Why is Double Blind Testing Controversial?

I noticed that the concept of "double blind testing" of cables is a controversial topic. Why? A/B switching seems like the only definitive way of determining how one cable compares to another, or any other component such as speakers, for example. While A/B testing (and particularly double blind testing, where you don't know which cable is A or B) does not show the long term listenability of a cable or other component, it does show the specific and immediate differences between the two. It shows the differences, if at all, how slight they are, how important, etc. It seems obvious that without knowing which cable you are listening to, you eliminate bias and preconceived notions as well. So, why is this a controversial notion?
Doesn't double blind mean that the experimenter also does not know which is A and which is B? That's harder to pull off. Simple blind testing should suffice.

I agree with you. It should be used more.
Drubin's right about double-blind: it means that nobody in the room knows which is which. And researchers use it because they've learned that there are all sorts of ways that someone can subconsciously indicate which is which to whoever is actually doing the comparing. If you want to be absolutely sure that there's no outside influence (intentional or not) and that you're making your decisions based only on the sound, double-blind is essential.

That said, the main reason DBTs are controversial is that they tend to produce results that are at odds with the received wisdom of audiophilia.
I wonder if a real "blind test" is what is meant here. Certainly swapping any component in and out of your system will allow you to get an idea of what difference it makes. You will even be able to describe the difference, and note it for future reference. Nothing controversial about that. But a "blind" test involves hiding the identity of the component from the listener, who then chooses his or her preference. There are several things wrong with doing it this way, aside from the practical problem of finding someone you trust to swap components in your system while you are unable to observe him.

One theory has it that we are better equipped physically to notice similarities rather than differences. And as you say, the choice for the long term should be made on the basis of a longer term listen. Otherwise we may listen for the wrong things... at worst, for hi-fi and not for music.
I do not know why it is so controversial, but I can tell you it is irritating. Many who preach this methodology are so dogmatic about issues such as placebo effect, being deceived by snake oil salesmen, and the physical science behind a given product that many are insistent that audiophiles that don't apply this methodology are deceived.

Subjective audio enthusiasts know from personal experience whether one product sounds better than another to them and whether the cost to benefit ratio is satisfactory or not, albeit a personal matter for sure.

So I guess the rub is in their insistence that their scientific method is the only valid approach opposed to making a decision based on simple listening tests alone. I personally would not make a decision any other way. Why not just let each other make our own judgments with whatever method of comparison chosen.

I am certainly not opposed to folks voicing their opinions and findings (I am sure this is the reason most of us read Audiogon posts), but to insist that others are deceived, misspending their money, and acting irrationally is just plain unbecoming behavior in my estimation.
One reason blind (or double blind) testing is controversial is simply some folks won't admit that the $500 (or more, sometimes much more) cable they just bought doesn't sound any different from the cheaper brand.

Let's face it, the guy who says his jaw dropped when he installed his newest (and more expensive) piece of equipment, and then can't id that same piece when he can't see it is the reason blind testing has never been accepted.

I believe there are differences between some components, but not to the degree some people claim.

Although I have nice components, including all tube electronics, planar speakers, and listen more to vinyl than digital, I have never cared for spending hundreds or, in some cases, thousands of $$$ on cables, power conditioners, or power cables.

From all I've read, not one double blind test has ever given credibility to audible differences in cables.

What really gets on my nerves is someone who starts describing the differences he hears with components auditioned weeks or months apart. Sorry, our auditory memory usually doesn't last more than a few moments.

I think that double blind testing was invented to confuse people, and put them in a state of mind that is too over-stressed to "perform under pressure". This virtually ensures the confused outcome which is interpreted as a "scientific proof" that he can't tell the difference between products. It is mainly used to justify the psychological and financial need to not spend money on gear, but still be convinced that you have the best, without having to pay for it. The cover story is that the audiophiles who can hear something are "deluding themselves" psychologically about hearing the differences. I maintain that the ones who don't want to spend money are "deluding themselves" into not hearing differences. So who's right?
I think that double blind testing is essential. I have actually fooled myself. Upon receiving something new in the mail, I immediately hook it up, and am "astounded" by how much better it sounds that what it replaced. After a prolonged listen, and especially if I have my wife switch the component in and out, which is not double blind, but single blind, I find myself hitting it about 50/50, which means that I can't tell the difference. When we purchase some expensive tweak we badly want not to have lost our money that we justify it by things like, "less listener fatigue" or once long term break in has taken place it will fall into place. I've seen cables described as "a night and day difference" Well, while you're at work have someone switch one of them with out telling you which one, or even if nothing has been done. If it's night and day you'll spot it immediately.
It's amazing that anyone would find a totally objective and neutral testing method controversial.

Isn't it ironic that an uncolored and totally neutral audio system is the primary goal of audiophiles? Why are these qualities good for audio systems, but not for the methods used to test them?
Blind testing serves no useful purpose. It presumes that by switching cables in and out of ONE system, that you will uncover something fundamental about the cables. I think not.
The main reason why I am not a fan of A/B testing methods is they use only short bursts of music. I find I need to live with a new component for at least a few days to get its measure. This is because, what can sound "right" in a brief listen, can prove to fail to convey the emotion in music, and this judgement requires more extended listening, at least for these ears.

A straight A/B test will allow you to identify obvious differences, for sure - such as "A has more bass extension than B" - but that does not mean A is better than B when musical enjoyment is the goal.

I find that A/B testing tends to obscure many musically meaningful differences. You may decide I am deluded about these differences, and that all differences can be detected in a brief listen - there we will have to agree to disagree.
A): The audible differences between cables is usually smaller than audiophiles report (though I believe they are there); and B): Short-term memory is indeed just a few moments long and not sufficient for such tests even when the switching is immediate. (If you're using a continuous piece of music then you haven't heard the part after the switch with the first configuration so there is effectively no comparison. If you're switching back to the beginning of the test music at the switch, then there is a time lag of at least the duration of the snippet of music you heard). So given that human short-term memory is only moments long, blind and double-blind tests are inherently flawed and fairly useless -- unless the differences really are "night and day".

I largely agree with TWL that objectivists use double-blind testing as an excuse not to spend more money, while deluding themselves that they can't do any better.
Having started this thread, I will weigh in with a comment. First, I can't understand how Judit can flatly say that DBT "serves no useful purpose." I DBT'd cables using a Marantz 8300 DVD-A/SACD/CD player (this has two L/R outs so cables can be directly compared back to back, and also has coax and optical digital outs to compare those). The result was that by keeping everything else in the system constant, we were able to listen for differences between the IC's we compared (Audioquest Python vs. Tributaries SCA 150 and Nordost Red Dawns). We were also able to identify the sonic characteristics of each cable. Some of the differences between the Pythons and the Red Dawns were subtle, but readily identifiable. I found the ability to DBT invaluable. I then put both cables into my system for a while to get a "feel" for each over time and many different LP's and CD's. I certainly don't say that DBT is the be-all and end-all of decision-making, but it is difficult to say that it serves no useful purpose. I am waiting to DBT cables several steps up from the Pythons and see what a huge expense in $$ buys in identifiable differences! I think Redkiwi is also correct in saying that sonic differences do not necessarily translate to more musical enjoyment.
I have had Elmuncy's experience many times: noticing a dramatic change when I first put in a new component, only to have the improvement slip away after a time.

That said, I hasten to add that I have Valhalla speaker cables in my system and find them consistently miraculous. I've not done a blind test with them, but I should and would be willing to certainly. Blind testing may be bogus for all I know, but why do people seem so afraid of it? Methinks thou dost...

One piece of empirical "evidence" I have collected: when you go around the rooms at a show, is it the tweaks and little things that make the difference? If Valhalla, just to pick on that product, is so transformational, then I would expect the rooms using it would, generally speaking, be the better sounding rooms. Or perhaps the rooms with the Aurios MIB devices, or the Hydras, or the Sistrum stands, or the demagnetized CDs, etc. etc. Hell, even the rooms with the Audio Aero CD players.

Of course there are many variables that contribute to the sound of a system, particularly at a show, but my experience has been that the gross components, not the tweaks, account for a lion's share of the overall sound. And the little things, those things that we audiophiles so often proclaim to have DRAMATIC effects on our systems, amount pretty much to squat in the overall sense we get of a system when we first hear it. (Yes, I know this reasoning is shaky: even a great pair of speakers can sound wonderful in one room and dreadful in another.)

I think there is something going on, some way in which tiny, incremental changes in our own systems appear greatly magnified to us, magnified out of proportion. Sometimes I think it is change itself that suggests improvement. Ever had the experience of going back to something you had long since decided was dogmeat, only to find that--hey--this thing is good, what was I thinking?

Still, I'm not getting rid of my Valhalla. But I did dump the Hydra.
Sad, isn't it?
I once blind tested a Ford and a Chevy. With the Ford I bounced off a cop car, hit a little old lady in a crosswalk-- she survived, and ended the test by crashing into a garbage truck. The Chevy was much better in most respects, I only killed a dog and the test administrator was taken away in a straight jacket. When released from prison I bought the Chevy, which was then 5 years old but the radio still worked and the car was well broken in. Anyway, this experience caused me to be skeptical of blind testing. My loss I suppose. Cheers. Craig
Moto man, I do not question the importance of cable comparisons.

What I question and challenge is the notion that an objective BLIND comparison can be set up for audio cables. Without an objective measurable (user perception is not a valid, reproducible measurable), it is not a valid blind test and has no objective validity.

Subjective observations that are presented as "objective" are exactly what lead people like Elmuncy to spend money on things which disappoint.
Some years ago I agreed to test prescription eyeglasses for Pearl Vision. Several pairs were switched while I kept my eyes tightly closed. I immediately choose the "perfect" pair, that were very reasonably priced.

After a day I had a horrible headache and was forced to keep my eyes closed to enjoy my new glasses.

I like to shop for audio this way too. Make a decision based on a quick test, make myself miserable and then quit listening so the headache goes away.
Tobias and Redkiwi hit it on the head. It takes prolonged exposure (post burn-in, which a lot of A/B's may not do) to really absorb the differences. "Night and day differences" aside, most A/B's are a matter of trade-offs -- e.g., a little more bass punch vs. a little less definition. What seems very nice in the short term may not be preferred longer term. What seems like a strength listening to one recording may not seem so while listening to another. In reality, all of our choices are A/B. We are replacing what we have with something else we believe is "better" after prolonged listening. That's why companies offer 30 day trials rather than 30 minute trials. From my understanding, most A/B tests tend to be 3 minute trials. Sorry, I'm just not that good.

By the way, none of this is to say that I don't harbor a secret fear that I'd pick Bose ;-) But, I have heard too many say that, with prolonged exposure, they can pick out component signatures from a distance without seeing the actual unit/cable being used.
Well, you don't need to use the blind test to make your decision. The idea is to isolate, at least for the period of the test, the contribution of knowing who the manufacturer is, what the product costs, what it looks like, and so forth. Getting those variables out of the way at some point during your evaluation, even briefly, might be helpful, don't you think? Doesn't mean you won't choose the higher priced product in the end, but at least you will have the benefit of some calibration between what you hear and what you perhaps expect or hope to hear.
The use of blind and double-blind procedures presumes one is employing the logic of hypothesis testing. That is, that there is a null hypothesis (i.e., that there are no differences between two treatments—in this case, two sets of interconnects) and an alternate hypothesis (there is indeed a difference). Experimenters are more than experimental custodians. Their biases and expectations can profoundly influence a study. To the extent that all people (including experimenters) have biases, one would double-blind the treatments to reduce among other things "experimenter effects." It’s surprisingly easy for an experimenter to influence a study (e.g., Stanley Milgram’s famous obedience studies). It is also easy for other participants (formerly known as “subjects”) to influence each other (e.g., Ash’s line judgment experiments where participants tended to agree with Ash’s confederates that clearly dissimilar lines were the same).

There is a famous researcher/psychologist/statistician by the name of Robert Rosenthal who once told his students that he had obtained two breeds of rats from another famous researcher. One type of rat was called “maze smart” and the other was “maze dull.” Dr. Rosenthal asked the students to teach these rats to run though mazes (ah, the power of cheese). After a few weeks or so the students were asked to show off their rats’ maze prowess (as it were). The “maze smart” rats performed significantly better than their “dumb” counterparts. The kicker here is that the rats were OF THE SAME SPECIES. One cannot infer that the students intentionally influenced the training, but it most certainly was measurable. Moreover, when the experimenter bias was measured it turned out that the “smart" rats owners had "imparted" a greater positive measurement bias than did the “dumb” rats owners negative measurement bias.

There are probably much better examples than these, but I’m in a hurry to go downstairs for dinner :-) so I’ll wrap this up soon.

Something else to consider is that “different” does not mean “better.” People’s ability to remember sounds and colors varies greatly but rarely is the memory accurate after a short decay period. With audio equipment evaluation, it tends to result in a bias for a certain “sound” regardless of whether or not that sound is authentic. When it comes to making a decision as to whether one component is better than another, it probably makes the most sense to have a reference. In the case of audio, I’d say that reference should be THE REAL THING. It’s not practical to have live orchestra tag along on equipment tests but it doesn’t hurt to keep that in mind. Some people go on and on about how they prefer one cable to another because their favorite is “warm” or whatever. Real sounds from an orchestra or a band are not necessarily “warm.”

All that said, if one believes that a $6,000 set of interconnects sounds better (they just might sound *different*) than a $70 pair then let ‘em. The more expensive cable might even sound closer to reality. One would hope that the more expensive cables aren’t just mostly cosmetics and markup.


p.s. and yes, spending time with a set of cables or anything else in the system is a great way to know if one really likes the sound. On a marginally related note, a friend of mine once said “I’ve never owed a handheld device that I liked after having it for a week.”
We've covered this before. As such, all i'll add to this thread is that Craig and Albert cracked me up. If DBT threads are going to be good for laughs like that, bring them on : ) Sean
Well said Bomarc. I'll go a little further along that road. Most people who argue in favor of DBT's in these threads imply that audiophiles don't want to discover that they can't tell one thing from another. I think audiophiles believe that DBT's are not good because that's what they've been told by the buff mag writers (aka "reviewers," but really just story tellers), who don't want to be exposed. You see, Sean, in a DBT, Mikey can't tell those preamps apart either.

There are reviewers with real scientific credentials and experience who advocate and use DBT's, but not many.

They don't have to be short. You can listen to whole pieces of music. And you can start by familiarizing yourself with the components under test until you are sure of what it is that makes them sound different, then try to tell them apart blind, not trying to prove there is no difference, but to confirm your hypothesis that they are different. In home, one obvious difficulty is exact matching of spls.
I have done blind testing myself, on many occasions, as I have mentioned before, in an earlier thread on this subject. When I worked in a high-end audio shop, when there were slow times, when nobody was in the store. Myself and the other employees would do it for fun. It was like a contest. We would set up equipment when 1 person was out of the room, blindfold him, and bring him in to listen. Then we would see how many components in the system he could identify. Everyone was surprisingly good at this, but nobody was 100%. Of course, we were going for multiple components at the same time. With only 1 component in a known system, we all could indentify it virtually every time. Now, we were very familiar with the sound of all of the gear we tested this way, so that made it easier. But, it wasn't that tough to do. It was in a fairly relaxed environment with no real pressure. Just fun.

So, I am not afraid of what would be the result of these tests, in my case. I cannot say I could be 100% in any test, but I am sure that I can be accurate enough to satisfy any tester that I am not guessing. Even with unknown equipment, I can identify differences accurately, in a short time span. I think many people can. I also think that some people cannot. This would not be the lack of difference in equipment, but a difference in people. It is not scientific to label the results as "no difference" in equipment, when it is an inability on the part of the listener to percieve the difference. Many people think a car radio sounds like a good audio system. Clearly they are not listening to the entire presentation, but just the superficial aspects of the sound. They are not aware of how to listen for "differences" in the sounds of items. They are simply "superficial listeners". This type of listener cannot be relied upon to discern differences in equipment. They listen as "background music". A person who knows what to listen for, will easily tell the differences in components.

And again, I will state that I think that this whole issue is a "red herring", that is brought up by those who have convinced themselves that there is no difference in equipment, or cables, or whatever, in order to satisfy their own minds that they do not have to spend money on such things, and still have the best. In my opinion, the desire to save money is stronger, even in the most ardent audiophile, than the desire to spend a lot of money fruitlessly. I would say that I, and everyone else here, would rather spend less, to get the same performance, if we could do it. And there are ways to do it. The most expensive item is not always the best sounding item. But sometimes it is. And making claims that "in a real scientific environment we couldn't tell the difference" is simply a diversion.

In virtually every case where this is mentioned, it is in a context of "wasting money on snake oil". This is the crux of the matter. It is a matter of justifying expenditures.

So now, we have a whole different scenario. Now we have a subject brought up, which is the real center of the matter, which is,"Is it worth it to me to spend alot of money to get a certain level of performance increase, when I am not sure of the outcome?"

There's such a plethora of cables and components, and claims of grandeur, that some people cannot cope with it, and punt. Instead they divert their attentions to claiming that there is no difference between these things, and stick to it. They use a "scientific" argument that they know nobody is going to use, to back-up their idea.

In some cases, they will be right, and there will be no noticeable differences in some items. This only adds to the confusion, because it lends credence to the extrapolation that there is no difference in anything.

If these folks want to believe that, then that is their prerogative, and they are entitled to believe that. But to tell the rest of us that we are "deluded" by our unquenchable desires to spend money, that we would manufacture these differences in our heads, just so we can spend more money, is not passing the "smell" test.

I'll use myself as an example. I "claim" that I can hear differences. But I don't want to spend any more than I have to, in order to get the sound quality I want. I can honestly say that I may hear very small, or even no, sonic difference between certain items that have significantly different prices. When I arrive at a situation like that, I call the lower priced item a "bargain", and I buy that one. Or I may say,"I like that one better, but the small difference is not worth the extra money to me." Isn't that a more "measured" approach than what we are seeing here? That is what everyone else does. When my girlfriend goes shopping for a dress, and she sees one she likes for alot less than a similar one, she remarks on what a "good deal" she got. She doesn't come home proclaiming that "there is no difference between dresses" so she bought the cheapest one in the store. After all, they all perform the same function of a covering, right?

All of this is much ado about nothing. People will buy what they want. Then they will justify it to themselves, or others. That is life.
Twl, thanks for taking the time to clearly articulate what is obvious to many of us, some products are superior to others and the decision is usually, whether the improvement is worth the cost. Also, thank God, there ARE superior products that cost less than the competion. Then there is also the issue of synergy and the proper matching of components. Judging from your system profile, it's obvious you are doing your homework. God bless.

TRUTH is controversial, to be sure - follow this link Audio Asylum post concerning hyperbole
What an interesting thread. I've othen wondered if there would be value in SB/DB testing and why it isn't done more often. It seems to me that the reason for such tests is twofold, firstly to identify on an objective basis specific differences between components - eg transparency, ambiance, soundstage, resolution, focus, brightness, transient attack, clarity, etc; and secondly which component gives greater musicality over a period of time eg which gives the best pleasure, which is nearest to the original recording, which is nearest to live sound. The problem is that everyone hears sound differently. That's why some like the sound of the Festival Hall, and can't bear the sound of the same orchestra playing the same piece under the same conductor, in the Albert Hall (I live in the UK). I suggest the success or failiure of SB/DB testing would depend on its its ability to allow the listener to consistently pick out the component which gave them the greatest pleasure, or produced the specific type of ambiance, transparency, etc. that they wanted.

Most people can tell the difference between listening to components placed on a bog standard shelf in the living room, or on specifically designed audio stands such as the Sistrum, or Townshend: whether they prefer one over the others is dependent on how they hear sound. It's the same with cable burn-in: I defy anyone with normal hearing not to agree there is a difference between a fully burnt-in cable and a virgen cable. But that difference may be totally unimportant to them.

So maybe BS/DB testing at an individual level would have value, if one had the time and the money to spend on it. Otherwise, perhaps the knowledge - gained by quick A/B comparision, reviews, and most importantly people's opinions on forms such as this one - that component A has slightly more of what we want in terms of amibiance, transparency, etc; is about as far as we can reasonably expect to go, and very probably good enough for all but the most "golden-eared" of us.
Blind and double-blind is a way, as we all know, to attempt to remove the subjectivity from what is hoped to be an objective evaluation. It's great for testing some things in which there is a clear hierarchy of "poor" to "excellent." Eyes, ears, and taste buds, however, don't conform to objectivity. Try a blind wine-tasting to see how many diverse opinions are being swished around the tongue and spat out into the bucket.

I tried a blind (but not deaf!) test last night, as it so happens, of some Vampire vs. Nordost vs. van den Hul interconnects.

It's REALLY hard to change cables with one's eyes shut! I knocked my turntable onto the floor, stepped onto the open try of my CD player, connected the phono stage to the tape deck, smashed my 180gm Dylan LP, and shoved my index finger through the cone of my Cabasse.

After all that, all the cables sounded like s**t. In truth, the van den Hul bested them all, followed (at some distance) by the other two. The $15 Vampire sounded no different than the $150 Nordost.

Blind testing is fun, as Twl notes, but very difficult to implement in real life.
TWL, I'm not following your logic or maybe I just didn't read it carefully enough.

First, you make a point that DBT proved to be virtually the same as non-DBT for you. (BTW, congrats on the ~ 100% results. I wish more "reviewers" would do the same exercise.)

Then, you basically claim that DBT is primarily for people that want to save money (or claim that their lower priced system is just as good as any other.) This seems to be a stretch to me.

First, I doubt that most DBT proponents advocate it to justify their inferior system. You're taking a cynical view of an opposing viewpoint and making a generalization. Regardless, even for those who use DBT to solely justify a lower priced product, what other method would you recommend that is better? You, yourself, said the results were identical.

Bottom line -- DBT is either an accurate test or not. If it isn't, then your 100% non-DBT concurrence with DBT tests would be a bad thing wouldn't it???
I advocate this testing as a way of attempting to control variables in subjective evaluations, not as means of disproving the merits of high-end, high- priced components.
Labtec, just because I have used blind testing in the past, does not mean that I consider it terribly useful. I can much more easily get the answer I need regarding the performance of a product, by just doing a simple listening test, and dispensing with all the blindfolds, and mystique of blind testing. It is simply not necessary for me. If I find that something sounds so close to what I have, that I can't really tell, I don't really need to be considering an upgrade to that product. Very simple really.

As far a blind testing being used by others, I don't think that it is used for testing the sound of equipment by very many people at all. I think that it is used for the purposes I stated, which is to "refer" to blind-testing, as a diversion from the real issue.

I am making a distinction here, between actual blind testing, and the way it is "referred to" in the context of this discussion. It is referred to as "scientific" reasoning that blind testing will show that audiophiles cannot hear what they claim to hear, and that is what I take issue with. It has been my experience that blind testing actually bears out the statements that audiophiles make about hearing differences in equipment. Not in all cases, because some equipment is not different enough for many, or any, to hear. In most cases that I have seen, it is different enough to hear.

I have never claimed that there are differences in ALL cases, and this is borne out in regular informal listening tests as well as it may be in blind testing.

So, I feel that blind testing is not yielding any more information than we already can obtain by simple listening testing. But I also feel that blind testing is being used for an entirely different purpose, in the context of these discussions. In these discussions, it is often claimed that no difference in sound exists between low and high priced cables, or amplifiers, which are the 2 items most often cited in this context. It is then generally stated that if we were to be placed in a blind testing situation, that we would not be able to tell the difference, and thus are wasting money by buying higher priced "audiophile" cables and amplifiers. I feel that since it is obvious, not only by my experience, but by simple empirical inspection, that items made with different designs, and different components will have a different sound, that this line of argument is not related to equipment at all, but must have another purpose. And I have stated what I feel that purpose is.

But it also has another effect. The haranguing of audiophiles that they are imagining things, and "scientific" testing will prove that they are incapable of making sonic decisions, serves only to shake the confidence of a listener, and make him feel that he is imagining things that he is actually hearing. This is a destructive effect, that may in fact lead him to make a bad decision regarding the quality of his audio gear, if he is sufficiently swayed by this line of thinking. If there is truly anyone here who thinks that lamp cord is the best speaker cable obtainable, then they need to take up another hobby.

This is really an extension of a 25 year old battle, which started out in the 70s with the "measurement" people. They read a couple of ads, and thought they knew everything. Then they went around proclaiming that a Technics reciever would be as good as anything you could buy, because it had .0000001% distortion, which we now know was provided by gross amounts of negative feedback, and had hugely destructive effects on the sound quality. But, did this stop the measurement people from running around telling everyone that they were wasting their money on "audiophile" amplifiers? No. In fact they continued to rant about how no high-end amp could be worth the money, when it had higher "measured" distortion than the Technics reciever. And that anything different we heard in these high-end amps was either our imaginations, or it was "euphonic" types of distortion, which is some unknown type of distortion which somehow makes us like the sound more, while still actually being bad. They are still at it with this one. I hear references to "euphonic" distortion all the time on these pages, whereby the implication is made that a tube amp cannot be accurate, because of distortion measurments. After the world caught on to the gag, these measurement people had to "hole-up" for a while. Now they are out again in full force with this again with the cable thing, and they are throwing the amps in again too, in case they can get any more "mileage" out of that one.

While certain measurements may be a decent indicator of whether a component will perform in certain ways, the final arbiter is the ear. This equipment is made to be listened to by ears, and the ears are the judge, regardless of whether the measurements line up or not. The most perfectly measuring amp in the world is not worth a thing, if it sounds like crap. Conversely, an amp that sounds fantastic is worth plenty, regardless of what the measurements are.

This is the same thing as we are seeing here. And the same techniques are being used. Point at a measurement or "scientific" test, and proclaim that anything that you hear that doesn't line up with this data, is imaginary. And to make matters worse, proclaim that if there is no measureable data, that it cannot exist. This is not scientific at all. In the case of blind testing, it is used as a "scare tactic" to make audiophiles think that if they were actually to be placed in a blind testing position, that they would fail miserably, and their entire system is nothing more than an imaginary delusion.

Why would people do this? It serves no purpose but one. To justify their decisions to not make high end purchases, by concocting this story. It truly amazes me that this gets any mileage at all. It is so patently absurd. It flies in the face of what is obvious. They want you to disregard what you experience, and replace it with a reliance on some number, or worse yet, replace it with another school of thought, based upon the "fear" that they try to instill in you that you could not "hold up" under the scrutiny of this blind testing. I find this very objectionable. For someone to imply to me, that I am incapable of making my own decisions based on my own experience, is not going to fly too far with me.

You can all make up your own minds on this matter. And anyone who has the schools of thought that I negatively referred to has every right to maintain them. They have every right to express them. As do I. It is up to you to separate the wheat from the chaff. And the decisions you make will ultimately define what your system sounds like.
Because when you DBT, some people will hear differences where none exist and some will not hear differences when they do exist. This makes any so-called scientific study invalid since it cannot show which is right - those wo say that there are no differences and ones who say there is. It is much harder (maybe impossible) to prove by testing that you cannot discern differences than to say you can.

Why? I think it's because the brain will discern differences in sound when it wants to. It's part of our survival instinct (a police officer chasing an armed person can think a twig snapping is a gun being cocked and will react defensively). Also, not to pick on Twl, if you take Twl and his co-workers informal scientific, but fun, experiment: if I were to tell each of them that I replaced one component when I in fact did not, I would bet that more than one (maybe all) would have identified something as being changed. It's the way the brain works - if it thinks there is a difference, it will try its best to find one (especially with the peer-pressure factor thrown in). Conversely, if it thinks there is no difference, whether out of prejudice or justification, then it won't find one. But if you tell the brain there may be or may not be a difference, then it's up to the listening skills to be invoked - and that too varies wildly among people; to the point where if someone hears a difference in a component might not (and vice versa) in a DBT. That's the controversy IMO.
Gs5556, of course we did that. Do you think that a couple of young audio salesmen would not try that trick? We tried fooling each other any way we could. That was part of the fun.
to audition equipment in their home with their equipment using the DBT method. Thus controversy exits.
Most people who claim to hear differences in cables, or whatever are doing something wrong in there methodology. Most likely, they are not level matching to within .1db.
This is essential for fairplay.

If there is a difference between cables, those differences can be explained by two things: The RCL characteristics and
the cleansing effects that you get when unplugging and replugging cables.

When you know what you are listening to you want very badly to hear a difference, especially if you just paid $100s or $1000s of dollars for a few feet of wire.

We wouldn't be having this conversation if listeners would quit using terms like 'jaw dropping' and such.

I've heard differences in noise levels and other such anomalies in phono sections, but I just don't hear the things some claim to hear.

I don't mind the double blind reviews. The ones that bother me are the ones that eventually prove to be the product of double deaf.
Hats off and a low bow Unsound.
It was like that with me. Some of the things that I have purchased are expensive, to me that is, probably not to some of you. I would look at the new expensive thing and want to like. I've not just listened for a few minutes either. Try months. About the time I'm sure that I now have something better, I bring my wife into the game. She knows nothing about this stuff, could care less. Put simply: When I'm doing the switching I can tell the difference every time. When my wife does it I fail half the time.
Paulwp: Why specifically drag me into this ? I made no comment either way. I think everybody here that has read more than a few of my posts would know where i stand and i was willing to leave it at that. Having said that....

Jwrobinson: Why would listening levels change within a system if a cable was changed ? I am talking RCA vs RCA and XLR vs XLR ( apples to apples, no change in system gain, etc... ). So long as the cables are of reasonable design ( adequate gauge so as not to incur voltage drop due to series resistance ), there should be NO change. That is, IF "wire" really is "wire" and conductors are conductors.

The only reasonable explanation would be that the equipment is loading up differently. Since it is loading up differently, wouldn't it be logical that the response of said equipment has been altered to what is a measurable, and quite possibly, an audible extent ?

As far as your concerns regarding "cleaning the connections when cables are swapped" possibly altering our sonic perceptions, any type of "reasonable" connection that has recently been plugged / unplugged should measure less than a few hundred milli-ohms. If a few hundred milli-ohms can alter our sonic perception and is audible, why wouldn't something so large as what could be a drastic change in capacitance and / or inductance due to differences in cable design have the same effect ?

You are willing to apply specific arguments as to why specific changes are not audible, but when you are asked to apply that same logic as to why they "could" be audible, those variables and equations are no longer acceptable.

THIS is the main reason that most audiophiles and "music lovers" abhor these threads and this topic. Most DBT enthusiasts are simply hypocrites with closed minds. To be fair though, there are those that do perform such tests with open minds under very controlled and realistic conditions. They do this in order to further our understanding, knowing that there is much that we do not know and still need to learn. To those folks, i say "kudo's" and "keep up the good work".

To those that need an explanation for all things and don't believe in things they can't explain, i can only respond with the following passage: "Claiming themselves to be wise, they were made as fools". Just because we can't physically see moisture and condensation being wicked up into the atmosphere and collecting in clouds, that does not mean that it doesn't rain. Just because they believed the Earth to be flat, people did not fall off the edge when travelling "too far" in one direction. Just because they believed that the Earth was the center of the universe, the planets in our solar system did not stop revolving around the Sun. As such, just because we as humans don't understand or have the knowledge to explain does not mean "it is so". If some of you can't grasp the reality of that and think that mankind knows all that we need to know, i feel sorry for you. Sean
Oh, Sean, I didnt mean anything by it. I was referring to another thread in which I had said that salespeople couldnt tell things apart. This was, at the time of my post above, a relatively friendly thread, and I was just trying to be friendly despite our differences.

Back on topic, obviously, a lot of people feel threatened by the very mention of a DBT, apparently afraid of something. I am not an advocate of DBT's for the average audiophile. Too inconvenient for one thing, and for another, I've never participated in one. I just listen to stuff, get up, change the cables and listen to the other component. If I am acting on my imagination rather than perfectly accurate hearing, I don't really care, because I'm not designing, reviewing or selling anything, and my imagination so far is fairly consistent. Oh, yeah, there's that expectation thing - what the hell, whatever works.

I think those who hate the concept of a DBT should just go about their business secure that no one will ever force them into undergoing such an unpleasant procedure. Nothing to be afraid of. But I am pleased that the designers of the audio components and speakers I buy use them in their work and that a few legitimate audio reviewers also use them.

Sean, I was not referring specifically to cables, though it seems the tone of this discourse went in that direction.

I was talking about blind testing,in general.

It's controversial mainly because most people don't understand the methodology of DB test or even how to interpret results.

First, DBTs are probably not very useful as a means of selecting components for most people. Not because they wouldn't reveal audible differences, but simply that there are many factors that drive preference in addition to sound. Even in cases where there are no *audible* difference between components (a lot more common that most A'goners will admit, clearly), that doesn't preclude differences in other attributes that lead to real, valid, non-questionable preferences for one component over the other.

Second, the claims that DBTs inherently obscure differences, or that you can't hear differences in a DBT format, just factually don't fly. DBTs have been shown to resolve differences down to the theoretical limits of hearing.

What's really hilarious, though, are the claims that those who support DBTs do so to avoid buying high-priced gear. That somehow they're all so confused by the vast array of components that they run and bury their heads in scientific sand. No, the real reason that DBTs exist is the well documented tendency for people to see things that aren't there (and the converse) and to hear things that don't exist (and the converse there as well). Humans seem to be wired this way - to "over detect" - and DBTs work to eliminate this effect, apparently to the discomfort of many.
Sean, Sean, Sean. DBTs exist to serve ". . . those that need an explanation for all things and don't believe in things they can't explain"?? Before explaining a phenomenon, perhaps it is a good idea to demonstrate that the phenomenon exists in the first place. DBTs are used for exactly that purpose.
Hearhere, again why the need to insist or imply that the average audiophile is deceived. What are the "many factors that drive preference in addition to sound" besides ergonomics, convenience, and build quality.

In a Utopian sense I love the idea of DBT, I doubt I would ever take the time to evaluate a component this way however. It just isn't efficient or necessary for me to do so. I have no difficulty accepting, even admiring, someone's efforts to evaluate upgrades in this manner, but so many of the conclusions/preconceptions of some DBT disciples (or claimed disciples; see below) are so clearly absurd, then to have these faulty conclusions presented so forcefully as truth is somewhat vexing, if allowed under one's skin. I would expect the converse to be true as well when called names.

I also believe that many identified as DBT disciples probably are mislabeled and really should be identified more accurately as skeptics hitching themselves to the DBT banner. It would be interesting to find out how many in this category truly practice DBT methodology. Presumably these are the ones that subjective audiophiles find to be ignorant and grating when addressing issues that contradict truths revealed to the subjective disciple based on their personal experience. The subjective conclusion would be supported by DBT if all variables were controlled, assuming of course that subjective disciple is not deceived. What what this thread all about again?
Wellfed: I think that Hearhear was saying that well conducted DBT's are supposed to be able to allow researchers to identify if there is a discernable difference, not that there aren't discernable differences. Once they can verify that differences are detectable on a repeated basis under comfortable conditons, they can then dig in and try to understand exactly what those differences are and why they exist.

Personally, i have no problem with this type of test so long as suitable subjects are used. I do have a problem with knuckleheads selected at random being forced to make decisions at the drop of a hat under less than ideal / uncomfortable conditons with products / materials that they are unfamiliar with and the results from those "tests" being force-fed to us as being "the truth". Sean
Sean, my response to Hearhere pertained to his/her first post. While Hearhere, in my eyes, appears to be one of the more honorable, reasonable, and sincere of the DBT suporters, there is still a significant insinuation that audiophiles, as group, are subject to powerful forces of deception, along with the insinuation that such deception is prevalent. As for knuckleheads, I would suspect that they are present in both camps. It would be nice if someone could devise a DBT to determine who the knuckleheads are, but for the time being I think it best to determine these by simple subjective discernment. I truly hope I am not getting too nasty with my commentary, sigh.
Wellfed: I was referring to people collected off the street as "knuckleheads". I should have said "average joe's", etc... I do agree with your point though : )

I can't understand why one would want to perform tests on subjects that have no idea as to what they are listening for or how to discern the differences. That is, unless one wanted to promote a certain ideology with the less than optimized test individuals and conditions. Most of the test results that are foisted upon us are those performed upon random individuals, not those that know how to listen and not just "hear". There is a BIG difference as far as i'm concerned.

Even within the ranks of "skilled listeners" you'll have variances as to what people can hear and what they listen for in terms of sonic cues and signatures. As such, if one wanted to make some type of "final statement" as to what was audible and what wasn't, you would have to assemble a very large group of individuals from all walks of life and go from there. At that point, one could start off with simple ( highly audible ) test differences and weed the crowd out from there. As the tests became harder, the "cream of the crop" would be left. At that point, we might be able to say that the average person off of the street will only make it from Point A up to point M in terms of audible discernment. Those that fell short of Point M would be considered to be below average in hearing and / or listening abilities. A select few might make it up to Point S, but anything beyond that would truly require excellent ears and trained listening skills. Beyond that point, it is possible to hear from point A to point Z under ideal conditions by a person with excellent hearing and listening skills. It would be these people that i would use as "guinea pigs" when trying to draw the line between what the human ear and brain is capable of detecting and processing in a linear manner. Does this make sense ?

This approach allows room for growth AND reduction based upon the individual. Obviously hearing and listening skills vary from person to person AND change over time. To me such testing would be logical and i might tend to believe the results a bit more.

If i had to pick and choose an individual to represent "audiophiles" as a group in terms of hearing acuity and listening skills, i would have gone with Enid Lumley circa the late 1970's and early 1980's. I have no doubt in my mind that she was a very skilled listener and had excellent hearing. I'm also 100% certain that she could hear things that i ( and probably most others ) can't. As such, her test results would give me a point of reference as to just how much one could hear and how much i was actually missing. Sean
Sean, I always thought one of the key features of a true DBT is that the subject does not know the nature of variable element. When applied to audio the listener should not know what to listen for.

I find it interesting that both sides of this issue are strongly suspicious of the motives of the other side. It seems that the interpretation of the results are more controversial than the actual DBT itself.
Those that are administering the tests do not know what is being tested at the very specific time of the DBT, but that does not mean that there isn't some type of log or record that couldn't be taken of such an event by an outside source such as a computer, etc.. Sean
Onhwy61 -- it is specifically the motivations that yield the controversy. A DBT could, with great effort, be designed to yield reasonably valid results. The posts above suggest that such effort is seldom made because the test sponsors don't understand or believe that effort is required. Without going through all that work, the test becomes a "double deaf test" as Unsound suggests.
A true double blind test wouldn't be easy to set up, but as a scientific experiment it really isn't very hard. As far as interpreting the results of an experiment goes, I don't think you can design an experiment that isn't open to misinterpretation. It's a very different statement and attitude to say that a DBT has to be well designed and rigorous than to say DBTs serve no useful purpose.
To address Sean's and other's points about pulling random folks in off the street for DBTs, you are quite correct. You can't just grab someone off the street, put the music on and test away. In truly valid tests - and these are in the minority, I suspect - there is a training component. During this time, if I recall correctly, some screening is also done.

The best candidates for DBTs may be well-trained 10-year-olds!