The worst sentence in audio writing


. Literally, hearing new details and delicacy in music I’ve heard a thousand times before.

I read this sentence from another thread but didn’t want to pollute it with this thought or to harp on my own opinion about the gear being discussed.

What I did want to do was point out that this sentence is one of the worst, most fraudulent sentences in all of audio, and we have all read it from a dozen different reviewers.  Anytime I read this I shudder. It’s not that I don’t believe the reviewer who writes this, it’s that I do. To understand why I hate this sentence you have to know my own personal values in audio.

  • Smooth frequency response
  • A laid back presentation

In order to make gear which has details never before heard the gear must exaggerate some sounds to the detriment of others. There’s no such thing as a neutral piece of gear that also makes you hear things yo have never heard before.

It’s a type of con, in that sure, you get new details, but they never talk about what you are giving up. The beauty of this con is that there’s all sorts of frequency response tricks and distortion gimmicks which will make you feel this way, each different, each not neutral. Each time we experience this "never before heard details" is like a new hair cut. It isn’t better, it’s different and that is exciting.

erik_squires

I personally have used, but nonetheless hate, is the style of writing that uses:

"Enter the x......"

It's a nit with me and makes me gag a little.

 

To your comment Erik, I always wonder how poor someone's system is to now be hearing deeper into the music with the system change being made. I think we have all been there and then it makes you wonder how you convinced yourself the sound was very good beforehand.  ugh

You may be correct in some cases, but if you do something that lowers the noise floor this is entirely possible without having your system "exaggerate some sounds to the detriment of others."

In order to make gear which has details never before heard the gear must exaggerate some sounds to the detriment of others.

Not always. Listen to a big pair of Magnepans. Each move up the model line results in more and more detail being revealed. No exaggeration or coloration, just the opposite. The loudspeakers are simply increasing in detail as the loudspeaker models improve. True of most higher quality hi-fi items.   

Not always. Listen to a big pair of Magnepans

Here's a good example, line or planar sources!

Not true. I'm surprised you don't understand that you absolutely can pull out more detail from the medium by improving the process. 

Not true. I'm surprised you don't understand that you absolutely can pull out more detail from the medium by improving the process. 

It depends, but every single time I've read this from a reviewer they equate "different" with "better."

It can happen in some cases.  No worse than many other things people say. 

Just not true. I wish it were though. It would invalidate about 99.7% of Mikey Fremer's audio writing. As an aside, does anyone want to participate in a one year over and under and to when Mikey will finally shut up about his new electrical scheme? To be sure, there are audio writers who have equally valid perspectives that align with your own, even going to the extreme that it is how a system makes you feel that is most important since nothing in home audio reproduction is real anyway. 

As just one easy example, all audio enthusiasts who prefer low powered SET amplifiers with very efficient transducers live within the latter domain. The DCS stack/CH Precision/Nordost Odin/Wilson Audio crowd are the present torch bearers of the "more detail is better" netherworld. 

By this “logic” it could  be said that there has been no significant improvement in what audio gear is capable of since Victrola days.  

**** In order to make gear which has details never before heard the gear must exaggerate some sounds to the detriment of others. ****

Could not disagree more.  To reveal new details does not have to mean exaggerating those details; as has been pointed out lowering the noise floor is one way to do it and it certainly doesn’t have to be to the detriment of other details.  

Perhaps the reason that you feel the way you do is your preference for a “laid back sound”.  The sound of music and the way that it is recorded is not always laid back; and often far from it.  I agree with you that there are no neutral components and the closer they get to true neutrality the more they will reveal both the laid back sounds and the abrasive in your face sounds.  A component or system that makes everything sound laid back is the antithesis of neutral.

 

 

Well, there is that. If I play the same track on the other tonearm/cartridge on my table, I could easily claim the same effect. 

It depends, but every single time I've read this from a reviewer they equate "different" with "better."

If its true one must be giving up something for gains in resolution I don't understand the entire pursuit of  higher sound reproduction. I've not heard what I'm giving up!

It depends, but every single time I've read this from a reviewer they equate "different" with "better."

If you're an actual reviewer different is in fact better because at least it give you something to write about! 😋

This is not unusual in audio.  It often happens when the noise floor is reduced.  The micro dynamics and micro detail - reverb tails, high frequency detail instead of white noise, differences in timbre, subtle mouth and throat noises... you know: breathiness - these all add up to "hearing things I've never heard before!"  It is that other phrase often hated: "There was just more there, there."  😁

I like it when a reviewer commits themselves to what they heard. If I agree, then I'm happy to find agreement, and if I disagree I've learned something, if only the limitations of the reviewer...:) What I don't like is pandering and a lack of clearly stated opinions...neither is helpful.

I remember a spoof of a Hirsch-Houck review in an ancient, paperback-sized TAS -- "Of all the amplifiers we've reviewed, this has certainly been one of them."

It is possible, but the reviewer just needs to honestly articulate what specific nuance he or she was able to hear / discern and document what improvements he has made to result in that change, instead of writing a general statement like that. I think it could help the audiophiles grow further into more refined system.

It seems to me that Erik may have reached the limit of one or more of the following:  patience, funding, live music listening experience, the weak link of his particular system. 
 

There are so many diverse aspects of music & musical reproduction that just about everything can make a difference in what you hear from a system & the potential”details”.Could be the low bass or high frequency extension, a beautiful open midrange, dynamics from soft to loud & back again w/ speed & precision, imaging in all directions etc. With some of today’s excellent & relatively inexpensive equipment, you can put together a good sounding system for $5000. If it’s compared to maybe a $50000 we’ll put together one, it’s probably not too close in most if not all of the aspects mentioned. Nothing need be sacrificed to achieve this other than time, $, patience & some skill.

Unfortunately we read those writers that have been mentioned and look their way for suggestions as what to buy! We never think of the “science or engineering “ behind the writers   , if it even exists. I would be shocked if anyone of the writers understand the dB scale, etc etc. I’m am sure none have any working knowledge of  the workings of the inner ear!!!!

their retort is “I have experience “ At what?

Typing!

I find the articles laced with “humor” and what at one time was termed vulgarity , so as to divert the reader from the lack of scientific evidence !

psychoacoustics is complex and should not be handed over to those that have sustained themselves writing about what they have little understanding!

 

 

 

 

Whenever people resort to personal attacks I know I've just run over a sacred cow.  Feelings just got hurt.  I'm sorry, I don't really mean for that, but I do think that many times we are subject to something akin to an ascending scale in music.  We hear it over and over again so we think we've reached some place a thousand octaves higher than where we started.

Yes, it is possible to make things more revealing, but no, most of the times when I read a reviewer using a similar phrase what they mean is that this piece of gear, usually speakers, have noticeable peaks and valleys.  And so the cycle of reviews continues.  Every piece of gear reviewed is better than the last, but only within it's price bracket.

Often, but not always, to my ears and experience gear is different, and rarely better and when you find truly better buy it and don't let go.

@erik_squires, I think you are conflating two separate arguments - (A) whether it is possible to increase the resolution of music reproduction in a sonically neutral fashion? The answer to that is absolutely:- by lowering the noise floor, as has been said, by lowering intermodulation distortion, by increasing dynamic range, by improving channel separation etc; and (B)

Do audio reviewers exaggerate the scale of differences they perceive? In response to that question yes, I think some frequently do, especially in regard to high end audio where the differences can be meaningful but often of quite a small magnitude.

@yoyoyaya 

 

I feel I'm conflating it because reviewers conflate it. We live in a world of S/N of 100 dB or more. 
 

As I've agreed above, yes there are instances where reducing noise or improving how the speaker works with a room can actually yield improved detail at your listening location, but usually when I read that sentence it is nothing so benign.

...I think the phrase mentioned is a 'fall back' taught in Reviewers' Skool:

"If all else is 'meh', use Stock Comment #2C in your handbook."

After all the equipment of various types over X years, things have just Got To start to 'blur' into each other....

Editor needs 1~1.5K words about Item #483 by midnight, or they run with the stock "RIP, Fred 'retired' infill piece' to CYA the mag....

"This was an amazing amp....(...amazing that I was able to stay awake during listening..) that, despite it's shortcomings...(...willingness to put your privates into The Vice...but gives' one 'the out'....)...exhibits a velvety black background." 

(...because I had to be woke up after the first hour by the cleaning staff....).

Reading between the lines is so much more....'entertaining'.  Write Nice, or the client will pull their ad contract, and mgmt. will jump up yer tush and begin to speak for you...esp. with the aforementioned 'RIP/Ret.' piece....

That, and mags are assembled months ahead of the cover date....so the Big Fear is to review well an item that the competition mag just called "eh, meh'....

Mho, the reviewers have to be bending elbows at the same watering hole...if only to keep from stomping on each others' printed insteps'

*taptaptappitytap....*    hmmm...."Cortana, have I used the previous phrase before?"  

>Yes, you've used the exact wording 251 times. 463 variations, 1,974 referrals to that phrase or it's varia<

"...hmm, thanks..."  *damn...*...

If you can't say something nice, say nothing.
Except where print, and the distribution of, comes into play.

Then Nothing

Is Death.

The reviews are more often than not similar to a horoscope, where we can read into them what we want.

Thanks for the topic, erik_squires...

20+ years of refining the sound quality in my dedicated, difficult (almost cube) small listening studio, proceeded by 30+ years of hi-fi experience, has been a journey, indeed.  My other posts touch upon facets of the process, if you have interest.  Others have mentioned reduced noise floor and improved refinement of resolution abilities in modern playback, be it analog or digital.  Yes and yes.

Across the board, gear has improved despite our nostalgia. Highly skilled application of Digital Sound Processing is improving exponentially, both in design and application by skilled Sound Technicians.  My Tech in San Jose studies and experiments with these improvements on a daily basis.  Mike currently has me set-up with digital playback of 24bit/48Hz down from 24/96.  Things have never sounded better in playing back my lossless rips or streaming. 

I have attempted to communicate some of my experiences with both Stereophile and The Absolute Sound, receiving zero response.  Let's keep in mind, the audio journals and professional reviewers must be supported by the manufacturing and sales industry to stay in business.  Fair enough.  If enthusiasts discover DSP improvements are indeed possible no matter how good their systems (including vinyl playback) in addressing loudspeaker/room behaviors, sales are threatened.  Robert E. Greene of TAS has reported positively in some of his reviewing around DSP, keeping within the context of the gear under review, especially self-powered loudspeakers, another bold, futuristic audio topic. 

fsonicsmith above stated weariness around Stereophile's Mike Fremer recent gains by going to great lengths improving his source for electricity.  A resounding YES from me from my experiences.  Removing non-musical noise artifacts allow frequencies previously masked by noise to be heard, often resulting in "...new details and delicacy (heard) in (the) music..."  Precision DSP corrections can do the same in correcting how loudspeakers interact with a room, congesting frequencies, backed-up by frequency sweep measurements.  I recommend using room treatments to get you as far as possible BEFORE fine tuning with DSP. 

So, there's my 2 cents.  My goals are in attempting to remain fluid around new technology and advances in our beloved hobby, ever moving towards the impossible:  our artists replicating that moment in time in, our homes. 

More Peace; Stay Positive & Test Negative                 Pin

@erik_squires  Literally, hearing new details and delicacy in music I’ve heard a thousand times before.

I get your point. I feel the same way about someone who continually posts after each new tweak, power cable or what ever, how much incredibly better, clearer and more detailed - on a whole new level, their system sounds, after previously posting the same thing about the last grand tweak and the one before that and the one before that. Ya gotta wonder how many levels of better and the best can one achieve in the same system without that system sounding really bad to begin with..........Jim

Jim (jhills)...you and erik_squires illustrate important points, giving this topic added merit.  We are indeed the sum of OUR experiences and knowledge which motivated me to post from a "hands-on," experienced position.  Setting up my familiar system in my untamed studio 20 years ago, I thought my sound was just okay from what I knew, Back Then.  Having great passion despite a small audio budget, I began to study, later joining a very active "Audio Asylum" chatroom, befriending professional audio & DIYers along the way, remaining close to several.  These connections, as budget and knowledge grew, allowed me to steadily improve my system over two decades, incrementally. 

Jim questions how one individual can continue to make claims of gross improvements, time and time again, which would imply that the original sound must have been horrid.  I guess I'm that guy.  I thought my system sounded pretty good before bringing it into a 10'x10'x7 1/2' room, changing everything!  Elements of my journey can be found in my posts, but rest assured there were many "aha" moments in this tiny, dedicated studio that warranted exclamations.  Claims that would justifiably concern Jim and Erik.  The vast range of layers of improvement possible in audio over time is enormous, really.  These improvements have kept journals and new products alive 7 decades.  They certainly are what keep my juices flowing and wanting more.

Today, laser optical cartridges show great promise, for example.  Loudspeaker design, materials and amplification; room tuning progress to include speaker/room matching, (vital); solutions to noise created by active electronics; continuing digital to analog progress and DSP.  These are all being explored and improved upon in real time.   And, yes, reviewers will get excited and hear things anew, playing their old favorites.  Let it Be.

Thanks again Guys, for the opportunity.  More Peace, Pin

@pinthrift 

I get your post and appreciate where you are coming from.

Myself and quite a few others on the forum have been, to one extent or another, involved in and have had a love for audio and good music for many years and like you, have enjoyed an evolution over the years that has enhanced our enjoyment of this fine hobby or relaxing or involving get away, as it might be.

Over the years (starting back in the late 70s early 80s) I progressed in equipment (some a step up, some not) experimented with tweaks (some made a noticeable  improvement, some not) and room treatments. Since I have hundreds of choice vinyl LPs and many hundreds of CDs, and I'm still healthy enough to get up and turn over a LP or change a disc - I'm not to excited about a costly move to streaming, but that's a personal, not particularly a sonic preference.

Erik's take, I believe, is that, even if these upgrades, tweaks, etc. do add all that extra detail and resolution, that doesn't necessarily mean it will be more musical.

My point was in line with Erik in that I don't believe that every supposed leap up in detail and resolution necessarily means better sound. More specifically my point is that when one brags about their incredible best of the best system and then later that just replaced stock fuses, power cables, what ever, with XXX and brought my incredible system to a whole new level and a few months later say - just replaced my xxx fuse with xxyx fuse and couldn't believe - just brought my best of the best of the best system to a whole new level of the best and it goes on. At some point I stop believing the hype.......Jim 

 

It's probably the No1 cliche in audio journalism.

I've seen it written far too many times.

Sometimes the writer will actually acknowledge it's a cliche beforehand but still go ahead.

And yet very few of them will actually provide any meaningful details of what they're hearing for this very first time.

 

It's also telling that the reverse statement is hardly ever used.

How often do we read someone say that the product being reviewed is hiding/obscuring familiar details?

 

Like Erik, I usually suspect frequency response anomalies when I start hearing unfamiliar details in familiar songs.

IT'S ABOUT TIME!!!

Time, phase, & transient response..... NOT frequency response.  Everybody seems to go gaga over frequency response and how FLAT it has to be.  But what really obscures details in music is transient anomalies and little resonances that maybe don't contribute much to the frequency response, but DO obscure details.  Imagine for a minute that you have two speakers that measure absolutely flat, but one has better phase and time alignment between the drivers... don't you think you'll hear MORE detail from the better aligned one, even though no special frequencies are being "enhanced" or boosted.  IMO, frequency response is only half the story.  Maybe it's even less than half the story. There's so many other aspects of audio to worry about!

Pinthrift nails it so well and I would like to add.

Ouer brain has a tremendous way to help us understanding and enjoy even pretty bad sound. If I look back at relativ the poor system i had during my youth, i still could enjoy the music and had a lot of lisining pleasure. The lisining sessions were not so long besause of becoming lisining tired. The soundstage was small and had poor deept.

Today we can, if all aspekts in the chain are superb, expirience the rea thing. Or at least ouer brain can convince us its a real concert we are attending. Often it can even be as If as you cost the best seat ar the concert venue.

on the journey to this level, i have so many times to solve problems, i didnt know was there before i heard the diffrence and i am sure this will continue.

Its is so exciting to find these weak links and expirience a even closer and better understanding of the artistic intention. Maybee this emotionel awakening is a huge part of being a music/audiophile lover.

 

 

 

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As I mentioned on another thread here, our systems are only as good as our recordings. Tony Minasian of Tonian Labs, who is a genius at his craft, has instilled in me, again, that his " Drums And Bells ", might be the best " recording " that I own, in realism " of the real thing " ( Sheffield Lab did a nice job ). If anyone knows of a superior recording, please let me know.  

Just for fun, I once wrote a parody template of an audio review that had a fill in the blank feature along with an assortment of standard tropes. I advanced the draft and on reflection, decided not to post it--it was just too snarky.

I don't read the audio mags much if at all anymore, though I will occasionally see a review online, or mentioned in a chat forum.

To me, the task of the reviewer is almost impossible. In a relatively short time (if possible) to evaluate a component using other equipment that might not be the best match (so, borrowing other gear may be required), and a write up based on the reviewer's own sonic preferences. To me, the best reviews were comparative, pointing out strengths and weaknesses differentiating the components under evaluation. 

 

Bill, I too prefer the comparative reviews. Car mags do it well. Almost every review in Stereophile and AS is self-contained and tend toward the absolute rather than the relative.

Well the worst reviews I have ever read came from both Reichert and Serenius of Stereophile. The absolute worst reviewer whose work I have ever read writes for DaGogo.

I think mirolab is correct in that many reviewers really have no clue about what is most important in speaker design. Publishing measurements is a real problem when the person collecting this data lacks a firm understanding of what to measure and extols the importance of things like freq; response.

I start write review now I have best grip on the English. I have ear without flaw and system that lady flock to listen. My ear hair made of diamond that cut nonsense and radiant warmth to soul.