I have a couple of problems with Ethan Winer's definition of transparent.
1. 20hz to 20khz +/- 0.1dB seems ridiculously strict. The room won't be flat to that extent. Concert halls aren't that flat. Recording booths in recording studios aren't flat to +/- 0.1dbs. Records are mixed with widely varying tonal balance, eg Dire Straits 1st album vs INXS. I think that +/-1 db would be good enough. Maybe even +/- 2dbs. Most systems don't come anywhere close to +/- 2dbs 20hz to 20khz.
2. No laboratory equipment is available to measure all forms of distortion. Only certain types of distortion at certain minimum power or volume levels can be measured with currently available equipment. He's setting a goalpost that can't be measured. Which seems a bit pointless to me. OK as an academic exercise. Useless as a practical exercise.
And 100db below the music is not 0.001% The db scale is logarithmic. So
-10dbs would be 10%,
I prefer the quote from Nelson Pass - "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgement. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers are for those who do not."
These two quotes nicely highlight the two diverging opinions, as to what is most important when buying a hifi system.....and there is no right or wrong, only what brings maximum joy to the owner.
Spot on. I have virtually no understanding of the measurements associated with audio, and to be honest, I have no interest in learning them. I have heard many very expensive systems that I was impressed with but didn't enjoy and conversely, have encountered lots of cheaper systems that are perhaps not as transparent but to my ears were a lot more listenable.
Ethan Whiner's definition of transparent is intended to be provocative. And he succeeds.
WinterRacer, jitter has nothing to do with data errors and cannot cause a data error. Some of the most jitter-prone CD players are computer CD rom drives, which are 100% perfect as data devices, usually at many x the speed of CD playback.
As I spend more time on this forum I am learning. There are two camps.
I think that transparency is desirable but far less easy to define than Winer and others would have you believe. I also believe that neither measurements nor simple listening alone is adequate. I have other thoughts on the matter but I will refrain, since we JUST ARGUED ABOUT THIS TWO DAYS AGO in the other thread on transparency - although maybe we needed a new one that didn't start out by excoriating the WHF review team for not having a less normative standard for transparency in reviews. I've noticed that this is a common way to get things going - one of the more dogmatically biased forum regulars takes WHF to task for being...biased. Flame war ensues.
I try to stay open minded. But I've also heard two amps that measure almost identically on Winer's criteria sound totally different in the same system. It's a bit reductionist for me.
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Either the measurements are incorrect, or the measured differences significant?
Some rational and thought provoking responses on this thread with the usual smattering of emotive and irrelevant ranting and sniping. It's why things are in general, never resolved.
Some questions that stand out in the noise, are that, if as suggested the most imortant thing about hifi is the enjoyment of music and that the best equipment is that which you enjoy the sound of the most, ie it's all subjective (and that is certainly the view of some) then does that not render ALL subjective reviews irrelevent except to the reviewer?
Another question, is that if the measurements are simply a guide and no more, why is it that 'upgrades' always tend towards the higher end (more expensive)?
Also, What references are used to quantify the audible superiority of equipment in a higher price bracket over cheaper alternatives?
I think that it is perfectly fine to have the view that if you like something then that's all that you need to know, but your opinion is based on the sound of something that can be measured and quantified, it has at the end of the day been designed to sound this way and its sound is very much measurable and repeatable. It has to be this way or every piece of this equipment would sound different. It's a manufacturing principle called quality.
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That should not come as a suprise in any discussion surely? Two to Tango?
We wouldn't have much to talk about if we all agreed, now would we?
To quote someones signature that caught my eye the other day, "If I agreed with you, then we'd both be wrong".
Some people here are trying to reduce hifi to pure science - it can't be done, and some manufacturers admitted this. B&W are one of them - in their fresh blurb about the 685's 4/5 years ago I remember them stating they tried some capacitors with all the exact specifications, tolerances etc, yet some sounded better than others. So science does play a part, but at a certain point they use their ears.
Gasp! I thought ears were fallible and not to be trusted, so hifi engineers are human? Who'd have ever thought! And I agree many of us have different interpretations of what transparency is, and we may not be necessarily wrong. To me it means when audio is lacking in image depth, when the instruments all seem to be playing at the same distance, this may also imply a lack of ultimate clarity. And trust me, I've come across some components which I did not like as such, without changing my amp or speakers. In fact it was the very first Pioneeer DVD player I bought 11 years ago, and promptly exchanged it for a more expensive model.
So I'm neither here nor there on these arguments, regardless of what the frequence range our ears can operate on. But I'll hesitate to call people like B&W fools.
So some may rightly call WHF's reviews purely subjective, which certainly has its merits, but hifi is like a partner - one person's ugly is another person's beautiful.
And by my criteria, an active system may not do it for me, but maybe a true class A amp will.
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There is little doubt that jitter occurs and that it has the potential to cause effects which are audible. Plenty of papers written about it and measurements to back it up. In very simple terms, these are timing variations.
How much is needed to be audible is perhaps not an exact and whether it is perceived a negative or positive is subjective.
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that quote is so wrong imo! It is completely upside down and mixed up! Imo.
......and that is precisely why the two camps will never agree, or manage to change the mind of those with a different perspective.
There is no sense in buying a system just because it's (supposed to be) "accurate", if you hate the way it sounds, because it won't be listened to.....so logically, pleasure from the music is all that matters and the driving force behind any choice.
If that happens to be a system that (you believe) is as neutral, accurate and transparent as possible - great.....but even that is likely to have a subjective element to it.
Good point too.
To quote someones signature that caught my eye the other day, "If I agreed with you, then we'd both be wrong".
There is only one thing camp on here ... and I swing which ever way the wind blows.
I agree there's no point in buying something you hate the sound of. However, if it is an accurate system, then all you'd be saying is "I hate that recording" or "I hate the sound of a guitar". If you hate the sound of a system, all I'd suggest is that it's got a particular distortion characteristic you find objectionable.
There are some good arguments here, but I've yet to read anything that explains to me why accuracy has got such a bad reputation and subjectivism such a strong hold.
btw - someone said jitter is not a data error, or something like that. Jitter is a temporal distortion, if it's bad enough you'll get a data error, if not, they'll be no data error, but really I don't want to derail the thread with picking on individual insignificant bits (pun intended).
I am at pains to say that the co-owner of AVI has a lot to answer for here and I do think he is a thorougly nice guy in person.
That's a pretty big accusation to level at the forum. In any event a Mclaren MP4-12C may be technically superior to a Ferrari 458, yet why would some choose the latter?
Sorry, I should have been more specific. I didn't mean a hold over this forum or any people on it. I meant subjectivism has, to me, a surprisingly strong hold over the hi-fi industry.
One is at a hi-fi shop with three amps, three sources and three sets of speakers to audition. Not an unreasonable or abnormal number of choices. (They are the ones you can afford and that have all the necessary connectivity/functionality you need.) The shop has no lab of it's own to independently measure all the equipment scientifically and you don't have time to double blind test all of the permutations of source/amp/speaker. (Twenty seven possible combinations? Correct me if that's wrong.) You don't even have time to listen to all the combinations in the normal ('sighted') manner, let alone under controlled scientific conditions.
You decide that - for the sake of aesthetics maybe - to group sources and amps from the same manufacturer together. That's 'only' nine possible combinations now. That's still a long day even if you only are only choosing subjectively ('sighted' with all that entails).
Then (even if the dealer were to let you out of the shop with three complete systems not yet paid for) you have to demo them all again at home.
You might decide to visit another hi-fi shop because they have a further number of compatible options you can afford from different brands than the first dealer stocked..
Now the possible permutations have 'exploded' and "gone all exponential on yo a##". (And we are still only talking about modest numbers of sources, amps and speakers.)
This is part of the reason that all sorts of personal, subjective and even somewhat irrational criteria (including guidance from hi-fi mags and dealer suggestions) will come into play. There simply isn't enough time in the world to (scientifically or otherwise) compare every possible combination even with relatively modest numbers of components.
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Imagine your favourite active speaker brand brings out a new version that sounds better than its predecessor, would that speaker be more transparent?
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