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The Harbeth User Group is the primary channel for public communication with Harbeth's HQ. If you have a 'scientific mind' and are curious about how the ear works, how it can lead us to make the right - and wrong - audio equipment decisions, and about the technical ins and outs of audio equipment, how it's designed and what choices the designer makes, then the factual Science of Audio sub-forum area of HUG is your place. The objective methods of comparing audio equipment under controlled conditions has been thoroughly examined here on HUG and elsewhere and should be accessible to non-experts and able to be tried-out at home without deep technical knowledge. From a design perspective, today's award winning Harbeths could not have been designed any other way.

Alternatively, if you just like chatting about audio and subjectivity rules for you, then the Subjective Soundings area is you. If you are quite set in your subjectivity, then HUG is likely to be a bit too fact based for you, as many of the contributors have maximised their pleasure in home music reproduction by allowing their head to rule their heart. If upon examination we think that Posts are better suited to one sub-forum than than the other, they will be redirected during Moderation, which is applied throughout the site.

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Public demonstrations - no attempt to match loundness between A and B

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  • Public demonstrations - no attempt to match loundness between A and B

    This thread pulls together observations about the demonstration of audio equipment in retail or public exhibitions.

  • #2
    Witnessing an uncontrolled audio comparison

    I have observed first hand a demonstration of audio accessories to a pre-registered audience. The nature of the accessories does not actually matter. Nor does the musical selection, nor the audio equipment. Nor anything else - all these elements remained constant throughout.

    The accessories were applied to the system, and listeners were encouraged to listen for a difference in subjective sound quality before and after. It was fascinating to observe the psychology of the show, and the results were, because the sincere gentleman in command of the equipment assisting the presenter overlooked what we know here, less polarised than they could have been. He could have swung the demonstration entirely the other way (and to his commercial advantage) had he been more aware of the issues that we have discussed here at length regarding the operation of the ear, and subjective loudness. But he was a decent chap, untutored in the jiggery pokery of audio demonstrations.

    First we listened to accessory A, applied to the equipment. The music started, and the amp volume control was advanced to give us a goodly loud enough sound. We listened for a few minutes, the volume control knob was reduced to zero, the stylus was lifted, there followed some discussion about accessory B that we were about to hear, A was removed and B applied, the stylus positioned at the beginning of the track, lowered, the music started and the volume was advanced from zero. This entire process of volume off, stylus up, accessory change over, stylus repositioned at beginning of track, volume up, music on was repeated a few times with different accessories, and finally with all accessories removed, back to the original system. All very nice. So why did this wholly fail as a piece of serious comparative appraisal such that any conclusions drawn were worthless?

    Because the replay volume was entirely unregulated. The volume control was not stepped. It was a standard analogue rotary control. Furthermore, there were no markings at all on the amplifier front panel to guide the demonstrator as to the actual loudness and because he chose to turn down the volume before lifting the stylus (prudent, to protect the speakers) there was no possibility of returning to the exact same loudness at our ears. Needless to say, the replay loudness was somewhat inconsistent between the accessories, and (and I feel sorry for the operator here, but I guess it is excitable human nature at work) the final rendition with the accessories removed was significantly louder than the others to the point that it roused me from my semi-dozing state. That, of course, had the effect of contrasting that final demonstration (reversion to the original system, no accessories) with the previous playing, and I wonder how many in the audience though, as I did, that that was indeed the 'best sound'. Simply because it was fractionally louder, fractionally 'fuller', more 'engaging', more 'open', more 'revealing' and so on. Presumably that was the unintended opposite of the outcome that the salesman wanted.

    So the moral of the story is this: if you are asked to listen and compare and contrast two pieces of audio equipment, accessories, CDs or whatever, make sure that the volume control is absolutely FIXED, ideally taped into position, right through the demo.
    Otherwise, you are in 50:50 land and and are at your most vulnerable.

    How closely matched should the volume have been, assuming that it was not rigidly locked throughout? To about 0.25dB maximum mismatch, to remove our ear's level-subjective characteristics from the evaluation. That absolutely mandates the use of test equipment since there is no human who can accurately determine loudness to that degree of precision. Hence, the inevitable level mismatch takes on in our brain and different electro-chemical voltage, which our brain is obliged to interpret as a change in sound quality, when it is in truth, nothing more than a change is sound loudness.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

    Comment


    • #3
      Preconditioning?

      I am curious to know whether any of those involved in the presentation told the audience beforehand what the component(s) was/were designed to do and the effectuate it/they may have.

      In other words, was there any attempt to condition the audience? I assume that is a standard sales technique.

      I admit it - I used loudness to cover up deficiencies in my audio system. I assume in most systems just by turning it up a bit without changing any components at all an audience would say it sounded better.

      Comment


      • #4
        "Tap once for yes, twice for no"....

        Originally posted by ssfas View Post
        I am curious to know whether any of those involved in the presentation told the audience beforehand what the component(s) was/were designed to do and the effectuate it/they may have. In other words, was there any attempt to condition the audience? I assume that is a standard sales technique.
        There was indeed a long, rambling (1 hour) preconditioning phase with what someone afterwards was overheard as saying was 'totally junk science'. However, human nature being as it is, and our interaction with others normally restrained out of politeness the presenter was given the benefit of the doubt by the audience (some, indeed, wholly mesmerised by the proceedings) when there were present folk who, had they been inclined, could have made mincemeat of the entire scientific underpinnnings.

        I began to lose the plot when told that these inventions had the capability of causing electrons to jump valance layers, which with my limited understanding of physics sounded downright dangerous. When we were educated in the nuances of causing electrons to reverse their direction of spin, cancelling all-pervading microwave radiation that was 'literally boiling our ears, but not this minute, not now that we are in the protected space of this room, thanks to these devices' I started to get excited. We were but one small leap of imagination from raising the dead, and it reminded me that my late mother in law actually owed me a fiver. And still does.
        Alan A. Shaw
        Designer, owner
        Harbeth Audio UK

        Comment


        • #5
          Paying the price?

          Originally posted by A.S. View Post
          There was indeed a long, rambling (1 hour) preconditioning phase with what someone afterwards was overheard as saying was 'totally junk science'. However, human nature being as it is, and our interaction with others normally restrained out of politeness the presenter was given the benefit of the doubt by the audience (some, indeed, wholly mesmerised by the proceedings) when there were present folk who, had they been inclined, could have made mincemeat of the entire scientific underpinnnings.

          I began to lose the plot when told that these inventions had the capability of causing electrons to jump valance layers, which with my limited understanding of physics sounded downright dangerous. When we were educated in the nuances of causing electrons to reverse their direction of spin, cancelling all-pervading microwave radiation that was 'literally boiling our ears, but not this minute, not now that we are in the protected space of this room, thanks to these devices' I started to get excited. We were but one small leap of imagination from raising the dead, and it reminded me that my late mother in law actually owed me a fiver. And still does.
          I know how you feel. I went to a lecture on Friday where the speaker purposefully, but very calmly, enraged the audience to acts of physical violence against him. It was a demonstration to a parent/teen group of insidious political propaganda techniques. Obviously such techniques are alive and well in the audio industry. It must have been an act of selfless professionalism for AS to sit quietly.

          I tend to avoid all such propaganda and influences, notably when going to shows I never buy programmes or read up beforehand. I would strongly recommend this approach, it is much more fun. This backfired on Saturday, mind you, if I'd known it was an Arthur Miller play I was about to watch I'd have had a stiff drink beforehand. Maybe a lesson to be learned before the next demo.

          When, if at all, did they mention the price?

          Comment


          • #6
            Can't beat a happy (paying) punter!

            Originally posted by ssfas View Post
            I know how you feel. I went to a lecture on Friday where the speaker purposefully, but very calmly, enraged the audience to acts of physical violence against him. It was a demonstration to a parent/teen group of insidious political propaganda techniques. Obviously such techniques are alive and well in the audio industry. It must have been an act of selfless professionalism for AS to sit quietly.

            I tend to avoid all such propaganda and influences, notably when going to shows I never buy programmes or read up beforehand. I would strongly recommend this approach, it is much more fun. This backfired on Saturday, mind you, if I'd known it was an Arthur Miller play I was about to watch I'd have had a stiff drink beforehand. Maybe a lesson to be learned before the next demo.

            When, if at all, did they mention the price?
            There is always the thought at the back of the truely objectivist's brain that he just might be wrong, be the one who 'doesn't get it' due to his overwhelming ignorance and closed mind. So, endure it I did, more out of marvel at the theatre of it. Rather as one would endure a really terrible play (or indeed, the Michael Jackson tribute a few weeks ago) held in that crepuscular zone between disbelief and pity that someone is so far down on their uppers (underfed urchins and elderly parents to support, house stripped to the floorboards by heartless bailiffs, hundreds of no-replies to job seeking enquiries) that they were ("reluctantly, very reluctantly") driven into this line of pantomime.

            And the price. This is the most astonishing thing of all. I happened to glance at his trestle table an hour later when the audience has dissipated, noting the pile of hand written sales receipts. Believe it or not, he had taken card/cash payment for several thousands of dollars of sales which he fulfilled from inventory there and ten.

            And everyone was absolutely delighted. He was cute enough* to shuffle off in his battered old wreck of a car, back home to the Porche no doubt!

            *Almost. Jacket, probably Daks, around $750. Trousers, not sure. Brocklehurst? Nice cut. Shoes: Very nice - looked like Edward Green, hand made. Hate to think of the price. $1300 ish? My entire outfit, by contrast, cost about $60. I think I should be ashamed of that....!
            Alan A. Shaw
            Designer, owner
            Harbeth Audio UK

            Comment


            • #7
              Conned the con artists?

              Originally posted by A.S. View Post
              There is always the thought at the back of the truely objectivist's brain that he just might be wrong, be the one who 'doesn't get it' due to his overwhelming ignorance and closed mind. So, endure it I did, more out of marvel at the theatre of it. Rather as one would endure a really terrible play (or indeed, the Michael Jackson tribute a few weeks ago) held in that crepuscular zone between disbelief and pity that someone is so far down on their uppers (underfed urchins and elderly parents to support, house stripped to the floorboards by heartless bailiffs, hundreds of no-replies to job seeking enquiries) that they were ("reluctantly, very reluctantly") driven into this line of pantomime.

              And the price. This is the most astonishing thing of all. I happened to glance at his trestle table an hour later when the audience has dissipated, noting the pile of hand written sales receipts. Believe it or not, he had taken card/cash payment for several thousands of dollars of sales which he fulfilled from inventory there and ten.

              And everyone was absolutely delighted. He was cute enough to shuffle off in his battered old wreck of a car, back home to the Porche no doubt!
              I assume as pre-invited, it was a mostly trade audience. Any sign of a cabal of trade journalists?

              You don't need to be a nuclear physicist to know that it usually costs a lot of money to get sub-atomic particles to change their mind as to direction of travel, let alone do what seems to be the Maxwellian equivalent of a three-point-turn. I'm still struggling with the concept of directional cables.

              If the trade can be so conned by such tonic salesmen, present company excluded, what chance the consumer?

              Comment


              • #8
                Audio, from bottom to top

                Originally posted by A.S. View Post

                And everyone was absolutely delighted. He was cute enough* to shuffle off in his battered old wreck of a car, back home to the Porche no doubt!

                *Almost. Jacket, probably Daks, around $750. Trousers, not sure. Brocklehurst? Nice cut. Shoes: Very nice - looked like Edward Green, hand made. Hate to think of the price. $1300 ish? My entire outfit, by contrast, cost about $60. I think I should be ashamed of that....!
                For men, it's always the shoes. Sometimes the spectacles (if Lundberg or Mykita), but good shoes is a sign of spare cash or excessive profit margins.

                I went to Whittlebury 2014 and the footwear suggested the UK audio industry is in a generally poor state of health.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Accesories and paraphernalia.

                  Originally posted by ssfas View Post
                  For men, it's always the shoes. Sometimes the spectacles (if Lundberg or Mykita), but good shoes is a sign of spare cash or excessive profit margins.

                  I went to Whittlebury 2014 and the footwear suggested the UK audio industry is in a generally poor state of health.
                  A lot has changed in last two decades. In my twenty-to-thirtysomething good shirt and tie were of the most importance, nevertheless one preferred tweed, twill or gabardine. Today we deal with thousands of untied men as if each occasion were a sort of the picnic ....

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    A history in the 'rag trade'

                    Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                    *Almost. Jacket, probably Daks, around $750. Trousers, not sure. Brocklehurst? Nice cut. Shoes: Very nice - looked like Edward Green, hand made. Hate to think of the price. $1300 ish? My entire outfit, by contrast, cost about $60. I think I should be ashamed of that....!
                    DAKS - that's showing your age. Didn't know it still existed. A bit of trivia. DAKS, like Har...beth, is a combination of DAd and SlacKS, "dad" being Simeon Simpson a tailor who started in Middlesex Street in the East End and invented the ready-to-wear suit (before M&S). He ended up with a beautiful store in Jermyn Street, where AS no doubt gets his shoes made, which unfortunately is now a Waterstones Superstore.

                    A few doors down Middlesex Street my Great Uncle Louis (a name I unfortunately inherited and made my childhood occasionally unpleasant) and his mate Morris Cooper, both tailors, set up shop to make workwear for South African miners using a riveted material called denim, not yet seen in Europe. He borrowed the idea from another immigrant in California called Levi Strauss. Anyway, after making millions of army uniforms in WWI, Morris's son rebranded combining his and his wife's family names (it's that Har...beth thing again) to become Lee Cooper, still making denim after 110 years and contributing to Britain's balance of payments. So I get a bit hacked off when people complain about immigration because they are great innovators and workers and the UK economy would be stuffed without them.

                    I, for one, won't be voting UKIP.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Essential corporate wardrobe item missing

                      Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                      He was cute enough* to shuffle off in his battered old wreck of a car, back home to the Porche no doubt!

                      *Almost. Jacket, probably Daks, around $750. Trousers, not sure. Brocklehurst? Nice cut. Shoes: Very nice - looked like Edward Green, hand made. Hate to think of the price. $1300 ish?
                      No polo shirt embroidered with the company name and logo?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Dress code

                        Originally posted by ssfas View Post
                        For men, it's always the shoes. Sometimes the spectacles (if Lundberg or Mykita), but good shoes is a sign of spare cash or excessive profit margins.
                        Speaking as a man who owns both a pair of Lindberg spectacles and a couple of decent (though not extravagant, i.e. not bespoke) pairs of shoes, I would suggest that there's a fine balance to be maintained (the same applies to the degree of ostentation of one's office space).

                        In the professional world, it's definitely true that people will look at the externals (clothing, furnishings, etc.) as a mark of your success and will judge you accordingly, so you can't be too lax about it. However, it's somewhat market-specific: when I dealt with high-end corporate clients, you could (and were expected to) look quite "smart". When dealing with private individuals or, as I do now, public administrative bodies, I will dress down a bit more: in part because standards are more relaxed, but in part because I don't want people for whom the expense is significant to feel that they are subsidizing an unnecessarily lavish lifestyle.

                        It sounds like this fellow was well-dressed: you'd say maybe too well-dressed, but obviously not - judging by his success, he seems to have found the right balance for the community he was attempting to appeal to. Never underestimate the extent to which clothes unconsciously signal to others how well you're doing. The trick is to take it to the point just before it becomes noticeable - that's when it works the best.

                        I think balancing good clothes and a battered car is a particularly clever way of establishing the balance.

                        Comment

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