Question The measurable vs the unmeasurable

AJM1981

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The bridge to this topic is the public challenge Ethan Winer initiated in letting Paul McGowan of PS Audio proof there are certain unmeasurable things as he claimed.

View: https://youtu.be/6rB2W0umdq0


I would be surprised if McGowan would accept the challenge. I am also a bit surprised that he made this claim. Paul is in my opinion a great storyteller but he seems to be into the technique too as he often speaks about these details.

From the history of PS audio we can read that Paul is an 'audio designer'. I googled the term and it doesn't find much. I could find 'sound designer' as in film and audio designer being another placeholder but not much else really.

So I wonder what he does exactly. Doing functional design? Design of casing? He often seems to measure things with equipment as well in his videos.

When he made this claim knowing and performing measurements it would be strange that he leaves reality here as it would suggest he doesn't know what he measures.

If he would make it as a salesman/marketeer I perfectly understand it, as there is a large group of audiolovers who simply state that there are things one can only experience and not measure. Stating the same would be pleasing his fanbase and connecting them to their products.

I think it is save to conclude that things we can hear can be analysed and measured without any exception. Though not all measurable things can be heard. Take a dog whistle and distortion in it, we can measure that but not hear it.

Any claims that one can hear things or equipment produces things that measurements don't pick up would be worth a challenge :)
 
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Gray

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I think it is save to conclude that things we can hear can be analysed and measured without any exception. Though not all measurable things can be heard. Take a dog whistle and distortion in it, we can measure that but not hear it.
That paragraph sums it up. If something can genuinely be heard, then it will be measurable.
There are some people that would hear the dog whistle - but only if it cost more than £2000.
 
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nopiano

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I think it is save to conclude that things we can hear can be analysed and measured without any exception.
I disagree. There are many thing we hear that are hard to explain away, and these often escape measurement.

Imagine a concert - we are moved to tears, but our neighbour is emotionless. What’s the measurement for that? Not a Hifi thing, like arrival time or phase distortion that’s for sure.

Does your Hi-Fi sound better late at night? Lots of folk will agree. Can you measure less mains noise? Maybe lower traffic rumble? Maybe you’re more relaxed, or a bit tipsy?

Let me add that I’m a big fan of test report measurements. Hifi News and Stereophile are exemplars. WHF use an interesting ‘group’ or team approach, and have shared listening rooms. Most other reviewers just plonk their kit down at home - but on the other hand that’s what most of us customers do.

Analogue measurement is pretty well established, but digital gear still seems to elude easy measurement. Why else would folk be so obsessed with audiophile switches or golden Ethernet cables? Many listeners can scarcely tell MP3 from CD, yet others insist on 24bit/192!
 

Gray

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Imagine a concert - we are moved to tears, but our neighbour is emotionless. What’s the measurement for that? Not a Hifi thing, like arrival time or phase distortion that’s for sure.
Ah, but that's their emotional reaction to the sound, it's not what they're actually hearing. There would be no sound difference to measure. As for human reaction to sound.....it can neither be measured nor explained (but I suspect it might well be involved in some of the differences 'heard' between, say, cables).
 

AJM1981

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I disagree. There are many thing we hear that are hard to explain away, and these often escape measurement.

Imagine a concert - we are moved to tears, but our neighbour is emotionless. What’s the measurement for that? Not a Hifi thing, like arrival time or phase distortion that’s for sure.
That can be an emotional connection to the artist or a text which can stirr certain past memories. Also measurable in a different way, but as a reference for audio a little out of the picture. Altough, for marketing purposes nothing is out of the picture.

Does your Hi-Fi sound better late at night? Lots of folk will agree.
I agree, as there is usually less noise around than during the day. Most people also have the internal motivation to do stuff other than relaxing and listening so there is not really time to sit back and relax during day times.

That example also applies a bit to waiters receiving more tips during certain moments because people are enjoying the conditions besides the food and drinks more than average.

Another thing is design and market value. If I have a cheap spartanic looking speaker of a brand that will never gain any value versus a well designed one that maintains market value I would always choose the latter and perceive it as a better speaker (besides audio) because it will still be seen as a valueable thing decades later. But ok, market value could also be kind of guessed from an amount of certain conditions.

Let me add that I’m a big fan of test report measurements. Hifi News and Stereophile are exemplars. WHF use an interesting ‘group’ or team approach, and have shared listening rooms. Most other reviewers just plonk their kit down at home - but on the other hand that’s what most of us customers do.

Analogue measurement is pretty well established, but digital gear still seems to elude easy measurement. Why else would folk be so obsessed with audiophile switches or golden Ethernet cables? Many listeners can scarcely tell MP3 from CD, yet others insist on 24bit/192!
True

In the claim(s) Paul McGowan made he made the statement in domains that were not really in all the areas covered here. Also making a statement about preferences is not wrong and explaining things like the things you outline would be right. But I get it why Etan was kind of annoyed by these claims as it is someone who might not really understand something laying out that specialists don't understand either what he doesn't.
 
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abacus

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The human senses are a poor measure of the real world, and they identify things that either don’t exist or are pure imagination.

Measurements are certifiable facts that are consistent and easily replicated.

A good quality hi-fi system can give a 3 dimensional image of the performance that spreads beyond the speaker confines; however, in reality it does not exist and is merely the mind making things up with the information that is available to it from the speakers which tricks the brain into thinking it is real.

Bill
 
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insider9

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I think bringing this down to the sense of hearing alone is where the problem lies. The point being it's about perception. It's a brain thing not an ear thing. Why young people can hear better than older people but often don't know what to make of it and as such can't really understand the difference.

Furthermore not all measurements exist. What's the universal unit of "groove"? There isn't one. So how can you measure rhythmic content and interplay? It's great we can measure harmonic content but that's telling very little as we don't listen to sound. We listen to music.

Also, we are all more or less susceptible to things like timing and pitch. We all value them differently. And not everyone realises it. Even if they gravitate towards certain styles of music.
 
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AJM1981

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I think bringing this down to the sense of hearing alone is where the problem lies. The point being it's about perception. It's a brain thing not an ear thing.
True, it is the system of those two.

Why young people can hear better than older people but often don't know what to make of it and as such can't really understand the difference.
Younger people can hear higher frequencies better but in general do their very best to erase them as soon as possible. :)

Furthermore not all measurements exist. What's the universal unit of "groove"? There isn't one.
Groove is a quite consistant offset of place, usually accompanied with a difference of expression (similar to volume, though not the same) per hit or note) within a bar and time signature. A trained drummer can for example apply a swing groove, a laid back groove or a pushing one according to what serves the kind of music. More modern producers use to cut away certain samples of jazz and funk and apply them to their own 4/4 steady computer beat. This form of layering adds a human element to electronic music and can spice it up even more.

Also, we are all more or less susceptible to things like timing and pitch. We all value them differently. And not everyone realises it. Even if they gravitate towards certain styles of music.
It also changes with age. Probably a lot is in this identification with artists and songs that evolve around themes of a certain age. I would not be so entertained by 'I' d die for this girl' songs. But in its core it fits perfectly to every teenage generation.

I must say that modern pop music is much better produced than the 13 in a dozen Eurodance tracks of the age I lived in as a teenager.
 
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manicm

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Everything can be measured? How do you accurately measure perceived soundstage height and width which some hifi components are particularly good at, and others not so much?

Yes our senses may deceive us, but we still need our ears to listen, so I tire of that argument quickly.
 

jjbomber

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there is a large group of audiolovers who simply state that there are things one can only experience and not measure.
If Jeff Beck played Jeff Beck's guitar through Jeff Beck's PA he would sound like Jeff Beck.
If Dave Gilmour played Jeff Beck's guitar through Jeff Beck's PA he would sound like Dave Gilmour.
If Joe Bonamassa played Jeff Beck's guitar through Jeff Beck's PA he would sound like Joe Bonamassa.

There are things that you can only experience. Science says all three should sound exactly the same.
 
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AJM1981

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If Jeff Beck played Jeff Beck's guitar through Jeff Beck's PA he would sound like Jeff Beck.
If Dave Gilmour played Jeff Beck's guitar through Jeff Beck's PA he would sound like Dave Gilmour.
If Joe Bonamassa played Jeff Beck's guitar through Jeff Beck's PA he would sound like Joe Bonamassa.

There are things that you can only experience. Science says all three should sound exactly the same.
no, that is not what science says.
 

insider9

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@AJM1981 my point about groove was in relation to music reproduction. There's no reliable way to tell whether gear can reproduce faithfully what's on the record. Why we have brands like Densen, Naim, Leema, Exposure who are known for their so called musicality but no one can point to what one measurements makes them sound the way they do. On the other side of the spectrum you'd have for instance Arcam who are a more relaxed listen.

So if we could measure everything. Why groove without which there is no music can't and isn't measured? Why is it that there are brands that are better at reproducing timing and others that put people to sleep? I don't think that's age related at all. For me sense of rhythm was fundamental to music from early age and always will be top priority.
 

AJM1981

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Lol. Now you're just being silly.
Nope, not silly. Is there any paper he is referring to that states that these three should sound the same? Would I make a valid point in mixing some variables, projecting them as a statement to someone or something that hasn't made that statement and then dismissing them? I know what he means and that he underlining is 'leave the art alone'.

Playing styles of people are things guitarists are analysing all the time but those being mentioned here are grandmasters in what they do, the Paganinis of our time. So they make it seem effortless. In the core I won't disagree that music is a form of art we should not overanalyse it as fans of those music and lose the sight on the art itself. Maybe the same applies for audio gear from a position as a listener. I am not interested in how my car is built, I want it to drive really well.

@AJM1981 my point about groove was in relation to music reproduction. There's no reliable way to tell whether gear can reproduce faithfully what's on the record. Why we have brands like Densen, Naim, Leema, Exposure who are known for their so called musicality but no one can point to what one measurements makes them sound the way they do.
As with music itself a lot of sets are engineered (or composed if we mention it as art) with sets of an x amount of variables. I bet the engineers involved can tell secrets about why something sounds like it does. At least that is what I hope they can do, were they not limited by the fact they can't share trade secrets to the public.

I don't think signatures of individual brands and models on the market are being researched all the time as they don't add anything to desire in a pool of consumers. A sparkling review adds more to a desire than a series of graphs. But I guess a particular question about a particular device can be answered by a specialised audio engineer.
 

12th Monkey

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Yes our senses may deceive us, but we still need our ears to listen, so I tire of that argument quickly.
Whilst the argument about soundstage being a trick is true, pretty much everything we perceive is a construct. Colour isn't real or accurate in any meaningful sense - it's just the wavelengths from the EM spectrum that an object doesn't absorb and which are within the limited range our eyes detect. Colours can be measured, but no-one knows whether what I see as a deep red is exactly the same as someone else. I'd therefore file that under 'who cares?' - as long as we both agree beforehand what we are referring to as red it is of no consequence.

Whether things like soundstage width are measurable, who knows? I find it hard to care either. I know I can close my eyes and point to things that are beyond the speakers, which is all that matters to me.

Engagement can't be measured because it's a personal reaction, and different musicians could sound different on the same gear because of style/technique.

The people most interested in whether differences can be measured are probably those with a large axe to grind about cables, mains etc. I doubt they make the best company!

Just enjoy what you are listening to - try to improve it if you want (why not?) - but too much navel-gazing isn't helpful.
 

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