when I considered getting sorbothane pads for my electronics. Not knowing the first thing about the subject, I was surprised that trench warfare was well underway and that feelings had hardened on both sides. Can you hear hi-res? Do Ethernet sound different? The 100 Years War over cables. Sure, it’s fun to argue about trivia, even very expensive trivia. But the language used and the grudges held don’t seem like fun.


At heart, all of the combatants in these battles share one assumption: An objective sound exists. Somewhere, at some time, a source is emitting sound waves. And because this sound is objective, we are all supposed to experience the sound in the same way. One either gets it or he doesn’t. Either the angels sing to you or they don’t. What, you’re showing me another chart that shows that what goes in to one end of the cable comes out at the other end in exactly the same way whether it’s lamp cord or Nordost. Been there, heard the story, seen the chart. But I trust my ears and my ears tell me that the sound is different.


And so we come to a stand-off. From these positions, there cannot be any worthwhile discussion, we can’t find a new way forward. Luckily for us all, science doesn’t work that way.


The first thing science would do is look at the assumption that underlies the whole issue: that objectively exists in the world of acoustics and Observer #1 (Tom) hears the same thing as Observer #2 (Bill).


The scientist, strangely wearing a shirt covered with vertical black and white stripes and a black baseball cap runs into the listening room or cafe or lab, blows a whistle and throws a yellow handkerchief at the two listeners. “Penalty! Unlawful assumption.” (The handkerchief contains a heavy rubber weight and strikes Bill in the eye. Bill is able to continue but the next day he learns that he has a torn cornea.) The scientist runs outside to an unknown destination, leaving a lot of dazed onlookers.


But with just those few words, much of what we understand about acoustics tumbles to the ground. Tom and Bill both got their hearing checked recently. They are the same age, about the same size, and neither has any history of hearing problems. They are standing right next to each other in front of a pair of Wilson Alexandria’s supported by electronics of the same excellence and the Nordost cables that were recently swapped in. But Tom and Bill don’t agree on what they are hearing. “Listen carefully,” says Tom, who has long argued that cables make a difference. “The difference is subtle. But don’t you hear a little more definition in the bass? A sense of more air, more space in the midrange?” Bill, always a cable skeptic, looks at Tom like he’s from Mars. “You’re crazy,” he says.


So who’s right? Perhaps more importantly, what would the current state of acoustic science and brain science say is right?


Happily, they both are. The explanation has been a part of both fields for decades. Two observers simply do not experience sound in the same way. (Pretty much everything I’m going to say from this point on can be found in the references below. But those aren’t particularly special articles. It’s more that they came up high on the Google list. Please, bring more literature into the debate.


We can make music and be pretty confident in what we’re doing. We can make a machine that produces a steady 200 Hertz note. Might not sell too well but doing that is well within the range of our technology. Beethoven’s Fifth has many more variables but we know how to reproduce it.


The same is not true at the other end of the equation. We can be almost certain that Tom and Bill will not hear the same thing as each other. Possibly the single note but almost certainly not the symphony. Those sounds are not objective. Different observers will heat those sounds differently. It’s possible that their will be a different observation made by every individual on earth.


As I make my attempt at an explanation, here’s where you need someone smarter than me. Here’s where I urge you to read the cited material.


We all hear different things because we are all so different in so many ways. The shape of our ears are different from each other, as are the internal mechanism of hearing: aural canal, ear drum, cochlea, all that other stuff you learned about in sixth grade bio. Some sound reaches us as vibrations through our skulls, and all of our skulls are thicker or thinner at different parts of our head. Oy gevalt, and the brain hasn’t even gotten involved yet.


As with most functions of the brain, an auditory signal is processed in many different parts of our brain. There is no “hearing center” that lights up when the 1,375,492 second of the ninth symphony is played. A new constellation of lights—a very short lived one—is created with each sound.


Sounds like a lotta work? The brain agrees. So it tries to make its job easier. One thing it does is try to spot patterns. Once it has kind of a code a new constellation isn’t created with each sound. Even more importantly, this code lets the brain make predictions. Instead of inventing the wheel with every note, the code takes care of much of what has already happened and is likely to happen plus it can predict what new touches will be added. That means that if the brain has its way, we will, to quote the title to one of the cited works, “We Hear What We Expect To Hear.”


This tendency is pushed aside when a major new sound enters the scene. We may expect to hear the left turn signal make its usual clicking noise if we indicate a turn but if the result is a blaring noise and tires squealing, the brain will ignore it’s preference for patterns. The difference between speaker cables, if any, is many multiples less loud and dramatic. If Bill is a cable skeptic who expects all the cables to sound the same, that’s what he gets. The same way that Tom, who is expecting not just different but better, gets just what he’s expecting. Neither is right, neither is wrong. Both are human.


The bottom line is that something that we would call sound or music doesn’t exist until a sound wave travels through out physically different aural systems, our neurons with their biases and ways of working, rides neurotransmitters across the synapses. Only when this is done does the brain produce something that we can recognize as music. Our brains are very good at appreciating music and making sure that, at any given moment, our collection of eardrums, skull vibrations, neurons, and chemicals produce a sound that we perceive as awful close to the note that was played and intended by the musicians to sound a certain way. But there’s just so much stuff, so many steps, that inevitably each of us puts our own special stamp on it. That’s how Tom and Bill can both be right. They expected to hear something different and, voila, so they did.


https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/01/210108120110.htm

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroscience_of_music

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5819010/

https://www.cognifit.com/science/cognitive-skills/auditory-perception

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/perception-auditory/

paul6001
One cannot measure the velocity and the position of a particle at the same time! Each observer does hear something "different"! We should just let it go at that! However ...
... the debate between the Objectivists and the Subjectivists will never end! 
And I thought I could go on and on and on.. MERCY.

I quit reading when it took three rolls of the mouse...

Reminds me of my old boss, WAY to long winded.

Part 1 my behind. That was a whole chapter for sure.

Running for some type of office, no doubt... :-)
Very colorful Paul. The problem is two people occupying different positions in space do not hear exactly the same sound. They hear the same event. In an outdoor venue it might be very close. Then you have variations in perception. The frequency response of our ears varies to some degree as just one example. People like me with big ugly ears hear better:-) Then there are the psychological aspects you allude to. 
All of this is why I really do not care what someone else hears and why buying equipment based on what others hear is folly. What seems to make sense is functionally ridiculous like six 9s copper is better than two 9s or even no 9s. Cables can change sound by acting as a filter id they are poorly designed for the purpose. Audiophiles tend to shun science from fear it might ruin their experience when in reality it would save them a lot of money particularly when it comes to cables. How would you like to spend $10K on speaker wires to find out that a $10.00 set would have done just fine.

oldhvymec, he can't hold a candle to mahgister or Rauliruegas. 
Allow me to summarize this:


Trust Your Ears.
So who’s right? Perhaps more importantly, what would the current state of acoustic science and brain science say is right?
Happily, they both are. The explanation has been a part of both fields for decades. Two observers simply do not experience sound in the same way.

It’s good to knock objectivists off their high horse, but I think this kind of objectivist is a straw-man argument.

All of the variation between listeners -- physiological, psychological, situational, positional, etc. -- is true. It’s true that two people don’t hear *exactly* the same thing. But if that is your point, I don’t think anyone can seriously maintain that it’s what they meant.

We are social creatures created in a shared social environment. We share a lot. If you say "salty" I know what you mean. If ten people are at a restaurant, and a pizza comes and it clearly has a lot of salt in the sauce, one person can say, "This is too salty" and get the other nine to nod their heads. Why? Because they possess a *similar enough* physiology and -- this is key -- a similar enough acculturated sense of how salty something should taste. Add in someone raised in another food culture -- or someone with a deficient taste apparatus -- and that agreement dissipates.

Despite its prolixity, I really enjoyed your post and the reference to the articles; it helps explain why some of the crudest and most bitter debates on fora are based on bad science or miscommunication. But many debates are not so malformed; they take for granted something which is true -- that we are similar enough to debate what we hear and how to interpret it. That forms the fertile heart of many discussions and it’s why I stick around.
The bottom line is that something that we would call sound or music doesn’t exist until a sound wave travels through out physically different aural systems, our neurons with their biases and ways of working, rides neurotransmitters across the synapses.

You are so close to the truth. Alan Watts nailed it 50 years ago- https://youtu.be/5FELdBsixGg?t=110
paul6001

Only downside: if I found myself in that scene, I’m sure that I’d shoot heroin. Maybe not such a downside, after all.
Heroin is a scourge and you have a problem. I hope you get help.
When i have a week i will read this.
Heroin is not a scourge if your thing is cheating death (or not) to devote your existence to chasing the dragon. 
Alcohol and cigarettes?  
Scourge. 
Even if they don't kill you, you're just wasting health, immunity and brain cells.
Yes! Great link, MC.
Thanks. Watts is genius level zen master.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2-Vuz9ms68
fuzztone"Heroin is not a scourge"

Has the US fixed it's opioid epidemic yet last time I checked people were dying from fentanyl by the thousands in you're country.
Of course, heroin is a scourge and while it’s theoretically possible to just dabble, it’s not a smart thing to do. 

But the upside can’t be ignored. Watch Trainspotting, which portrays the scourgey part of the scourge as painfully as any movie I know. But the main character says, “Why do you think we devote our lives to it? We’re not idiots. Imagine the best orgasm you’ve ever had, multiply by 10,000, and you still don’t have any idea.” 

Many others have said the same thing. As I type these words, I can hear Lou Reed—a key figure at The Factory, of course—singing, “And when I put a spike into my vein/And the world starts rushing in my brain/And . . . “


Apologies if the lyrics are off a bit off. I’m quoting from memory. 

So we can stay on the safe side of the fence, we try to stop anyone who looks like they’re thinking about crossing, and we can try to pull those who have crossed back into safety. But it takes a serious lack of imagination not to wonder what it’s like over there.
You can't have an experience of nothing. Nature abhors a vacuum.
https://youtu.be/mMRrCYPxD0I?t=98
Even when you're nothing, the worms will turn you into something.
@middlemass

You go it. To thine own ears be true.
I hear you.... we are all trying to act as if audio can be approached by an objective fashion. Yet, music and sound illicit very strong emotions, making the whole experience extremely subjective. Thus, when we see reports that are contrary to our experiences the mask of pretend / forced objectivity shatters and loose stool hits the fan....
My fledgling audiophile friend just complained about this - he was looking for advice online, and got two very different advice from two very experienced audiophiles. Both used sound logic, and showed vast experience, yet they could not agree and ended up trowing foul language at each other. My friend totally freaked out, WTF is going on in the audiophile world, how come seemingly intelligent people degrade themselves to such crass behavior?! It really degrades the credibility and maturity of every party involved in the mud-slinging. When someone is on a crusade, using harsh words, then logic has already failed. These heated arguments all can be distilled down to the following script:
A:"I ate an apple and it was sour."
B: "I ate an apple and it was sweet."
A: "Can't be, xx3$#%$#%$, everyone know apples are sour, here's the measurement to prove it, you liar!"
B: "Shove your weak science where it  %^&&$^%$!!!!!!"
Reminds me of Star Trek, when captain Archer lectures the Vulcan ambassador:
"So when your logic fails, then you raise your voice?" 

The other choice is to remain civil, and learn from each other. Something had to be happening if the other party feels so strongly! There's always a reason why we have different experiences, and I have learned a LOT in my audio journey by analyzing conflicting experiences, finding the unaccounted variables, instead of dissing reports by reflex....


The thing that makes it hard is science and logic does apply, but the sound qualities we want have such complex characteristics it is hard to know which science and logic apply to which aspects. Everyone wants a story especially when they have something to sell. At first they sound real good. Guys who have been around a while will remember some of the stories. Oxygen free, five nine's, copper, no wait silver! No wait, silver clad copper! No wait copper, tungsten, silver! Teflon dielectric, air dielectric, cotton, on and on. Ribbons, you get the idea. Every single one seems to make sense- until time goes on and it is simply astounding how many of these marvelous theories turned out bunk. If you don't know this hang around, you will. 

I want some of what you're smoking.
Odin cables are much less destructive than heroin, & a bargain in comparison.   
I really wanted to help, but I fell asleep reading this and I was on my third cocktail. If anybody would like to summarize what he said in a couple paragraphs, I'm up for round 2.
What was this all about, I finished even before oldhvymec.
If MC says that I’m close to speaking the truth as expounded by a genius level zen master, is that a good thing?

On first cut, this Watts guy is interesting. Will have to do a little more reading before I can say anything intelligent. But I confess that his immediate relevance to this discussion escapes me. A little help, anyone?

I saw the danger but I was not trying to open a subjective/objective wormhole. Foucault and Derrida have done quite enough damage there. I was merely trying to explain how/where a sound is created, nothing more.

God knows that post is too long and you have my most sincere apologies. About halfway through, I could see that I was getting in too deep. But I made the questionable choice of pushing through instead of letting the post idie the death that may have been the more honorable way out.
Measurements are nearly meaningless to me, I trust my ears. Not to tell me what is right or wrong, but whether a perceived difference is an improvement or a detriment. But most importantly I trust my ears to tell me what I like and if I do, I don't care what it measures or whether that opinion is in harmony with anyone else's, not even some professional reviewer's. My ears tell me I have assembled a very good audio system that lets me enjoy my music. I've never heard a measurement that made me want to dance.
people occupying different positions in space do not hear exactly the same sound.
Truth with my Quad ESL57s. 
But the upside can’t be ignored. Watch Trainspotting, which portrays the scourgey part of the scourge as painfully as any movie I know. But the main character says, “Why do you think we devote our lives to it? We’re not idiots. Imagine the best orgasm you’ve ever had, multiply by 10,000, and you still don’t have any idea.”

That would be OK if the addicts didn’t destroy the lives of their families and anyone else close to them. If they didn’t rob and steal and mug and cheat innocent people whom they don’t even know. If young children didn’t get caught in their crossfire and killed. If the cartels who supply the heroin weren’t violent predators who kill anyone who gets in their way and destroy the societies they live in. If it weren’t for those nagging little realities, then sure, shoot up all you want.
I am not sure how this thread turned into this conversation, but, no matter how romanticized, heroin is not good for you.

Movie quotes are movie quotes.
..talk about 'topic drift'....perception of sound, Watts, smack....

I'm just lurking to see when the book gets face down, candles lit, patterns on the floor as the segway....

"Monday, Monday.....can't touch that day..."
Man, that's a lot of words. Words and words and words...followed up by yet more words from others. Presumably it all had some purpose. Going to bed now. Thanks.
I love this thread. Thanks OP. The Dylan detour and drug references made my hour. 
djones...*LOL*...talk about 'stirring up trouble' in this crowd....;)

Akin to "You are what you expect to be, until someone intimates you're not..."

*grrr* "What'ya mean by That?!"

*shields up*😬😜
In pursuing any dragon, one ought to expect a certain amount of burns.

Jimho, the same seems to apply to audio equipment and the personal pursuit of perfection.  We go with this, or that, until we experience what we expect it to be.

The guy next to you thinks you're insane....or just wrong. *L*
It's amazing to me that we concur as much as we do....*shrug*

People Are your best entertainment, or a relentless bane on existence.
I know I am....*L*
But I confess that his immediate relevance to this discussion escapes me. A little help, anyone?

You said:
 sound or music doesn’t exist until a sound wave travels through out physically different aural systems, our neurons with their biases and ways of working, rides neurotransmitters across the synapses.

Watts said:
"It's your ear drum that evokes noise out of the air."

Do you seriously not realize these are the exact same thing? Only difference (besides Watts being infinitely more lyrical) you are limited to looking at just the one small facet, sound. Watts is saying not only sound, we bring the whole universe into being.

Listen again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FELdBsixGg&t=110s
Very interesting coincidence as just tonight my wife and I had another couple over for some adult beverages outside by a nice warm fire. The topic of heroin use and recent related crime came up. I made the statement that I’d like to try heroin once to see what the fuss was over. I just find it hard to conceive of any substance making you feel so good that you willingly risk your life every time you use it as there’s no “standardized” dose or quality, and overdose deaths are common. Which is why I won’t try it. In my past I was a cop for 25 years and had the opportunity to speak with a heroin addict at length once. At a point in the conversation I made the statement that I once got a morphine injection hours after I had elbow surgery, and while it felt great, I just didn’t get the allure, there was no, “ok, now I get it,” moment. He said there’s no comparison between the two. So who knows, the word of a longtime addict, though gainfully employed, is worth what? Especially after being narcaned (sp?) back to life by the FD an hour previous to our conversation.  Still makes ya wonder...
I enjoy my system and the music I play on it. Sorry some of you are stressed out about audio, sad.

I also enjoy reading this crap while drinking my morning coffee, fun stuff.

Keep it coming.
Paul, its ok. Not all of us have ADHD. 

Fortunately, the vast majority of us are not audiophiles. Sharing any half decent system is easy. A really good system? I doubt you will have any detractors.
Couldn't find a publisher?
mijostyn
Paul, its ok. Not all of us have ADHD.
That's an odd comment about a post endorsing heroin use from a user who claims to be a medical doctor.

@tomcy6 nailed it.
tomcy6
That would be OK if the addicts didn’t destroy the lives of their families and anyone else close to them. If they didn’t rob and steal and mug and cheat innocent people whom they don’t even know. If young children didn’t get caught in their crossfire and killed. If the cartels who supply the heroin weren’t violent predators who kill anyone who gets in their way and destroy the societies they live in. If it weren’t for those nagging little realities, then sure, shoot up all you want.
a good example on how our perceptions may differ:
Synesthesia or synaesthesia is a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesthesia
What is this about? Does it involve cables? Damn it. 
Awesome discussion all. 
Yes, I read it all and was entertained as well as provoked to pull out my Watts collection and revisit. 
I will listen on my 40-something year old speakers, cables and Monster interconnects. 
What is this about? Does it involve cables?

it involves poorly understood aspects of human perception - vision, hearing, smell, and touch. This may well be somehow tied to the cables direction perception. Why not? The percentage of those who hear the direction of the cables is approximately equal to the percentage of synesthetics.
jwillox, do you have the one where he talks about the two great Myths? The one that starts out, "It's rather difficult to say what the title for this talk should be. I'm going to talk about what there is." The Ceramic and the Fully Automatic. Fabulous, thought-provoking talk. 
WOW really cool.  Learned something new.  Reminds me somewhat of an upscale Harvard version of Jean Shepards narration of Ralphie  in A Christmas Story. 
Alan Watts will reset your clock, re-orient your thinking, and blow your mind with..... the truth.  https://youtu.be/PfIYGaslVnA?t=87
Our two eyes do not perceive color in the same way. Professional wine and tea tasters disagree. Let's be happy that each of us can put together a system that satisfies us as individuals. My wife doesn't think Chocolate Mint Chip is the best ice cream. What is wrong with that woman?
@paul6001  First of all I commend you for your writing skills. The manner in which you deviate from the original point yet keep it relevant is refreshing. As the husband of a PhD in neurophysiology I can also tell you that you are correct that your sample listeners would perceive sound differently. We are all individuals and we develop pathway patterns in our brains based on our life experiences. One of the things my wife does is to help people change those patterns to improve cognitive function. One example would be epilepsy but rewiring our brains can be used for a multitude of purposes. It can even be used for peak performance such as improving your golf swing or hitting a baseball. It should come as no surprise that we all hear differently, which is why for some, lamp cord works! That's why I don't get too worked up over cables. I have decent quality cables in my system and I believe it sounds pretty darned good. Others may argue. What it boils down to is, if it sounds good to you then who is anyone else to tell you otherwise. Enjoy the music!