Category: Listening

Relative Fidelity

Justin Colletti at the always excellent Trust Me I’m a Scientist on appreciating the sonic golden age we’re living in:

While it’s true that low res MP3s, YouTube clips, and earbuds can sound worse than some of the best gear of years past, there are actually many cases in which they sound better.

Whaaaaa? Yes. You read that right. If you’re confused, you are not alone. Read on.

ABX Whiskey Testing

Marvel Bar’s Pip Hanson is obsessed and skeptical, and that’s a wonderful thing if you’re fond of whiskey:

Since then they’ve been quietly growing their whiskey collection, which now exceeds 150. As they’ve done with all of their spirits, they’ve only added a whiskey to their list based on its performance in blind tastings. “As it turns out, some of the stuff we like is very obscure and some of it is very mainstream,” says Hanson.

The list is currently heavy on bourbon and scotch, with a dozen ryes and a few Japanese single malts in the mix. The trick for Hanson became how to present them all with the same thoughtful and detailed manner they use for mixed drinks. So he undertook an excruciating quest to catalog all of his whiskeys’ manufacturing details.

It has resulted in one of the most data-rich spirit lists we’ve seen anywhere in town. Marvel now chronicles each whiskey along with details including how long it was aged, the grains in the mashbill, the toast level on its barrels, its proof, and who distills it. They’re attempting to strike at the heart of connoisseurship: to give people enough information to help them figure out what they like and what they don’t.

“It’s hard to understand whiskey if you don’t know how it’s made,” says Hanson. “We wanted to cut through the marketing stories where they aren’t relevant, instead focusing on what goes in to them and how that affects them… mashbill information, sherry finishes or peat levels, or if it’s chill-filtered. That’s the info that helps us wrap our heads around these whiskeys, not a label note that says it tastes like honeysuckle.”

Neil Young, Meet Harry Nyquist

Christopher “Monty” Montgomery on why 192 kHz is the opposite of a good idea:

Why push back against 24/192? Because it’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, a business model based on willful ignorance and scamming people. The more that pseudoscience goes unchecked in the world at large, the harder it is for truth to overcome truthiness…even if this is a small and relatively insignificant example.

Analog vs. Digital? You’re Missing the Point

A thoughtful and novel take from PBS on the never-ending audio format debate. (In fact, this whole series looks pretty promising.)

The Case for ABX Testing

Rob Schlette, writing for The Pro Audio Files:

The topic of audio perception has been pretty hot lately. From the popular news media coverage of Mastered for iTunes to the pages of TapeOp magazine, it’s not uncommon for people to be asking the question, “Can you really hear the difference?” This is very good news for music and music lovers.That might not seem like an extraordinary question for people to be asking, but the elastic reach of hardware and software marketing nonsense has devalued sensory feedback. We are routinely exposed to the most outrageous qualitative claims that have never been proven (or even suggested) with a marginally systematic listening test.

He’s right. The question, “Can we hear a difference?” shouldn’t be extraordinary or controversial in any way. He goes on to write:

I’ll bounce the same audio source twice—once with each codec product set to identical digital audio precisions. Absolutely nothing else about the two bounces can be  different, or the test is pointless. If I’m really being honest, I get someone else to load up the examples into the tester app so I don’t know which is which.

I’ll go further and say that the only way to do a proper ABX test is to have someone else load the examples into the tester app (or better yet, create a tester app that randomly assigns the examples. Are you listening, Takashi?). Or better yet, have one person load the examples, then present the test to another person who doesn’t even know what they’re supposed to be listening for.