Thoughts from the Dark Side (ABX)

Before all “ABXers” are burned at the stake here, I would like to offer a few non-confrontational comments on the legitimacy of the “scientific method” in the world of faithful music reproduction.

First, I did not assemble my present system using double or single blind testing. (See Virtual Systems as “British Budget Performer,” if curious.) I used my own senses, advice and home trials from a couple of good dealers, along with the help of members on this site, to steer me toward components that I have employed. I thank you all profusely. Because of you I have a chance to absorb myself in the healthiest vice I enjoy.

There are people who profess to hear drastic sound characteristic changes with cables, cones, points, line filters, etc… and we read lots of recommendations for “must have” favorites in many different flavors. (I, myself, believe to perceive differences in some of these as well, although, in my experience, the changes are subtler.)

This is where the skeptic in me comes out. Why? Because I know I like the beauty of some components over others. I also appreciate the attitude, value, and reputation of some manufacturers more than others. Therefore, prejudices will exist in my own mind, and I am then commenting on more than audio waves when I state preferences. This, for me, however, does not make those holistic comments illegitimate! I pay attention to them. They simply cannot be looked at as definitive truths, which is what those with research experience are trained to strive for. While I believe blind testing would be the most accurate measure of my opinions, I am enjoying my system without it, and obviously understand that you can enjoy yours without it, as well. But, I am resigned to take some claims with a “grain of salt” as I can’t trust that any human being is above enjoying, and being swayed by, the multi-sensory ambience that occurs with the aesthetics and panache of owning a particularly great piece of technology.

There should be a place at the table for us all. I read people on both sides of the fence, here, and in a speaker user’s group. (With apologies to both,) the most credible “scientist” I am familiar with is Dr. R.E. Greene who writes for The Absolute Sound. As, (I believe,) a professor of mathematics, numbers and statistical analysis are a language he has obviously mastered. My impression is, for him, sound is measured, and the numbers speak for themselves. (All that remains is to try to translate them to the unclean like me.) He does not seem to understand the need, for some, to have and use objective descriptions of the listening experience. In that same group we also have Bob Neill, who is as eloquent and descriptive of the subjective as you will find. Some of their exchanges are priceless. [:)] These gentlemen represent, for me, a balance in the evaluation process of audio components. The scientist in my academic background is comforted by the measurements, while the artistic side is stimulated by the enthusiasm and poetic prose. Left brain: right brain. (?)

I hope that the voiced problems with “ABX” here are more due to “how you say it,” vs. “what you say.” Dogma from either side seems argumentative, at best.

Good luck to you all in your music pursuits,

Charlie; excellent statement/thread on this contentious (and now forbidden?) topic-- and eloquently stated too. This pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject too-- to quote you, "there should be a place at the table for us all". Cheers. Craig
Hi Charlie: I understood that there would be specific threads "ear marked" for ABX discussions. I might have this wrong though. I agree whole heartedly that it is the way we sometimes "state" things which causes the muck up. If we would only write as if we were in the same room with the person with whom we are trying to communicate, things would be different/better. This is of course, easier said than done. ABX is no different from sighted tests to me as all that it proves is that some people hear a difference and some people don't and also that some people require more time in order to differentiate things. No big deal, really, as the proof is always in the ears of the beholder.

Dekay, are you trying to get me in trouble? Man, I just went over 100 / 100 and was looking forward to Arnie's (slightly used) Bose Wave radio. I guess I won't get it after all.

I reckon I ought to have someone on my staff open all mail packages from Dallas or New Zealand. Just in case. [:)]

I should also confess that I have been reminded that Dr. Greene does, on occaison, put down the graph paper and speak from the heart in his reviews. I hope no one thought I was speaking for him. As Garth would say, "I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!"

Charlie: I think your OK. Everybody loves a Vet.
I come from a slightly different perspective. I have recently (8 years ago) come from the other side. I am a subjectivist but there is a difference between a subj... reviewer and a subj...listener. As a listener I have no problem with abx tests for me. I can line up 6 pairs of speakers with some of my favorite music and tell which one I like in about 30-60 mins. Same with amps, pre-amps or any other component. Now I'm not talking panel speakers or exotics but I truly feel that if you like a traditional speaker with an amp that gives it enough power to play it loud then you will like it with other amps of equal power. You then have to listen to 6 or so amps to see which you like with your available budget and so on with each component. Now a reviewer has to write about assorted components that he can't listen to side by side at times, having to rely on past experience or notes.