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Old 7th Apr 2020, 11:56 am   #1341
turretslug
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Default Re: The Audiophoolery Thread.

Every now and then, there's a certain charm in working on something that has a PCB that was obviously based on someone's felt-pen/drafting-tape sketching out and iteration, rather than a computer's neat, regimented but cold decision. That story must come under "most circumlocuitous excuses for putting a peep-hole in a toilet door"!
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Old 7th Apr 2020, 4:15 pm   #1342
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Default Re: The Audiophoolery Thread.

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Originally Posted by julie_m View Post
A good amplifier will sound the same as the original performance, and another good amplifier will sound the same as the first.
That's a wonderful theory and it would make my life as a hi-fi reviewer a damn sight easier (although a bit duller, maybe!).

Sadly, it simply isn't true.
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Old 7th Apr 2020, 4:49 pm   #1343
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Default Re: The Audiophoolery Thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beobloke View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by julie_m View Post
A good amplifier will sound the same as the original performance, and another good amplifier will sound the same as the first.
That's a wonderful theory and it would make my life as a hi-fi reviewer a damn sight easier (although a bit duller, maybe!).

Sadly, it simply isn't true.
I'm interested in the fact that you are a hifi reviewer. Can you tell us more?
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Old 7th Apr 2020, 4:54 pm   #1344
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Originally Posted by stevehertz View Post

I'm interested in the fact that you are a hifi reviewer. Can you tell us more?
What would you like to know?!
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Old 7th Apr 2020, 6:03 pm   #1345
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Default Re: The Audiophoolery Thread.

My question to Beobloke is, do you do proper double blind testing?
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Old 7th Apr 2020, 6:44 pm   #1346
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Default Re: The Audiophoolery Thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beobloke View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by stevehertz View Post

I'm interested in the fact that you are a hifi reviewer. Can you tell us more?
What would you like to know?!
It wasn't my intention to interrogate you, just an overview of what you do etc. But if you want specific questions here's a few:

Who do you review for?
Do you specialise in any particular area of hifi - amps, speakers etc?
How long have you been reviewing?
What''s your view on ABX testing?

Many thanks.
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Old 8th Apr 2020, 10:29 am   #1347
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It wasn't my intention to interrogate you, just an overview of what you do etc.
That’s quite alright - happy to share!

As a bit of background, I am an electronic engineer who still has a full time day job designing industrial power and control systems and I also have six years under my belt as a loudspeaker designer for Goodmans and Mordaunt Short, covering everything from drive unit design through hi-fi speakers to active subwoofers.

My first step into reviewing was in 2006 when I was working in a temporary job after being made redundant the year before. I then noticed that my favourite hi-fi magazine of the time, Hi-Fi World, was recruiting for an Assistant Editor. David Price, the Editor, worked from home and the mag needed someone to assist him based in the London office. I was interviewed by Noel Keywood and it appears that my electronics degree, knowledge of test equipment, enthusiasm for the magazine and obsession with turntables (I owned 20 or so at the time – 10 less than I do now!) did the trick and the job was mine. I did this for two years and loved every minute of it, until the cost of commuting daily to London from Hampshire became just too much and I had grown tired of the long hours that resulted from this. As a result I went back into engineering, to the company I’m still with, and stayed on as a contributor to Hi-Fi World. In 2012 I moved to Hi-Fi News and am still writing for them today, along with Hi-Fi Choice for the last year or so.

As to specialities, my favourite things to review are, naturally, anything turntable-related – turntables, arms, cartridges, phono stages – you name it. I also remain fascinated by loudspeaker design, so enjoy doing them but will happily turn my hand to anything. That said, whilst I am set up for streaming/digital music this really isn’t something that floats my boat and both magazines have contributors who are far better versed then me in such matters, so I’m happy to leave them to this. Following the hideous experience of a loudspeaker cable/interconnect group test back in 2007, I no longer review cables under any circumstances. However, before the cynics amongst you ask, yes, there were quite obvious differences in that group test!

As to the thorny issue of ABX or double blind testing, I remain puzzled by it. Purely because I genuinely cannot see what is so difficult about listening to one piece of equipment, then connecting another one up and assessing the differences and deciding which one you like better! If people really find it so difficult to do and are so easily led by the name of their favourite manufacturer on the front panel then I suppose ABX testing is as good a way to do it as any, but I really don’t know why it seems to be revered as such an absolute and almost holy experience. I remember back at Mordaunt Short we used to occasionally buy in competitors’ loudspeakers and run blind tests with random members of the company just to get a feel for whether it was felt we were doing the right thing. I usually used to run these tests but, on one occasion (where a design of ours had done fairly badly in a group test and we immediately bought all the competitors models to see what was going on) I was asked to participate. I’d listened to each pair of speakers for a couple of hours over the previous week and, when listening blind, was not only able to rank them in the order that I thought were best to worst, but also identify correctly which loudspeakers of the six pairs we listened to were which. Others were amazed – I still don’t see what the fuss was.

I would also like to clarify that I have never intend my reviews to be treated as some sort of gospel to which all my acolytes must obey! As I see it, my role is to attempt to give an idea of what the item sounds like in my system and whether readers might think it worth considering seeking out and listening to depending on their likes and preferences. As a reader of these magazines I was soon able to identify which reviewers shared my sonic tastes and who used similar systems to me. As an example, I know David Price's tastes very well and it has turned out that, if he likes something, there's a strong chance I'll like it as well but, of course, it's not a 100% correlation. (In the case of one or two other reviewers, anything they like I'll avoid like the plague!). But, as an example, if you’re looking for a sweet and melodious sounding amplifier to whisper out your favourite string quartets and I tell you that the 400W MOSFET behemoth I’m testing only really comes into its own when thrashing out Lamb of God at 110dB, I’d like to think that perhaps reading my review might help save you a 200 mile round trip to your nearest dealer that stocks it, only to find that you hate it!

Finally, as this usually crops up when reviewing is discussed:
(1) No, I have never found an envelope full of tenners with my name on it in the box of any review item (although I do always check, obviously...)
(2) I have never been offered a freebie for a good review (and would refuse to carry out the review if I was)

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Old 8th Apr 2020, 10:47 am   #1348
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Default Re: The Audiophoolery Thread.

Firstly, many thanks for taking time to provide such a lengthy and interesting post. I have skim read it, and will come back on points as I read further into the post. All interesting stuff, thanks.
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Old 8th Apr 2020, 1:09 pm   #1349
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Default Re: The Audiophoolery Thread.

Quote:
As to the thorny issue of ABX or double blind testing
I don't think there is a "thorny issue" at all, it is the only way of comparing items without bias. It's used in medicine to good effect.
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Old 8th Apr 2020, 1:52 pm   #1350
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Default Re: The Audiophoolery Thread.

Thanks, Beobloke. It must have been quite a step to de-cloak and write that,. I must say that I appreciate it.

A very good friend of mine (someone daft enough to trust his life to two successive rally cars I'd welded together) left HP and went to a company I've long expected to bring out a turntable called Ekpensiv, where he managed the product development department for 20-odd years. He didn't speak much of goings-on there and I didn't ask. But I gather they had a succession of good times and thin times of shrinkage. It is a form of fashion industry and luxury goods. Their boss is certainly a showman par excellence. But Bill didn't go in for the hype and whatnot, he just did good solid engineering which he's excellent at. The magazines lauded this firm and it almost seemed they could do no wrong and could ask any price, they had a fan-base that seemed almost blind. I found this all a bit off-putting. If all those expensive later mods needed fitting to their turntables because they each made revolutionary, large improvements to the sound, then the base model, expensive as it is, ought to sound crap without them. I bought a B&O radial tracker and I'm quite happy with it.

Cables certainly can make a difference, but chiefly when some quirk of the equipment lets them or reacts to them. My inclination is that when I hear a difference where I didn't expect one, I'll dig and dig until I've unearthed not only the nature of the difference but what mechanism created it. I want to understand it.

Hifi magazines changed a lot in the eighties and what I read drove me away. THere were never any dead heats, there were never any small differences. It didn't seem real. It didn't seem honest. Not dishonesty as in getting bungs from distributors or manufacturers, more a case of sexing up the descriptions to get and keep subscribers on the edge of their seats. It sounded like all reviews were being done by Jeremy Clarksons a decade before he appeared on our screens.

Some people treat double blind etc testing as a sort of garlic to wave at vampires. It seems to be a formalising of common sense, and then worshipping it. My ears aren't perfect, my perception isn't either. Sometimes when listening to things i may wonder 'Did I really hear that?' so trying things out blind is a way for me to test whether I heard something or whether I wanted to think I heard something. People (you, me everyone,) are suggestible to an extent. Our senses also aren't absolute. Sit in your lounge, look at a photograph on your lap. Your perception of the colours will be influenced by the colours and brightness around you. No great surprise. It's how our vision works. Our perceptions are influenced by our surroundings, and also by what we were doing just before. I don't place absolute trust in my senses, so it's sensible to check when I have doubts.

Some decades ago I built three amplifiers out of curiosity. One used MOSFETs, one used Bipolar transistors, the third used valves. All were designed to try to perform to the same standards. The valve amplifier had to be transformerless and DC coupled, which made it rather extreme. I think I succeeded. I couldn't tell them apart. I tried other people and their opinions were pretty much random. So I broke the valve amp down for parts. It wasn't a keeper not at the size and heat involved. Was the nature of the device used important?... no not to the sound. .. but yes to the size, price and power consumption. I think I achieved what I set out to design, and I listened to them, and I tried to check them with other people's opinions. I concluded that any of rthem would do for me, and forty years later one of them is still sitting behind a pair of transmission line jobs in the lounge. I feel no need to change anything. It satisfied me then and my hearing is degrading not improving with time.

Speakers, yes I'm not surprised you can recognise them blind given an acclimatisation period. 2-dimensional frequency response plots till only a tiny part of the tale. Speakers are complex beasties and their interaction with the room is even more complex.

It seemed to me that hifi magazines switched from being for people who listened to music to people whose hobby had become buying hifi equipment. Some of them seem to be under the curse of the flying dutchman, to always be on the move changing things and never getting to rest and enjoy what they have.

It's a human trait. I've seen it in the horse world. Someone gets in a new type of bit supposed to improve some problem or another with their animal. It doesn't seem to make any difference to me, but within the blink of an eye, half a riding club has ordered them in from America or Australia.

Anyway, forty years ago I opted out of the hifi thing and got on with looking for new music. Hifi magazines may have changed in the intervening years, but I don't need them. Some of the things I see on the internet makes me think that fashion and suggestibility are still going full-bore. I just hope that there are some oases of common sense around nowadays. They all evaporated in the heat of the eighties.

I put signals up to many tens of GHz through cables, and I developed the current generation of instruments used to measure the noisiness of components and systems down to thermal noise floors at a few Kelvin. Audio is a bit easier

David
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Old 8th Apr 2020, 2:45 pm   #1351
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Default Re: The Audiophoolery Thread.

Well said David - as ever. You're one of a number of shining lights on this forum who talk utter sense. Thank you.

I particularly agree about speakers. They are, in my opinion, singularly the most 'up for improvement' component in the hifi chain. And to me, most crucial is the mid range. Because even myself as an experienced musician I am not offended by a cymbal that is not 100% accurate to the original. Similarly, in the case of a low bass guitar note or a kick drum, again it's almost impossible to be hurt by reproductions that are near, but not, perfect. However.. I am well versed on the sound of a human voice and I sure can tell the difference between someone talking or singing four metres in front of me and a speaker's 'cardboard' cone trying to emulate it. So, there's still plenty of room for improvement in speakers, certainly in the mid range as I say.
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Old 8th Apr 2020, 5:30 pm   #1352
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Default Re: The Audiophoolery Thread.

A well known author of crime fiction paid the rent before success came knocking by reviewing in one of the more "serious" hi fi magazines (it started around 1980, I think). He has admitted in print that his review findings were as ficticious as his novels.
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Old 8th Apr 2020, 5:46 pm   #1353
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Default Re: The Audiophoolery Thread.

Come on Ted, who?
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Old 8th Apr 2020, 5:52 pm   #1354
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Default Re: The Audiophoolery Thread.

Ian Rankin?

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Old 8th Apr 2020, 6:20 pm   #1355
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Default Re: The Audiophoolery Thread.

It looks looks we've now got two mysteries to solve. The authors real name and the one the reviews were printed under.

Frightfully rash to admit it in these litigious times..." I paid $30000 for these cables on your advice, and no-one who listens to them can say that my soundstaging is more authoritative. I demand...."

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Old 8th Apr 2020, 6:36 pm   #1356
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Default Re: The Audiophoolery Thread.

Top Rankin

Born 28 April 1960 in Cardenden, a coal-mining town in Fife.

Educated Beath High School, Cowdenbeath, and studied English at Edinburgh University.

The struggling writer years Mid-Eighties Moves to London and financed writing by working for a hi-fi magazine. 1986 Publishes first novel, The Flood. 1987 Publishes Knots and Crosses, his first novel featuring John Rebus. 1990 Moves with his wife, Miranda, to rural France, where they live for six years, surviving on 5,000 a year. Now lives in Edinburgh with his wife and sons, Jack and Kit.

Found this on line but couldn't find anything about calling his reviews fiction he wrote other books as Jack Harvey.

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Old 8th Apr 2020, 9:44 pm   #1357
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Default Re: The Audiophoolery Thread.

There are some Rebus radio dramas available on the BBC, rather good. If he got there by being a bit "flowery" in a HiFi mag I am glad, they make good listening.
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Old 8th Apr 2020, 11:35 pm   #1358
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Default Re: The Audiophoolery Thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted Kendall View Post
A well known author of crime fiction paid the rent before success came knocking by reviewing in one of the more "serious" hi fi magazines (it started around 1980, I think). He has admitted in print that his review findings were as ficticious as his novels.
I have found this article by Ian Rankin and he doesn't say this at all

https://digital.nls.uk/1980s/science-technology/hi-fi/

If people are going to accuse people of "audiophoolery" I think they should give chapter and verse for their assertions.
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Old 9th Apr 2020, 7:25 am   #1359
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Default Re: The Audiophoolery Thread.

He certainly admits they had biases, and also that they could be, ahem, 'influenced'.

But we don't know for certain that that is the written piece Ted refers to. I won't have read any of Rankin's reviews because by that time I'd given up hifi magazines for a lot longer than lent.

I still read amateur radio reviews and to get the most out of those, you either have to be able to understand the numbers from the measurements directly, or else you have to understand the coded way the conclusions are presented. For example, if you see: "This is an exceptionally effective receiver for use with a small antenna" means that it will overload like the devil if you connect a better antenna. The numbers tell the whole truth up-front, but the text walks the knife-edge between everything said being factual, and not upsetting the high-roller advertisers. Caveat lector!

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Old 9th Apr 2020, 12:34 pm   #1360
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He certainly admits they had biases, and also that they could be, ahem, 'influenced'.

But we don't know for certain that that is the written piece Ted refers to. I won't have read any of Rankin's reviews because by that time I'd given up hifi magazines for a lot longer than lent.



David
What he actually writes is that he was influenced by large fees from some luxury-goods magazines to write about non-British hi-fi devices. He doesn't say he lied about them. If he has writen more than one article about being a hi-fi reviewer it must be in some very obscure journal.
As you say you haven't read any hi-fi magazines for over thirty years where do you find your instances of "audiophoolery"? Do you go scouring the internet for them?
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