Interesting - thanks for sharing! Only disagreement I have is that there is no harshness "inherent" in digital recording, per se. What the intervening years have shown is that digital recordings have shown up other flaws in the recording chain (problems with mics, A/D converters, etc). Nowadays you can emulate the sound of an analog recording using digital plug-ins (in other words, there's nothing magic there).
You're right, I hadn't noticed this. I thought that Joe Gastwrit talked about inherent problems in 1983.
There's no harshness in digital recordings, indeed.
And I see no interest in emulating the sound of an analog recording. Digital plug-ins alter the signal, another problem with modern mastering.
I do think marketing (and confirmation bias, and placebo effect) has a far bigger influence on us that we realize. Case in point: I used to do a test where I would switch between high end speaker cables and cheap Radio Shack lamp cord, telling people which cables I was using. People would SWEAR the higher end cord sounded better. I am talking 80% of the listeners. But you know what? I never changed the cables. They were listening to the same cables all along. Yet people swore they heard differences. The power of suggestion is strong, and what is marketing but harnessing the power of suggestion? After switching to blind listening, the level of correct guesses as to which cable was which came out to 50% (the rate of chance).
Yes, sure, there is is no question that marketing, confirmation bias, placebo effects and many more things greatly influence your preferences and choices. There have been many interesting experiements and psychological observations to test that. I am just saying that this only goes so far. People may hear the more expensive cable as "better" even though the cable was never changed because of the power of suggestion, sure. They may hear slight differences when there are no factual differences. But nevertheless can marketing do only so much. And to sell people a $2000.- speaker that sounds worse (in their ears) to a $500.- speaker is not a sustainable business model. As I said... marketing can only go so far.
Basically my point is this - I honestly think that if people were given the opportunity to compare speakers under scientifically controlled listening conditions (which is almost never the case), they would choose the more accurate loudspeaker almost every time.
Oh, I think just about every person who enjoys hifi would love his system to sound as "natural" as it possibly can, so it should reproduce the sound as "accurately" as possible. I'd say that is the goal of most people who fork over cash for hifi equipment. And if they would even choose the more "accurate" speaker almost every single time in under "scientific" controlled listening conditions, they are likely to choose it most of the time under different conditions as well. And as I said, most speakers would sooner or later reflect that. Indeed, when you look at most high-end loudspeakers, their measured curves on the whole tend to reflect a strive for "natural" and "accurate" sound as well (just coincidentally I have the frequency response curve of a Canton 5K loudspeaker here -- a speaker I tried out and very much considered buying -- and it seems to fit the bill.
Of course, there are those who claim people often still prefer more "sounded" sound systems (Bose sure was known for pronounced bass and heights), and so some systems were sounded to appeal to this type of listener, and these things have sold. Sure, when people buy home hifi systems, they usually cannot compare them in scientifically controlled listening rooms, but that is simply because that is usually not an option. Nevertheless, you don't need a scientifically controlled listening room to compare, say, noise cancelling headphones... would be interesting which sound the majority of people choose there. According to your theory, the most "accurate" sounding headphones should always (or mostly) win. Would be great, because again, it would mean that most headphones will sooner or later sound more "accurate". Of course, with headphones you have some other things again that influence the buying decision as well, particularly comfort.
And the actual research would seem to bear that out. Having worked the retail side of this for quite a while, most people follow the herd (how else do you explain the success of Bose? As we say in the industry, "Better Sound Through Marketing").
I was never under the impression that Bose was particularly catering to audiophile crowd or was seen in high esteem among hifi enthusiasts? Their noise cancelling headphones are sure very good sellers, but Bose is more like Apple indeed in the mass business, but the vast majority of people is not that much interested in high-end sound to begin with. Of course, the market is vast. I have not had much experience with Bose products, so I can't comment much on them. Except I tried their noise cancelling headphones, which are quite good (they really cancel out noise) or their portable smartphone speakers, which are also quite nice (just as Logitech's are, of which I own one). But no one would claim these are high-end hifi.
When I worked retail, literally anyone who took the time to compare a Bose product to a speaker from almost any other brand would choose the competing speaker. I actually took the time to level match them (extremely important) and play a variety of music cuts (also very important). 90% of salespeople or buyers don't take the time to do even basic leveling of the playing field, which is critical.
Not so sure if level matching is not a bit overrated when comparing speakers for home use. After all, you set up your speakers and hear some music, sometimes loud, sometimes with lower volumes, sometimes in the "sweet spot" sometimes not. If the differences in loudspeakers could only be heard when the levels are exactly matched, maybe the differences are not that great. ;-) Also, I think it is very important to actually play the type of music that you know and listen to, as opposed to music you are unfamiliar with or don't care much about. I have my own music selection with me when choosing any hifi equipment.
"Sound great” or “great soundstage” or “excellent detail” will always be subjective." YES, this is correct. But I think it misses my point. The research I keep referring to started out by testing the speakers that did the best SUBJECTIVELY in the listening tests and then correlating that with how they measured. In other words, they would bring in tons of different speakers, and then have people rate them on a scale from 1 to 10. The ones that got the highest scores were then measured to see if there were commonalities. After doing this for several decades, they found that the speakers that people described having the characteristics you just listed all tended to be those with flat frequency response and broad, even dispersion. So it was a matter of taking what was subjective - people's listening preferences - and then seeing how they lined up with measurements. And voila! The Spinorama was born. And it shows that between 86 - 99% of listeners prefer accurate sound. It's not a matter of they should, it's a matter of they do.
Yes, I know, you have said that. And as I said and say again: that is pretty much good news I think, since that likewise means logically that the majority of speakers will reflect that preference. Also, my own subjective preferences are likely to reflect that as well, I am sure. So I should fit right in with the crowd. :-)
Are you in LA by any chance? Be happy to take you to the MLL facility next time I'm out there.
Would love to stop by, but, while I used to live in LA, I have not been there for years. I'm in Cologne, Germany. But I'd love to take you up on the offer one day next time I might get to LA. :-)
I'm sorry if I'm coming off as strident or arrogant.
Did not notice. All is cool and fine from my side. I enjoy your contributions.
To me, this is all good news -
Oh, would be great if one could pick a good speaker for home just by looking at a few graphs.
if someone is going to buy a good sound system, they need spend crazy money to get good sound.
"The African killer bee portrayed in this film bears absolutely no relationship to the industrious, hard-working American honey bee to which we are indebted for pollinating vital crops that feed our nation."
You're not saying. :-)
That is also a ludicrous end "disclaimer"...
Unlike the disclaimer suggests, correct is, that the African "killer" honey bee is indeed closely related to the Western honey bee (which is common in the US but not really an "American honey bee", as the honey bee was originally imported from Europe to the US centuries ago). The actual Africanized bee is also a "honey bee" and shares many characteristics with the regular "honey bee", and both lose their sting when stinging humans and die. There are some differences, and the Africanized honey bee is indeed more aggressive (particularly when defending its hive) and flies farther in swarms, but no cases have been reported where they attack and sabotage nuclear power plants or rig explosives to passenger trains.
True of course is that no bees behave like the bees in the movie, neither actual Africanized bees, nor honey bees, nor any other type of bee. :-)