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Thread: Comparative Listening Tests

  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by KlausR. View Post
    Google books has Meilgaard’s “Sensory Evaluation Techniques”, check out Chapter 6.

    The easiest test mentioned is the paired comparison test, where all possible pairs have to be presented, or the same/different test, with matched and unmatched pairs. As long as the listeners are told to listen for and note differences between the two components of a pair without knowing to what kind of pair (AA, AB, BB, BA) they are listening to that specific parameter is controlled. Use one listener at a time, control SPL at listening position. There are more potential sources of bias but for a start the above would probably do. If listeners want more time to listen, give them more time.

    I think that such simple tests can be done by the layman, but probably the real audiophile is not interested in knowing the objective truth. If he hears a difference and considers that this difference is worth the money, then that’s fine for him. It is most likely that there is a real physiological reaction too, one more reason to go for the fancy cable:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/105/3/1050.full
    Interesting link, thanks.

    Actually:
    1) until recently I thought the cable issue was overrated
    2) I thought my interconnect was really good, for various reasons
    3) initially, I was only interested in another interconnect because changes in rack/system configuration require a longer cable (1.5 m instead of 1 m)
    4) the ZenWave Audio D4 interconnect is, in high-end terms, extremely cheap, so there was no 'pride of having an expensive cable' for me

    So no, there was no bias towards a 'fancy cable' involved for me. Still, I found very profound improvements by the ZenWave Audio D4 over my Monster Sigma 2000 interconnect, so I bought it.

    ***

    I do agree that careful adjustment of SPL at the listening position, especially when listening to active components, is absolutely crucial. Often just a 1 dB increase in volume can make for a perceived 'better' sound.

  2. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Al M.
    4) the ZenWave Audio D4 interconnect is, in high-end terms, extremely cheap, so there was no 'pride of having an expensive cable' for me

    So no, there was no bias towards a 'fancy cable' involved for me. Still, I found very profound improvements by the ZenWave Audio D4 over my Monster Sigma 2000 interconnect, so I bought it.
    Without controls, there certainly was bias that different cables sound different. This one D4 interconnect is more expensive than the 50 odd meters of IC I have in my system, so no, in my book that's not cheap at all.

    do agree that careful adjustment of SPL at the listening position, especially when listening to active components, is absolutely crucial. Often just a 1 dB increase in volume can make for a perceived 'better' sound.
    A colleague of mine once could obtain from a Dutch cable manufacturer some strands of gold-doped silver wire and made a DIY interconnect. When we compared that to my El Cheapo, it sounded different, but we then realized that for some reason it was louder.

    Klaus
    Speakers: Klein + Hummel O500C, Electronics: Funk MTX preamp, Rane PS1 phonostage, Analog: Michell Gyrodec, SME 309, Shure V15VxMR, Digital: Tascam CD-RW4U, Tascam MD-801R

  3. #23
    VIP/Donor [VIP/Donor] microstrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KlausR. View Post
    (...)

    I have no problems with others using sighted listening but I certainly don’t consider opinions as being facts.

    Klaus
    Surely. But experience makes us consider some opinions as more reliable than others, although as naturally we will favor opinions agreeing with ours, there is always some kind of bias.

    We should never forget the words of F. Toole,

    "And, what might the appropriate loudspeakers be? Two-channel stereo, as we have known it, is not a
    “system” of recording and reproduction.
    The only “rule” is that there are two channels. At the recording end of
    the chain, there are many quite different theories and practices of miking and mixing the live performance –
    ranging from the purist simplicity of two coincident microphones to multi-microphone, multi-track, pan-potted
    and electronically-reverberated mono. They all can be great fun, some of them even very good, but they are all
    different.
    At the reproduction end of things, loudspeakers have taken many forms: forward facing, bipolar
    (bidirectional in phase), dipolar (bidirectional out-of-phase), omnidirectional, and a variety of multi-directional
    variants. These, and various sum/difference and delay devices, have been employed in attempts to coax, from a
    spatially-deprived medium, a rewarding sense of space and envelopment. In the two-channel world, therefore,
    the artists could not anticipate how their performances would sound in homes. It was left to the end user to
    create something pleasant. Stereo, therefore, is not an encode/decode system, but a basis for individual
    experimentation.
    "

    And I still prefer informative reports on sighted listening experimentation to poorly conducted, misleading and inconclusive, blind listening tests. As always just MHO.
    Under construction around a pair of Wilson XLF's , Forsell Air Force One, ARC Phono 2SE and a DCS Vivaldi 2.0 stack : cj GAT + cj LP275m's, TA OPUS MM2 +TA XL digital, TA XL gen V power cables ...

  4. #24
    [WBF Founding Member] audioguy's Avatar
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    I have learned over the years that I have very strong expectation bias. If a product looks or feels better, has great reviews, is highly recommended, etc. then I know that in a comparison, I "expect" it to sound better ...and it usually does.

    So when possible, I have a friend assist me in "blind" comparisons. NOT double blind or ABX. Just a comparison between the product I am interested in and the one I already have. The most recent example (several years ago) was for a new SSP. I built a "box" from available components (8 XLR inputs from each of two SSP's) so that I could instantly switch from one to the other.

    Setting levels identically (frequency sweeps through each one) was straight forward. All of my equipment is in a separate room so the "blind" part was easy. My friend participated in the test as well as I trust his ears. We listened to full CD's, individual songs as well as very short segments. We used our phones to communicate so that one could signal when they wanted to change sources since we were in two different rooms. And unlike others who commented about the stress associated with these kinds of tests, I had non since I really did not care which product I preferred. [Not completely accurate since I really did not want to spend $25,000 any time in the near or far future on a single new piece of equipment.]

    Some high points of the tests (which lasted over several days): When we first started and before we did the blind portion, just to get a feel for what we would be listening to, we ALWAYS selected the newer (and more expensive and better looking) product. ALWAYS. And on another occasion, after we started the blind listening, when one of the two units was accidentally set to 1/2 dB louder than the other, we ALWAYS selected it. Easily audible. Once the blind portion began, then it got really tough. REALLY. We listened in just stereo for most of the trials since trying to compare a system will 7 speakers + subs would have been a bit too much.

    During the blind listening, while we "thought" we knew which was which, and did slightly better than 50% when making our choice, we did not pass any of the definitions of a successful blind test. Mind you, the two units involved were a $2500 unit and a $25,000 unit.

    I will NOT say the units sounded identical. But I can say, that I will no longer spend that kind of money on a product where audible differences are so subtle (to my aging ears) - or as we like to say, requires a high degree of squinting.

    As a conclusion to this test, we enabled the room correction systems and then we correctly guessed 100% of the time --- and yes I purchased the more expensive unit.

    I am not suggesting any one else should do this but I do so whenever possible. The first time I did this test was when I swapped 30 stock power cords with 30 very expensive power cords - after I had purchased the 30 expensive power cords. A real eye opener to say the least.

    These tests can be a pain in the rear to conduct, but with the kind of $$ at stake, it is worth it TO ME.

    Should anyone have nothing better to do, you can read the full description of what we did HERE
    “Audio as a hobby is dying, largely by its own hand. As far as the real world is concerned, high-end audio lost its credibility during the 1980s, when it flatly refused to submit to the kind of basic honesty controls (double-blind testing, for example) that had legitimized every other serious scientific endeavor since Pascal. [This refusal] is a source of endless derisive amusement among rational people and of perpetual embarrassment for me” - Gordon Holt

  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by KlausR. View Post
    Without controls, there certainly was bias that different cables sound different. This one D4 interconnect is more expensive than the 50 odd meters of IC I have in my system, so no, in my book that's not cheap at all.
    You can believe whatever you want about my alleged bias. Just don't pretend it's the truth.

    A colleague of mine once could obtain from a Dutch cable manufacturer some strands of gold-doped silver wire and made a DIY interconnect. When we compared that to my El Cheapo, it sounded different, but we then realized that for some reason it was louder.

    Klaus
    I checked the SPL levels. No difference between the two cables.

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by KlausR. View Post
    Without controls, there certainly was bias that different cables sound different. This one D4 interconnect is more expensive than the 50 odd meters of IC I have in my system, so no, in my book that's not cheap at all.
    (...)
    A colleague of mine once could obtain from a Dutch cable manufacturer some strands of gold-doped silver wire and made a DIY interconnect. When we compared that to my El Cheapo, it sounded different, but we then realized that for some reason it was louder.

    Klaus
    Let us suppose that someone publishes a scientific paper reporting accepted evidence that cables can sound different. Would it change anything in your system?
    Under construction around a pair of Wilson XLF's , Forsell Air Force One, ARC Phono 2SE and a DCS Vivaldi 2.0 stack : cj GAT + cj LP275m's, TA OPUS MM2 +TA XL digital, TA XL gen V power cables ...

  7. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by microstrip
    Let us suppose that someone publishes a scientific paper reporting accepted evidence that cables can sound different. Would it change anything in your system?
    Since this paper did not, for obvious reasons, examine all cables in all systems I would consider the findings to be true and valid for the experimental setup and the listeners involved.

    In his paper about subjective listening tests Jon Risch said:

    It must be kept in mind, that the test results, any
    subjective test results, are only valid for those papticipants,
    on that particular sound system in that particular room, with
    the particular musical selections used. It takes a series
    of tests, using different sound systems/rooms/music to
    determine if a more universal outcome will result.
    http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=5538

    To answer your question: No, it would not change anything in my system. The best it could possibly do is trigger my interest so that I go and try cables myself, with the best possible controls I would be able to implement as a layman.

    Klaus
    Speakers: Klein + Hummel O500C, Electronics: Funk MTX preamp, Rane PS1 phonostage, Analog: Michell Gyrodec, SME 309, Shure V15VxMR, Digital: Tascam CD-RW4U, Tascam MD-801R

  8. #28
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    For me it's really simple. If I struggle to hear any difference, I go with what's cheaper. End of story.
    Disclosure of Industry Participation

    Co-Founder and Managing Director PureSound PH - Exclusive Distributor (Philippines only) of Lamm, Von Schweikert Audio, CH Precision, Light Harmonic, Valvet, Townshend, Critical Mass Systems, EERA, KR Audio, Ambience SS, TechDAS, Master Built

  9. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by JackD201 View Post
    For me it's really simple. If I struggle to hear any difference, I go with what's cheaper. End of story.
    For me it's even simpler: no listening, good quality cable (e.g. Belden), good quality connectors (e.g. Neutrik), soldering iron.

    Klaus
    Speakers: Klein + Hummel O500C, Electronics: Funk MTX preamp, Rane PS1 phonostage, Analog: Michell Gyrodec, SME 309, Shure V15VxMR, Digital: Tascam CD-RW4U, Tascam MD-801R

  10. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by KlausR. View Post
    I think that such simple tests can be done by the layman, but probably the real audiophile is not interested in knowing the objective truth. If he hears a difference and considers that this difference is worth the money, then that’s fine for him. It is most likely that there is a real physiological reaction too, one more reason to go for the fancy cable
    Perhaps I'm the opposite of a 'real audiophile', then About 15 years ago, I spent a few thousand dollars on custom interconnects that I absolutely thought made a huge difference (and a whole lot more on speaker cables by the same manufacturer, but that's another story). More recently, after doing a significant amount of blind A/B testing, I replaced these interconnects with a $60 pair of pro-audio interconnects and I couldn't tell the difference while blind. Since then, I have occasionally swapped the cheaper cables for the custom ones to see if a long-term evaluation would reveal something different. And I must say, I always preferred the cheaper cables, so that's what stayed in my system. Am I now banned from audiophile circles?
    -Paul

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