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I've wondered if it would improve the quality of conversations here if the Audiogon site software automatically added a small icon, in the shape of an ear, next to a commenter's user name that, when clicked, linked to a copy of the commenter's hearing test done by a board certified audiologist within the last two years.
Everyone hears differently. Literally, differently. On a cellular level even. Haven't seen the genetics on hearing but the studies on taste and vision show genuine differences in perception that are grounded in biology. This is in addition to things like physical deterioration with age, trauma, etc.
This still leaves a whole lotta stuff people are able physically to hear, yet will not know or report that they heard until and unless they develop the ability or skill to do so. Which definitely includes the vocabulary necessary to describe what you're hearing. My view is there's a lot of this. In other words regardless of how bad you think your hearing is there's a lot more you can hear than you think. But like with any sport you just need to work on your technique.
For example- long ago I was sure there was no difference between cables and CD players. Several times I tried and could hear no difference, even between things as obviously different as my old Magnavox CDB-650 and a ten times as expensive (and helluva lot newer) Wadia. One time I even was there when a guy who had made an appointment came in to compare two very expensive CD players. Wadia or Proceed and Levinson, something like that. Stood right behind the guy, and he took his time, never saying a word until the end he says hate to say this but I'm not hearing any difference.
Ha! See! Its not just me! Its all a scam! This guy sees it now too!
Except, one thing kept bugging me. I just couldn't shake this feeling there was something different, and I really was hearing it, only I couldn't quite put my finger on it.
The idea there were people who could hear stuff I could not, this frustrated the hell out of me. Absolutely had to get to the bottom of it.
And it took months- MONTHS! - until one day listening to of all things an XLO test CD track - at home, on my crap JBL lamp cord stereo- I had this epiphany. Eureka! I had finally begun to put my finger on a few of the sonic attributes that distinguished the sound of one component from another. And things went very fast from there.
By very fast I mean it only took another few months of this time dragging my wife around to see if she heard these things too, followed by a few more YEARS of driving around, home auditioning, reading, reading, reading, listening, listening, listening.
Which if a few years seems not very fast well it looks that way from 30 years later.
Probably two of those years I was active in audiophile clubs and by active I mean probably visited 30-50 homes, never passively listening either but always with a few components or tweaks to compare in their systems.
So while these are all listening skills I believe anyone can learn and that will enable anyone and everyone to hear all the crazy things people talk about, I also try and keep some perspective on just how long and hard they may need to devote themselves in order to do so.
It ain't easy. Sorry if I ever gave anyone a hard time acting like it is.
I wholeheartedly agree with your post.
In regards to the topic of hearing, mine is limited to about 12kHz.
I have a lot of aftermarket power cords and interconnects, but I have never experienced a single instance where there's been a noticeable before and after difference when I've done these "upgrades".
There have been a couple of instances where I used some cheap cables and could tell they didn't sound very good and were not letting all the music through. I did notice an improvement after taking them out of the system, but I don't usually discern differences between good and better cables.
I've sat through a couple of demonstrations of replacing interconnects and digital cables where someone else quickly made the change and I could detect noticeable differences in those situations.
I have never done that kind of quick swapping with my own equipment and perhaps if I did, I would notice the difference.
I take more of a "do no harm" approach and buy cables that are "better" (better construction, better connectors, better materials, better shielding, etc.) than the stock cables, but I don't really consider them to be "upgrades" because I can't tell much difference if any to my listening experience after I do it.
I can hear significant differences between amps, preamps, speakers, cartridges, DACs, CD players, etc. which leads me to question if the cable "upgrades" are real at all, or if it's that what's left of my hearing just isn't good enough to detect those more subtle changes.
I have no way of knowing if others hear a more significant difference than I do. When I read professional reviews where they review a number of different interconnects within a manufacturers line and detail the differences they hear from one to the next, I'm always impressed by their descriptions, but wonder why I can't detect those differences.
I don't question others spending more than I'm willing to on certain aspects of their equipment if it helps them reach whatever goals they have for their system. First of all, it's really none of my business and their hearing may be more acute than mine. It may make a more substantial difference in sound quality to them than it does to me.
I tend to dismiss posters that are always speaking in absolutes, whether it's that one approach to bass management is the "best", or that certain brands are the "best", or that some components either have no effect or have a huge dramatic effect and that you're either wasting money or that the rest of your system is crap because you didn't spend enough money on _____.
It's not just our aural perception, but it's also taste and perspective. One person may really enjoy a system that I find compromised and someone else might find the system I enjoy to be underwhelming. My system sounds amazing to me until I hear someone else's that does _________ better than mine does, and once I hear that difference, I can't help but notice how my system is lacking in that aspect.
I think the key is to use your own brain and your own ears and use both to filter out all of the various opinions expressed on forums like these and find the best way to enjoy the hobby for yourself based on your budget, hearing, and taste.
Wait...you mean you experienced personal attacks just by daring to question accepted audiophile dogma about items like power cords?
Welcome to the club.
Agreed. People should buy what they like.
We also shouldn't feel personally aggrieved if someone else doesn't immediately accept what we ourselves believe. The first things an aggrieved audiophile will attack are the old "ears or gear" - "well, clearly you don't have the acuity to hear real differences" or "you must have substandard gear."
Thanks for the kind words everyone!
I’m actually running a Luxman 507ux , not the 509 with the luscious aluminum top. :)
I don’t see myself swapping a lot anytime in the future, I’m afraid. I am happy with what I have and need turn my attention elsewhere. Mistress Lilly (the Luxman) will have to be happy with her Louibouton knock-offs for now.
For anyone prepared for a rather depressing shock, do have your ears tested by an audiologist, and look at the printout of the results; it's not pretty. But here's the thing: we hear reproduced music with the same ears we hear live. Within the frequency range of one's hearing, a comparison can still be made between the two, and judgments rendered. One benefit of advanced age is in not having to pay for the best tweeters ;-) . Use the money saved for buying four subs.
I am 70 now, spent 8 years in the service, qualified as expert in many arms, incl M60 machine gun, 1911A1 45 cal sidearm, M14 & M16 rifles, M79 grenade launcher. Tou get the idea, no hearing protection in the 60s. Then there were the concerts, Janis Joplin, The Doors, Allman Brothers w/Duane, Stones in many occasions.
Thus my hearing is less than stellar. Yet I can discern quality from crud, but the nuance of power chords and mega dollar cables is beyond me. Thankfully so.
Now I enjoy the Maggies mid range and nuance of jazz. I still love old Rock n Roll, but can only take it in small doses.
Long way to saying Buy what sounds good to you within your budget and care not about the lunatic fringe with agendas. Enjoy the music!!
I think hearing acuity is only part of the equation as had been mentioned above. And physiologically acuity of sight, taste and hearing are no more than half of the equation that results in perception.
Many people have exceptional vision but do not observe well. I'm sure hearing is no difference. I think one can train for that. But like so many other human attributes, some people are superior to others in some aspects.
Here at Audiogon those claims of superiority seem to abound. But I suspect that is natural for a site about fine audio.
I know that my high frequency hearing is diminished. I know that I have bilateral tinnitus 24/7. But I know that for me there is a bigger problem. I have a hard time being consistently objective about finer points of hi-fi reproduction. In other words, I can frequently hear differences with various component/media changes but often can't tell if one is superior to the other. Likewise, I can hear the same media on the same system and it sounds different to me from one day to the next.
But I also know that I love music.
And I like the way it sounds on my system.
So I am not on an upgrade treadmill and never will be.
For me this hobby is not a pursuit. It is not a fetish.
None of which is to say that I might not change components but that will have a lot more to do with moving towards a decent streaming setup than a pursuit of some unattainable standard.
All great responses except one....sfar. Take an audiogram taken by an audiologist of two people with exactly the same hearing ability. Then, take those two people to audition music equipment and music styles and see how much they agree on everything. Probably not a lot.
Sound and music perception and taste is so subjective that no real comparison can be made. Sure, really bad sound can be heard by most but aren't we splitting hairs when it comes to finite details as pertains to different individuals?
I agree with the perception issue.
As I've mentioned, we can learn a great deal from Machine Learning and Deep Learning about how perception is something we learn.
Do I really want to be the person who can taste a difference in $300 bottles of wine, or one who enjoys $30 every week?
We do that to ourselves a little too much.
Yes audiology test are, or would be, sobering for many.
I get tested pretty regularly. I'm 55, can hear up to 14k. (Good for my age, no doubt because I've worn earplugs for loud events since the 90's). Slight notch at 4k.
Still, it's surprising how much deviation people's hearing can exhibit while still allowing a surprising recognition of sound quality. I have a musician friend who has some pretty bad hearing in one ear, and just ok hearing in the other, but he's able to hear and describe most of the relevant characteristics of different sound systems.
Really a good point.
I recently had an appointment with an audiologist and they compared my hearing levels to 5 years ago. It looks like I lost some additional hearing in my high frequency levels, which is quite normal for a 70 year old.
I wonder if this might explain why I was unable to hear a difference when the retailer demonstrated a REL S3 with a pair of Vienna Acoustic towers. I still wonder if I should spend the money to add a pair of REL T/9i's? The retailer is really honest and I trust him. He told me today I might be trying to hard to hear the difference. I do think instead of hearing an increase in bass extension, I might have heard more of a 3 dimensional sound which he says is sound stage. I also think I heard the vocals sound less harsh, which is the main reason why I am thinking about adding the subs.
Be interested in everyone's opinion, as this group has exceptional knowledge. However, I must say, I do think this group does split hairs a lot of the time and I wonder if they are like most audiophiles who buy more and more expensive gear so they can pound their chest and say to their buddies, "See what I have!"
Hearing is not just dependant on the "ear". While most hearing issues can be blamed on the "ear", the sensation of aurality is complex. After the "ear", there are numerous pathways that must work in sync. There are numerous nerves that must come together as one and then some cross over from one side of the brain to the other. There are numerous very small nuclei within the brain structure that are then necessary to interpret that data. This does not even include the influence of ingrained memories within our neurons. All of these potential pathways can be affected by microvascular disease, mineral and vitamin fluctuations, trauma, medications, memory loss, etc.
As an analogy, consider the sensation of taste. I am now 50 years old. When I was 30, I sought out the most spicy food imaginable. Now that I am 50, that endorphin rush is no longer worth the pain that it invokes. Same for vision. I used to be able to drive through the night taking my family on vacation. Now I find it difficult to drive from my house to the corner store 1 mile away at 10pm while raining. To much glare!
For some of us, the sound is to dull or maybe there is to much glare. The audio components that we own or test, therefore have multiple pathways of influence on our "hearing" system that can make our perception of sound from one person to the next different enough to be enjoyable or not.
For instance, I find the hum of our home furnace in the winter time very soothing. It brings back memories of sleeping over at my Grandfather's modest house while I was a young boy. My wife wishes we had electric base board that didn't make any noise.
After all of that, I believe the most important link in the chain is ingrained memory. Such that, I think sound which is pleasing based on past pleasure will likely be pleasing in the future and not so dependent on the price of the system that it is played through. Of course, I am not saying that listening to Ravel's Bolero is as good through my cell phone as it is through my main system. The "ear" obviously is the first link, but the end interpretation is much more complex.
However, the fine tweeks that are so often discussed here are really quite impossible to categorize as better or worse because we all interpret the data slightly differently.
Thanks to Eric for getting me to think about this again. I shall trust my own ears when it comes to hardware. After all, my "ears" are the ones hearing it. All the while, recognizing there are a lot of great opinions amongst us that may eventually influence my perception.
Me (58) - I can't hear the frequencies, but I can hear the dBA changes/timing as well as ever and as well / better than my kids.
What that means in my brain, I do not know. If I leave my upstairs tube amp on in headphone mode to burn in - and go downstairs I hear it. I hear 1-2 dBA changes. Kinda humble bragging but it is almost a problem. I can't tune stuff out so well. I don't remember hearing any of this stuff till 40+ when there were other priorities. I understand my parts may be worn, but my perception is peaked. Some of my stuff does not sound as good as my 30 year old Bose stuff - but in my stuff I can hear every word. It is difficult to say which is better.
At the time we lived in a place with raised hardwood floors. I didn't think about it, but there was great sound for little cost. Reproducing that Costco Bose system on those floors is easily 10X the price now.
Eric, you have instigated some very thought provoking comments,
I bring earplugs to Audio Shows because many companies feel
their equipment needs to be heard at 85+ Db. Those rooms I exit quickly. Gryphon averaged at 92db. I have a phone app.
I can't do loud anymore. 60-70 Dbs is perfect for me.
Tinnitus, hearing loss, Hypercusis, etc aside, ones level of enjoyment of music is on a different plane than how well one hears.
I would also submit that, even among a group of 20 year old audiophiles with hearing that would measure as "perfect" in a hearing test, there would be differences in the morphology of the inner and middle ears, as well as differences in the diameter and/or thickness of their tympanic membranes. There could be differences in the density, thickness, and length of the fine hairs that push out ear wax. Also, as mentioned above different people may have different neurological activity as the brain processes the sound.
It seems to me that all these factors could result in people with similar results on hearing tests actually perceiving the sound differently.
I’m in my forties and my test indicates I have mild (and I’m told typical for my age) tapering of higher frequencies. Audiologist told me I may find it becomes more difficult to track conversations in noisy environments. Counter-intuitively my preference as I get older is for a slightly warmer richer sound from my system with slightly less pronounced high frequencies. When I was younger I always wanted tone controls so I could bump up the treble. Now I have no need for that. Odd, and my musical tastes have not changed that much. To be honest, I’m lucky my hearing isn’t totally shot from blasting my headphones way too loud starting from when I was 10, until I was about 30 or so. Not to mention all the concerts I’ve been to.
@jrpride did I what I see happening all the time in social media: taking a comment from another and mischaracterizing it to mean something that was neither stated nor even implied. To see what I'm talking about, read my original comment above, then his reaction to it. I once again prove to myself that my expectations are too high.
lhasaguy, I enjoyed your post regarding your hearing. We have a few things in common. I'll be 70 next month, flew helicopters in the Air Force, spent 21 years in law enforcement and have a touch of tinnitus. My hearing is actually still good but I'm probably not able to appreciate some sounds like most folks. I heard a pair of speakers recently that sell for $16K. It sounded great but not night and day from my system, probably my hearing limitation. I've benefited greatly from some of the posts here and that has made my listening very enjoyable. Doug
Great posts and a very appropriate thread. Thanks erik, I hope more of us will post their views. 66 and still rocking rarely loud anymore, somewhere around 85 dB but it depends on the music. Hearing loss due to jet engines, parties, concerts and racing. For myself I think I can discern a change in cabling if it is quite dramatic but otherwise no I cannot hear a difference. I have achieved a system that makes me smile and sounds superior to me but that of course is subjective. Ears are like fingerprints, none are the same.
Music rocks my world
@erik_squires : "Do I really want to be the person who can taste a difference in $300 bottles of wine, or one who enjoys $30 every week?
We do that to ourselves a little too much."
Well that's just it isn't it? But that's exactly what this whole audiophile business is about for quite a few people here, if not most of us. And you would have to include yourself in that group too right?
And to be honest, if someone were to offer me the ability to hear the differences in power cables, between what type of wood my pre-amp was sitting on or the effect that the position of throw pillows in my listening room has on SQ...............I would decline. Such levels of perception (real or imagined) seem primarily to drive discontentment. And discontentment drives the audio industry.....and the rest of our economy as well.
I always enjoy reading your post on what DIY u are doing. Hobbies are supposed to be fun, so continue doing what you enjoy. People always have opinions good and bad, do like I do and weed out the garbage. Many people here are help and share there experiences. As for the others, just ignore. Looking forward to you next DIY. By the way thanks for your suggestion on treating my room first, you were correct.
High frequency capacity can diminish with age, and does.
What does not go away and allows 70 year olds to evaluate tweeters..is... temporal acuity.
Our hearing is based not on frequency range but on complex temporal harmonic transient (macro and micro) timing position, level, and interleaving. Frequency extension is only part of the story.
Electronics and measurement hardware discern all of that (all of what the ear does) via frequency extension capacity -only.
The ear does not do it that way.
eg, a tube amp that cannot go above 20khz or even 15khz, without a reduction in level..,it can still do a two channel timing interval difference of an easy 1mhz. or...one millionth of a second of difference. Ie, a transient can be pulsed through one channel and then pulsed through the other and be timed at one millionth of a second part.
ie, a LP or record, can do -approximately- (properly set up, at it’s limits) a 7 millionth of a second interval in inter channel timing (of signal). This is why a record can outclass 192khz audio, as it does things that are important to how humans hear. Digital is very poor in the area that is important to the ear. The seven millionth of a second number, is the approximate physical limit of the mechanics of an LP and stylus combination. (then all the work that came before the record was made real, all those ducks have to be lined up as perfect as possible, in order to really bring this point to life--in the given LP record)
For the ear, that is the important part. Frequency extension means almost nothing.
The ear can do complex harmonic interleaved signal discernment to the tune of many hundreds of kilohertz (hundreds of thousandths of second), in each ear. It can then combine that between the ears,and individually in each ear.
Ergo...it is very sensitive to jitter, as that is almost....the whole art of hearing itself. This part never leaves the ear, it remains even when frequency extension of the ear diminishes radically. The capacity to hear multiple levels and interleavings of 100khz and +200khz complex harmonic structures together, with zero jitter issues - is always there.Then the mind/biology connected to the individual ear, how good are those individual packages - and as a set?
Yes, an 80 year old man, a learned and lore filled audiophile version of that 80 year old man... with diminished high frequency hearing... via listening...can accurately tell you which digital cable has the lesser level of picoseconds of differential in production and navigation of jitter. FACT.
This is how an older man of 80 with hearing loss and a loss measured to be a serious drop at over lets say, 5khz, can still tell the differences between a good or a bad tweeter design.
Again, frequency extension of electronics or measurement means almost nothing....as the ear does not work that way. The ear is not a piece of human engineering of hardware. It is a totally different acting and operating piece of incredibly complex biology.
One can measure but one has to measure and compare what is important. So far, electronic measurement and human hearing as a coupled system of relation (to attempt scientific discernment for the purpose of application of engineering), is almost missing the whole boat.
Various people, at times, over the decades... have tried to explain this to the audiophile masses but the people have to ’get it’ as well, for it to sink in and become a very much needed norm. We’re getting there, but it is slow rowing out here in the desert...
This is the start of the necessary point of discernment in figuring this out. It gets more complex than that, but this is most definitely a doorway to that discernment. The map is not the territory but first one has to at least draw a map that is connected to the territory. Otherwise you’ll get this circular argument that has been here for decades.
To me, none of this means anything if you are not having a good time listening to music.
I’m just doing standard monkey stuff.
I’m codifying, counting, collating, weighing, sorting, moving about, and fussing over ----the rocks inside and in front of my cave.
Same old same old. Some things never change. Until they do.
My rocks are better than yours! Bring it on, Monkey boy!
Lost due to incompetence?
What does not go away and allows 70 year olds to evaluate tweeters..is... temporal acuity.Teo_Audio: Your post re "temporal acuity" is quite interesting and telling.
Because of my lack of knowledge in this area, I'm unable to add to or counter your discussion.
However, it does speak to my personal experience and conclusion that measurements have little, if any correlation to the end result of equipment selection and listening enjoyment; whose underpinnings I've found to be less frequency response related and more related to the you-are-there (holodeck) experience.
I enjoy music reproduction in any and all of its forms. But the illusion of being in or at the performance is what the equipment in my audio room provides. It is so much more than just an accurate frequency response.
Over the decades, I've wanted and wished for an objective (read measurable), easy and perhaps less expensive method of equipment selection; but my listening experiences have resulted in my concluding otherwise.
I am going to call a little bs her on older audiophiles hearing "better" especially when it comes to tweets. Stereophile has pushed notoriously bright and ragged sounding speakers as "better" and more revealing. Of course they make you feel like your ears are 20 years younger! 😆
There is nothing wrong with music lovers getting a speaker suited to their ears though.
I am extremely happy with the performance of my system. All interconnects are transparent, not very expensive. All PC are factory and I like them. The one time I introduced a 700 power cord, it sounded bad. To bright. So I will stay with factory. Nice thing is I dont suffer from OCD. So no need to swap out equipment, just build on what I have. When I am finished I might build some PCs just for fun and because u can make them look nice. I guess my hearing is still good, because high frequencies hurt my ears.
I think it is not only the physical aspects of hearing, but training yourself what to listen for. Hearing and listening are two different things. That being said, I have evolved a sense of hearing to appreciate differences in sound with equipment. As far back as 1974 I could hear a BIG difference between a Pioneer receiver vs a Sherwood. And a bit later around 1982, between a Dual 1229 turntable and a SOTA Sapphire. Now I can discern differences between preamps amps and SOME CD players. But once I got into cables, I could not tell much difference once I replaced the cheapo cables that came with lesser components (of course higher end components do not come with cables at all).
For more subtle differences, A-B tests are not very informative. One has to live with a certain component before introducing a change to perceive a difference. Yeah a A-B test will show the differences between a Dual and a SOTA, immediately but not so between a SOTA and a VPI for example. And I would think between high end cables, it would take a lot more concentration and listening skills. I just have not been so inspired to put myself through it at that level.
So, for those who CAN hear a difference, I believe you. For those who can't I believe you too. But, yes, there is some hyperbole and emperor's new clothes syndromes in audio, as there is in just about everything.
+1 kink56 !!!!
That is the perfect post.
All I want to add is, does this training make you happy? Does this level of discernment contribute to your life in a positive way that feeds you and gives you energy to better engage your community and the rest of the world, or, is it a demanding God / Goddess with no appreciable benefit?
Like, fishing, at least you can share your catch with those you love. :)
One overlooked area of hearing is....wait for it....ear wax! If you don't irrigate your ears regularly - and properly - you'll be amazed at the sound after you do. There's only one way to do it properly, the way physicians recommend, with some was Debrox wax softening drops and an Elephant Ear Washer (google it). Follow the directions for the drops, then irrigate in the shower with warm water. If you've got any wax, you'll be amazed at how big a "plug" of wax can get. You'll be turning down the volume settings on your equipment. As for affecting music quality, the ear is a sensitive instrument. The difference in removing a wax buildup or plug is like lifting a veil, similar to what happens when you use foam port plugs on a speaker.
Great thread. I don't have any insight to add, I just want to share my experiences. I have tinnitus and the corresponding hearing loss that causes it. I don't need hearing aids yet but have a hard time with hearing conversations clearly.
Several years ago I converted my Magnepan 1.6's to active with a Bryston 10B, gutting the stock crossovers. First - there was a tremendous difference in everything musical, no big surprise with such a dramatic change. Second - I set about measuring to try to optimize the frequency response in my room going through most of the available crossover frequencies and slopes. I noticed a strange phenomenon. When changing slopes with a selected set of frequencies the various slopes would measure the same. That gave me a baseline. When I played music to tailor things to what I like to hear and changed slopes within the same frequencies I could hear a difference. Even though they had measured the same. Someone over at the Planar Asylum suggested it was group delay that was causing the sonic differences. Makes sense, but I don't know how to prove it.
Third - When having a non "audiophile" friend over for dinner I did an experiment with cables. My CD player has two audio outs so I hooked up a somewhat expensive interconnect to one and a modestly priced interconnect to the second. After switching back and forth between the inputs with a remote while listening to music I asked my friend if he could hear the difference and he could. He could tell me which input I had selected without looking. Now, he preferred the sound of the cheaper interconnect and I preferred the more expensive one so it's individual preferences.
Even with my hearing loss I could pick up the fairly subtle differences. Which was "better/more accurate" in both cases. I don't know. I just stay with the crossover settings and interconnects I like music played on.