ASR and the rise of the intelligent idiots

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ASR and the rise of the intelligent idiots

Unread post by savvypaul »

I joined in a thread 'elsewhere' about an interview with the owner / main author of the Audio Science Review site. Here's my main contribution to that thread:

As a manufacturer, I have some concerns with the quality of some 'reviews' and 'forum speak' that surround what purports to be 'science'.

I am concerned about the lack of context that is evident in many of these 'reviews'. I wouldn't submit any of our amplifiers to some sites because they fail to take into account our design objectives. We're not trying to make an unconditionally stable amplifier. We're not trying to make an amplifier that will drive very difficult loads, to high volumes, over an extended period of time. We're looking to make an amplifier that interferes as little as possible with the signal and will sound like real music, without sonic distraction, when used with speakers that do not present unnecessary challenges. Someone like John Atkinson at Stereophile would take our design objectives into account, discuss those objectives in presenting measurements, and would pair our amplifiers with appropriate speakers to hear them at their best. I don't see that 'contextual intelligence' from some other reviewers.

A few months back, a guy contacted me because he was considering changing his amplifier - from a Sugden A21. From chatting with him, it was clear to me that the problem was not his amp, but his speakers (very complex crossover, impedance dropping to 2 ohms at lower frequncy). I gave him a list of speakers that would be a lot better matched with the Suggie. He contacted me, again, last week to say that he had changed speakers and is loving his 'new' system. I'm not going to get rich making hi-fi, am I, lol? (At some point, it became fashionable, mostly driven by the apparent desire for slimline cabinets, to design speakers more or less purely through their crossover. In my experience, such designs are music killers.) Am I daft for not taking his money? Truth is, I would rather that he didn't pair our amps with the speakers he was using.

We make a 'beer money' power amplifier that plays well beyond it's price point when paired with the right speakers. We also make a more expensive range of more powerful amps that will cope better with less sympathetic speakers. I'd rather both ranges were paired with appropriate speakers and the only requirement for extra power would be to play at higher volumes, in larger rooms, for extended periods. The less powerful amp will be more than enough for many people if they are intelligent about speaker choice, and I get more personal satisfaction from taking less money, because someone has 'worked it out'. How many buyers would discount that if a site 'only' publishes that our amplifier is not unconditionally stable and will not easily drive any loudspeaker on the market?

Lastly, and to make matters worse, some manufacturer's marketing departments are using specifications as advertising. They see that people like the idea of 'certainty' and easy answers, so they cherry pick or even change the parameters to make their kit look 'superior' on paper. Most of those potential buyers who are poring over measurements and specifications have little true idea whether those numbers are meaningful, or not, in the context of that particular design and in the context of how it will be used with other components. That lack of understanding is perpetuated by some 'scientific' reviews and creates a distorted view of 'non-standard' design.

As a consumer, I just need to listen. I should narrow down my choices by understanding the design objectives of the manufacturer, not based on an arbitrary scoresheet. This does not, in any way, suggest that measurements are inherently wrong or useless - I use measurements as part of selecting appropriate speakers (impedance and frequency response) - only that the application and interpretation of measurements requires genuine understanding.


Urban Dictionary definition
Intelligent Idiot
Too smart for ones own good.
I tried to help a friend get a date. I set him up with a good looking single girl. he spent 2 hours correcting her grammar and explaining the origins of the word she was saying. needless to say, she got bored and left. He is an intelligent idiot.

The above definition is meaningful, here, because it describes the futile attempt to attach a solely academic analysis to a sensory experience. Listening to music is ALWAYS subjective. Listening is all that EVER really matters. Learn who to respect and who to ignore. Listen with your own ears (and heart). Become your own expert.
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Re: ASR and the rise of the intelligent idiots

Unread post by CN211276 »

I have been following the thread and have made one contribution which has received thumbs up by some of those who know what they are talking about. I said ASR is an irrelevance where HR streaming is concerned because we can preceive more that can be measured when listening to music. This is based on my experience with the Mscaler, the Eno and to a lesser extent the Jitterbug, all of which have been slated on ASR mainly by people who have not heard them. I KNOW they make a big difference in my system relative to their price. I could have expanded on speaker interaction with rooms and other components, but it would have been banging my head against a brick wall. Some people have their heads, or ears, buried so deep in the sand their feet are hardly showing. :lol:
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Re: ASR and the rise of the intelligent idiots

Unread post by nilsatisnisioptimum »

Thankfully I don't have enough free time to look in on ASR and to be candid the very name of the publication/website is to my way of thinking wrong . I couldn't imagine myself being happy with all the pseudo scientific nonsense.
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Re: ASR and the rise of the intelligent idiots

Unread post by slinger »

There's only one important number in measuring the quality of hifi equipment as far as I'm concerned, and that's the number *two* which, coincidentally, is the exact number of ears I have.
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Re: ASR and the rise of the intelligent idiots

Unread post by Lindsayt »

On the specifications front, it's a point worth re-stating that there are manufacturers that exagerate certain headline specifications to the point where it'd be fair comment to call them lies.

As for measurements in the world of hi-fi - they tend to be so laughably bad and detached from the actual listening, that quoted measurement specifications don't even tell you a meaningful story about what's actually being measured.

EG speaker frequency response. It's usually measured at 1 metre distance anechoically from a single speaker with a lot of smoothing on the published charts. I don't listen at 1 metre in mono to speakers in an anechoic chamber or with me and the speaker on pedestals in a field and I'm not convinced that my ears and brain mentally smooth over frequency response aberations.

EG THD+N I have never seen it reliably measured at the (micro to milli-watt) power levels I am usually listening at with my most efficient speakers. I have to rely on some guesswork extrapolation of the graphs (eg those in Stereophile) to make a very broad estimate.
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Re: ASR and the rise of the intelligent idiots

Unread post by karatestu »

ASR is being discussed on several forums and the threads always go the same way. There is no point in getting involved for me as life is too short and personally I don't really care. Handbags at dawn :lol:

Why do they care why we as individuals chose a certain product, ethos or way of doing things ? The measurement agenda is almost shoved down your throat and you are a lesser human for not worshiping measurements and your life is so worse off. Complete bollocks IMO.

I may chose to build speakers with a skewed FR that don't pin point image, dac with more noise than some and amplifiers with more distortion than some but really why does it matter ? I am happy that is all that matters. I judge my success in diy audio by how big a grin is on my face, how many hair on the back of the neck moments occur or the joy of just wanting to put album after album on. That is it for me. I couldn't give the smallest of schiits about the numbers.......... no really :grin:

So I am not an audiophile for not caring ? Good because the more I get to see of them the more I know I would run a mile if I ever met one. I don't know why the numbers brigade feel they must educate us lesser beings. Apart from the fact they may feel that foo is ruining the industry. Let those interested in foo fill their boots. There is no harm in it as long as nobody is spending money they don't have on it.

There are many more music lovers in the world than those who read mags or read stupid forums. They mostly won't care and are ignorant to all the ridiculous arguing that goes on in OCD forum land by bald, overweight, over paid over 50's men in Noel Edmonds jumpers who have something to prove. They just get on with listening to music on their "good enough" equipment.
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Re: ASR and the rise of the intelligent idiots

Unread post by Grumpytim »

karatestu wrote: Wed Mar 24, 2021 5:25 pm

So I am not an audiophile for not caring ? Good because the more I get to see of them the more I know I would run a mile if I ever met one. I don't know why the numbers brigade feel they must educate us lesser beings. Apart from the fact they may feel that foo is ruining the industry. Let those interested in foo fill their boots. There is no harm in it as long as nobody is spending money they don't have on it.
Easily the best paragraph on an audio forum (not that I frequent any others) this year..
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Re: ASR and the rise of the intelligent idiots

Unread post by Neonknight »

Its my perspective that specs shouldn't be quickly dismissed. They represent important aspects of a piece of electronics, and are useful tools in understanding a component. But this must be tempered by caution too, as specs don't guarantee a component is going to sound excellent or be truly faithful to the source signal. Also a person needs to understand the interrelationships between the various measurements and how it affects the overall output. Not an easy thing to do at all. But that does not mean they are automatically irrelevant. In the end what we hear is important too, and in some ways is the final arbiter. In my mind both specs and listening matter, and somehow a hobbyist learns to use both to evaluate potential candidates for components they may value.

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Re: ASR and the rise of the intelligent idiots

Unread post by Lindsayt »

Neonknight wrote: Thu Mar 25, 2021 12:58 am Its my perspective that specs shouldn't be quickly dismissed. They represent important aspects of a piece of electronics, and are useful tools in understanding a component. But this must be tempered by caution too, as specs don't guarantee a component is going to sound excellent or be truly faithful to the source signal. Also a person needs to understand the interrelationships between the various measurements and how it affects the overall output. Not an easy thing to do at all. But that does not mean they are automatically irrelevant. In the end what we hear is important too, and in some ways is the final arbiter. In my mind both specs and listening matter, and somehow a hobbyist learns to use both to evaluate potential candidates for components they may value.
What specs can you think of that are actually useful when it comes to what equipment to buy and keep?

The least useless that I can think of is frequency response.

But then I find that generally I can audition an item and mentally draw a frequency response curve and be close enough to the measured one.

For example, after fitting a Linn Karma, it was easy to tell that it sloped down from the bass to the treble.
A few minutes listening to Kef LS50's indicated a double camel's hump type frequency response.

I've not come across any measurements that I'd trust that indicate the amount of dynamic compression that components have.
Nor that indicate focus and clarity.
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Re: ASR and the rise of the intelligent idiots

Unread post by Neonknight »

Lindsayt wrote: Thu Mar 25, 2021 1:40 am
Neonknight wrote: Thu Mar 25, 2021 12:58 am Its my perspective that specs shouldn't be quickly dismissed. They represent important aspects of a piece of electronics, and are useful tools in understanding a component. But this must be tempered by caution too, as specs don't guarantee a component is going to sound excellent or be truly faithful to the source signal. Also a person needs to understand the interrelationships between the various measurements and how it affects the overall output. Not an easy thing to do at all. But that does not mean they are automatically irrelevant. In the end what we hear is important too, and in some ways is the final arbiter. In my mind both specs and listening matter, and somehow a hobbyist learns to use both to evaluate potential candidates for components they may value.
What specs can you think of that are actually useful when it comes to what equipment to buy and keep?

The least useless that I can think of is frequency response.

But then I find that generally I can audition an item and mentally draw a frequency response curve and be close enough to the measured one.

For example, after fitting a Linn Karma, it was easy to tell that it sloped down from the bass to the treble.
A few minutes listening to Kef LS50's indicated a double camel's hump type frequency response.

I've not come across any measurements that I'd trust that indicate the amount of dynamic compression that components have.
Nor that indicate focus and clarity.
I see usefulness of knowing slew rate, voltage output, signal to noise ratio, damping factor. power output into 4 and 8 ohm loads (although these can be fudged a bit to create that "double down" persona). Does these numbers create a check box of good versus bad? Not really. But it also helps to understand what choices the designer made for the amp. Also understanding topology choices helps to, whether the designer uses local negative feedback, or feed forward, its interesting to try to understand why things are done the way they are. Does it mean a hobbyist such as myself really understands the design choices? No. But it also doesnt stop hobbyists in other fields from admiring the machines invented, whether it be airplanes, racing boats, or F1 racecars. Sometimes we get caught up in the names used in our hobby, for instance Class A is superior to Class A/B, or Class D is the new promise and so on and so forth. Eh I find I like Class A/B quite well, there are many amps with this topology I like. Tribalism seems to have infected our world view and it also includes audio. One camp is not always right, or is the other. But the truth probably lies somewhere in between. Heck I think even frequency response has value, as it can tell you if its a wide bandwidth design, or if it has other elements that might effect it like auto formers or cap coupling. Does that mean one design is inherently better than the other? No, its a matter of how its implemented. Does it mean there might be design types you prefer? Possibly Yes. It depends on if you value the strengths of a particular topology or not. So really the whole answer could be summed up by. Maybe.

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