Questions of faith - reflections on your own taste, thoughts about right or wrong!

The problem with AUDIO, in my opinion, is that the methods of visual measurement and auditory measurement do not correspond, do not speak the same language. This is due to the fact that they have completely different levels of complexity already.
Also, the ideas of "scientificity" and the art of engineering are fundamentally not developed: if, for example, a method does not measure what it is supposed to measure, e.g. AUDIO, in a complexity appropriate to human hearing, then it is not scientific and does not correspond to the art of engineering. Then we have practically no methods that differentiate and categorize, that lead to any kind of statement - in (at least "empirical science") AUDIO;-)
I think it is visible here that the concepts objective and subjective are not adequately developed also;-)

But since most people don't even know that loudspeakers have different image sizes and forms, that most signals in stereo are mono, that the materials and shapes of loudspeakers have a considerable influence on the sound, and don't want to make up for even this lack of experience by "do it yourself audio", it is hopeless to discuss the subject of AUDIO comprehensively and methodically;-)
And don't forget to do your homework;-) Before that, there will be nothing with "high-end" electronics;-)
There are only a few key tests that open the door to unambiguous results and interpretations;-)
Make "double mono" power supplies. Connect these using cables and switches. And then listen, and occasionally switch the switch to connect or disconnect these channel-separated power supplies.
And take your time;-)
Audio is a GREAT place to not just theorize, but personally experience the contrast between the objective and subjective worlds. If you've been around the block a few times you've heard speakers that sounded great and measured poorly and vise versa. We've all experienced the limitations of "objectivity."

I've been an audiophile since age 12, sold my first speakers to a paying customer at age 14. As a teenager I became quickly acquainted with all the debates about subjective vs. objective.

This is rooted in very deep philosophical questions that go back to the Greeks and before, and continues to be a front burner question in mainstream science today.

Since Isaac Newton, we've had the desire to reduce the entire world to equations. Laplace hypothesized that if you knew the position and velocity of every particle at any time in the past, you could perfectly predict the future forever.

Because of chaos theory and quantum mechanics, we now know this to be false, but it is still an arrestingly attractive idea and many people cling to it. Practically speaking, molecular biologists sorta-kinda believe it still, believing if we can sequence every last gene we can cure cancer and all diseases.

(Has anybody noticed that the human genome project, while impressive and amazing, only delivered 10% of the miracles that it promised?)

I've been working on this problem from a biological perspective for a long time. I wrote book called "Evolution 2.0" and in 2019 I announced a $10 million prize for the origin of the genetic code at the Royal Society in Great Britain with Oxford physiologist Denis Noble.

In 2021 I published a scientific paper called "Biology Transcends the Limits of Computation." This article summarizes the paper, which says that it is impossible to reduce biology to mathematics. Biology is not controlled by mathematics. Rather biology creates mathematics, which is an astonishing feat. This is what makes evolution possible.

All cells do engineering; all cells measure and assess their environment; even viruses engage in symbiotic relationships with cells; and the conclusion that came to is that subjective experience and consciousness (in a way that is elusive to precisely define) runs all the way down to the cellular level and below.

What I am saying is that not only do humans have subjective experience; so does your cat and dog or mouse. Christoph Koch describes the conscious experience of bees in his own book.

There is an abundance of literature from the 1940s on, which has exploded in the last 10 years, showing that even single cells and bacteria possess cognition. My paper cites work by Barbara McClintock, James Shapiro, Michael Levin and Pamela Lyon. Michael Levin showed that even human lung cells moved to a petri dish become their own autonomous non-human organisms.

One of the prime aspects of conscious experience is that all of us have capacity to make choices which are NOT physically or mathematically predetermined; and we in fact choose the mental models which we make of the outside world and we choose what to believe.

We choose what we wish to perceive and pay attention to. There is no other way to be alive; this defines life.

This means the subjective / objective debate in audio is just a smaller microcosm of a much bigger question in humanity. And a battle between two viewpoints: An "objective" view in which everything that can be measured by a machine with a dial or graph can be agreed upon and considered to be "the truth"...

... vs a "subjective" view in which no two individuals have identical experiences.

There's no way to prove how YOU perceive the color red vs. how I perceive the color red. (This is called "qualia".) Or how you hear a pair of Magnepans vs how I hear them. We can only attempt to describe our experiences.

That means there is no "perfect solution" to the objective vs subjective debate, and there is no one "final truth" about any piece of audio gear.

Over the last few years several people have issued mathematical proofs that the subjective view is primary: Stuart Kauffman and several others. Philosopher David Chalmers calls it the "Hard Problem of Consciousness."

If you watch Stuart Kauffman's video and read his papers, you'll see that we are at the cusp of a new era of science where consciousness and cognition are the real drivers of biology. And that life at its very core is creative in ways that are mathematically impossible to predict.

A practical application of this is that if you think cancer cells are "algorithmic", you'll never cure cancer. You have to start with the assumption that cancer cells are fundamentally willful and you have to figure out how to get them to want to do something else. It's an issue of purpose and identity, not blocking their receptors with this or that particular chemical.

Again what I'm saying is that those who can fully appreciate both sides of the subjective vs objective audio debate are well equipped to understand issues that extend far beyond audio itself. So it's good that we are having this discussion.
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I would differentiate:
If we were to do our homework - each on our own - and all would describe the observation identically, we would have an "objective" statement.
Whether 50% of the participants would like one setting (for my sake: flatter, grayer, overcast, untidy) more and the other 50% like the other setting (for my sake: more contoured, clearer, livelier, tidier) more would be a "subjective" statement.
Perry, may I ask about your background? You read Terrance Deacon? On the one hand you seem to be very well informed on a variety of topics, although maybe a bit heavy on the philosophical side; OTOH, you don't seem to know a really good dac from a mediocre one?
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I don’t see that it’s helpful for you to be impolite.
It wasn't my intention to be impolite, per se. It was just that one day I was reading one of the speaker threads you were posting in, particularly in regard to DSP units, and I was honestly a bit surprised at what passes for good (e.g. miniDSP stuff). Just trying to make sense out of how an obviously smart and inquisitive guy would not be more up to speed on such a closely related topic. Of course, nobody has time nor interest for everything, but still it just seemed a little incongruous. Still wondering about it.

Regarding Terrance Deacon and cancer having intention, Deacon coined the term entention in his book, "Incomplete Nature." a neologism coined,to have a broader scope.

Seemed to me that cancer with intention was not so far from some of Deacon's ideas.

BTW, I spent 30 years of my life at UCLA and Stanford U., battling cancer and making possible radioneurosurgery by way of particle beams.
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Two people can use a tape measure and both agree that a door is 72" high.

But when do two people ever describe their personal experience identically?
Humans are the most biaised measurements apparatus that you could imagine, that s why they need scientifical measurement
gear to have an objective view, because otherwise they ll throw their own prejudices as facts, FI if one has a deep prejudice against a speakers brand then whatever the models it will sound bad for this person, be it by hook or by crook, and it extend to other parts such as the usual solid state/tube amps and so on.
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It seems that thread would be a better place for a discussion of DACs than this one.
Except there is the issue of measurements versus perceptual SQ. We rely on measurements of things that are easy to measure as though they are the only thing that matter, the only things that are real. So, we are back to philosophical territory, back to human nature and cognition, including cognition of the truth of measurements. Too often the streetlight effect is strong, yet unseen.

Anyway, seems to me we are pretty close to being in agreement on a lot of things.
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Regarding Terrance Deacon and cancer having intention, Deacon coined the term entention in his book, "Incomplete Nature." is a neologism coined,to have a broader scope.

Seemed to me that cancer with intention was not so far from some of Deacon's ideas.

BTW, I spent 30 years of my life at UCLA and Stanford U., battling cancer and making possible radioneurosurgery by way of particle beams.
I have definitely heard of Terrence Deacon. His name comes up from time to time. A quick look suggests we might see a lot of things in similar ways. I am very simpatico with the semiotic view of biology. My colleague Bill Miller says "everything a cell does is an act of communication."

For example the Wiki entry says:

Incomplete Nature can be viewed as a sizable contribution to the growing body of work positing that the problem of consciousness and the problem of the origin of life are inexorably linked

I totally agree. I don't think anyone's going to solve origin of life with traditional chemistry alone. It's a much deeper problem than that.

Radioneurosurgery sounds fascinating.
Except there is the issue of measurements versus perceptual SQ. We rely on measurements of things that are easy to measure as though they are the only thing that matter, the only things that are real. So, we are back to philosophical territory, back to human nature and cognition, including cognition of the truth of measurements. Too often the streetlight effect is strong, yet unseen.

Anyway, seems to me we are pretty close to being in agreement on a lot of things.
Sounds like we are.

I don't have any meaningful measurements to provide with respect to Danville vs MiniDSP vs other DACs. I can say that my "root biases" as an electrical engineer made me inclined to trust measurements more, and subjective listening less.

Then in my various audio adventures have found DAC differences to be a lot more audible than I expected.

I remember buying a Sony CD player once (sorry, don't remember what model) and unexpectedly noticing that the sound was a LOT better than my previous CD player. I had not anticipated that. At the time I sort of thought all CD players sounded the same. That experience changed my mind. Sometimes it's the surprises that are most effective in changing my opinions about things.

Then had the same experience again going from a Behringer digital crossover to a MiniDSP crossover - the MiniDSP was a lot better. I don't doubt that the Danville has even better hardware and would like to try it, budget permitting.
Also, the title of this thread "Questions of faith" is appropriate because it's not possible to practice science or engineering without some guiding philosophy that is metaphysical and therefore reflective of some sort of "religious commitment." Everyone inevitably assumes things that they cannot prove. That's why audio debates are so similar to religious debates. The same is true of people arguing about, say, computer operating systems.
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All in all it is a fight to find some "absolute truth" imho we all are in.
You trust your personnal perception testing several CD-players.
Can you trust your perception?
During my career as a guitar player of a rock band touring over Ireland,
I was always chasing the "hot sound".
Some days my guitar sounded excellent.
On other days dull.
Nothing changed with the technical equipment.
Since then I am very skeptic trusting my own perception.
And that is where science comes in.
A fundamental principle is reproducibiltiy of experiments that subjective observation cannot afford.
Looks to me being the best approximation to an absolute truth, whenever that exists at all.
Listening skills! which I do not know official definition, but to me it means understanding of what I perceive. Following text is today's coffee break philosophy, which I've come to fooling around with DIY loudspeakers and at least some of it relates to listening amplifiers too.

To jump start listening skills, do listening tests like to get some reference of your current abilities to base your logic on. To understand something there needs to be thought to it, ability to somehow use logic to solve confusing cues and listening test such as this gives hint which things are more audible to you. I think harman stated somewhere that reaching level 8 on these listening tests could qualify to participate harman listening tests as "trained listener". So, if you reached 10+ levels on some tests you might trust yourself in such scenarios more than the one you never got to level 8.

For example, I found out dips in frequency response are far less audible than peaks, and could then reason that if something sounds weird in my system timbre wise it's likely frequency response peak somewhere, like a resonance, and I can now look for it without much confusion and validate it, toggle it on and off with EQ or some other trick. Much more likely than a dip, which likely goes unnoticed. If there is no peaks in measurement, then practice more to figure out what it is then. Another, if you score full points on left/right localization test you could be quite sure that if you'd hear speaker system localize wrong it likely does, not too much need to second guess whether it's the brain making a trick unless you drove car window open blasting your other ear. In amplifier context, perhaps coloration or distortion listening tests help to get feel how well you hear such things. If not very well, but hear them in your amplifier it means either your amplifier is quite poor or your mind is making a trick. If you are really good at those listening tests, perhaps you could rely on what you hear from amplifier and not second guess too much.

In addition to harman listening tests you can do your own tests at home. For example if you need to figure out how DI sounds like and listen early reflections for example, or just to tune your positioning, expose yourself to early reflections in the moment to increase sensitivity to them. Make a quick "sound torch" from your mobile by holding some makeshift horn on the mobile speaker and point at things and listen how the reflection sounds like. Floor, ceiling, walls, objects. Then use your speaker as torch, play noise on your stereo system but on one speaker only, go standing behind the speaker and point it to various directions / boundaries, do you hear the reflection? If you do, keep on listening to it and walk in to the room, where you lose it, why? turn your head for example.

Trick there was to utilize the adaptability of auditory system to your advantage! It can fool you, but also provide sensitivity to thing what you want to hear if you train it, which then helps to identify small changes in an AB test. All this foolery has made me realize that what I perceive is what my unconscious hearing system let's into existence in my conscious mind! What I'm actually perceiving is my own auditory system, which is always there processing it for me, which got the information from ears, through room emanating from speakers powered by electronics. It's important to realize the auditory system adapts through past, through the day, through the life.

So, trying to hear something figure out suitable method to listen for it and make AB test for it, and then listen in relatively controlled setting in order to evaluate a system on somewhat reliably. For example, evaluate a system only on morning time after hearing system has had it's rest and kind of reset, but before your morning coffee. Besides your own state all the noises in the neighborhood are similar than any other morning so it's likely any difference you perceive is not from yourself or surroundings, but from the system you are listening to. Conversely, if you listen at evening, after driving car to work and back, low frequencies of your system might seem off, as ear has adapted to low frequency noise during the day, and now you'd boost the bass only to notice next day it's boomy, because your hearing system is in different state, and keep chasing it.

Another really cool test to develop listening skill and root logic is to find out David Griesinger Limit of Localization Distance and really listen the transition that happens there, to hear your own auditory system switch state.
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I am sure listening skills can be trained to some extent.
You can learn to identify frequencies using a sine wave generator.
You can train hearing crossover distortions while adjusting bias as well as low frequency distortions of woofers.
You can compare noise levels or even noise modulation by ear.
Doing so it is easy to distinguish some 50Hz pure sine wave from 100Hz rectified half-waves with their overtones.
If someone brings in some stuff to repair complaining of noise - first thing is to listen to that noise.
In most cases faster and more efficient than starting a mesuring setup.