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Fact: the ear is extremely non-linear ...

HUG-1

Moderator
*If you only study one academic paper in the field of audiology, you owe it to yourself to get the basic idea behind the way the ear interprets loudness*

In 1933, it was first researched and documented that the ear was not in any sense a precision instrument unlike a thermometer. A thermometer equally records the ten degree difference between -50º and -40º and between +250º and +260º. The ear is not at all like that. Taking that example, the ear may report the difference between -50º and -40º as only two or three degrees, and may magnify the true difference between +250º and +260º as twenty or thirty degree. We call this non-linearity of the ear.

You can read about it here.

Also here.

The way you are stirred emotionally by the sounds you hear is bound up with the loudness and frequencies of those sounds. If you change the loudness you will experience a different perception, and this will drive a different emotional response.
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
It's time to really nail this on the head. This completely misunderstood subject now requires a thorough ground-up reconstruction. I for am unwilling to spend the rest of my life going over the basic misconceptions about how we perceive sound. We have to put this subject on a proper foundation before I go stark raving mad. And soon.

Here.
 

Macjager

New member
Proof of audiophile tweaks?

Proof of audiophile tweaks?

The attached link talks about human hearing tests and as far as i can figure out the science, it seems to make a case of human hearing being able to discern differences that scientific algorithms cannot prove...So, the "I can hear a difference if you change cables etc" crowd are now claiming this as their own proof of "the audiophile tweaks" really do work... If someone a little more up to speed on this topic would care to comment (Alan?) I would appreciate a simple explanation, as it seems to go against what I have learned so far...

http://phys.org/news/2013-02-human-fourier-uncertainty-principle.html#jCp

cheers

george
 

Pluto

New member
Worked up into a frenzy ....

Worked up into a frenzy ....

...the "I can hear a difference if you change cables etc" crowd are now claiming this as their own proof of "the audiophile tweaks" really do work...
Yes, the audiophile lunatic fringe really is working itself up into a lather over this, clearly without understanding exactly what the piece is saying, and certainly without understanding its relevance to audio reproduction. It most certainly does not translate into the mythical, "cables (etc.) sound different because there are natural phenomena at work which we do not understand".

True, there is plenty more about the nature of the human auditory system that we do not understand. However, the transmission of a signal, unchanged, from point A to point B is not one of them.

The piece is, in broad summary, about a surprising result concerning the subjects' ability to accurately detect the pitch of small samples. This is immediately leapt upon by the loony audiophile fringe as meaning, "digital audio is based on traditional science, and traditional science has just proved itself to be fatally wrong!" A wonderful example of misapplying a small, specific result to the general case - usually with a little added invective, for flavour.

The loonies then start rattling on about the (inadequate) temporal resolution of digital audio. For the record, the temporal resolution of a properly band-limited analogue waveform, when digitized and reconstructed, is infinite.

Late edit - having just re-read the link, the following stands out...

Phys.org said:
In the final task, the subjects were asked to discriminate simultaneously whether a test note was higher or lower in frequency than a leading note that was played before it
Now that looks suspiciously like what I would define as an AB test. Yet another example of the need to hear two sources in near-instantaneous comparison with each other in order to detect the difference; a task at which a surprisingly large proportion of the test subjects were successful.

Now far from being a demonstration of the insufficiency of conventional science when dealing with high quality audio (as the loony brigade are so fond of asserting), it actually demonstrates the need for instant AB style comparisons. Were you to ask anyone involved with this test whether the subjects could have performed their surprising feat had the two sounds been heard a day, an hour or even a minute apart, they would have laughed in your face.

No, it's the near-instantaneous comparison that permitted the test subjects to perform their 'unexpected' feat of listening prowess.
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
...Late edit - having just re-read the link, the following stands out...

Now that looks suspiciously like what I would define as an AB test. Yet another example of the need to hear two sources in near-instantaneous comparison with each other in order to detect the difference; a task at which a surprisingly large proportion of the test subjects were successful.

Now far from being a demonstration of the insufficiency of conventional science when dealing with high quality audio (as the loony brigade are so fond of asserting), it actually demonstrates the need for instant AB style comparisons. Were you to ask anyone involved with this test whether the subjects could have performed their surprising feat had the two sounds been heard a day, an hour or even a minute apart, they would have laughed in your face.

No, it's the near-instantaneous comparison that permitted the test subjects to perform their 'unexpected' feat of listening prowess.
Thanks you for the insight. Those who cannot and will not stand aside from their emotional needs to believe in the esoteric seem to have missed the point of this experiment. The facts are - like it or not - that human hearing is one of the best researched areas of sensory science and it is exceedingly unlikely that after eighty years of incremental research any ground breaking discoveries will be made now or in the future that overturns accrued knowledge. By far the most likely scenario is of experimental error or misunderstanding or misapplication of the results of new research. That seems to be the case here.

The truly inspiring thing about audio and audio research (and indeed, crafting musical instruments) is that the barriers to entry or study are non-existent. You do not need any qualifications; you need spend only beer money on equipment; you do not have to plough through mathematical formulae; you do not need to leave the comfort of your own home yet you can be a fully fledged audio researcher up with the best. What you do need is a curious and open mind, plenty of common sense and a willingness to accept that your ears, like all your senses, can and will deceive you, and when you are bound-up in the emotion of sound and audio marketing, your objectivity is going to be compromised. The love affair with audio equipment, just as a love affair in life, subjugates logic in even the most objective and rational individuals.

What Pluto is saying is that when humans have the opportunity to compare two notes with only a small delay between them, as one would do in an instantaneous A-B comparison, unsurprisingly evolution has empowered us with the ability to detect the pitch change and grade one pitch as higher than the other. So what? Were that not the case we wouldn't be able to appreciate music, nor play music.

So, let's generate an example, where I take two audio band tones and decrease the time delay between them. At first, unless you are one of those rare people gifted with perfect pitch, you may not hear a difference in pitch: I wouldn't be able to. But as I reduce the gap between tone A and B, the difference becomes apparent.

Example of two tones, separated by ten seconds. Are they the same pitch or is one higher than the other?

10 second gap

You'd be a very brave man indeed if you could answer that with any confidence. Let's shorten the gap to about a half second:

0.4 second gap

Still very difficult isn't it. How about if we remove the gap altogether and butt the two tones together ....

No gap

It's still not that easy is it to be sure. How about if we loop above 'no gap' example a few times to give our ears a fighting chance ....

No gap looped

Now we hear that the two tones are slightly different, but to get to this point allowing for the poor resolution of our ears (and audio memory of a second or two at best) we have had to make the comparison as stark as possible: side by side in true A-B fashion. The first tone is 440Hz, the second 444Hz, just 1% higher in pitch.

It's cost me nothing to create this example other than a few minutes. We can illustrate how the ear works with simple tools and techniques. It does make you wonder how much of the audiophile edifice of misunderstandings, misconceptions, misapplication of science and rumour is readily demolished with equally simple insights as to how the ear really works using simple tools like I have here. All? Most? Some? It is very, very concerning how a technical industry as audio is at the manufacturing end exemplifies such chronic disconnect between physics and psychoacoustics and consumer beliefs.
 
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