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Three sides to every story … or, how to discuss this stuff

Discussion in 'The Cutting Edge' started by RichPA, Nov 24, 2007.

  1. RichPA

    RichPA Don't drive angry Staff Member Super Mod Subscriber

    Do cables matter? Do amps sound different? Do tweaks work? What can matter?

    While AK hasn’t seen the level of flaming about these topics seen on other sites, a number of recent threads in various forums seem to be getting there. This post reflects my thoughts about how we can talk about this stuff here in the spirit of AK’s “All Audio, No Attitude” slogan. I’m writing as a member of the AK community, not as a moderator, so don’t take anything here as official AK policy.

    My gear is fairly high end by AK standards, and I do think amps sound different and cables matter, that not all digital sounds the same, and that some tweaks are worth trying. On the other hand, technically implausible explanations bug me, and I want to understand why things sound different to me – and explanations that don’t make technical sense to me discourage me from spending my money on certain things.

    There’s stuff out there that I think is silly, but that others seem to accept as reasonable. I might say “I don’t see how that could work” or “to me, that doesn’t seem worth trying” – but I’m not going to say “only an idiot could fall for that snake oil” even if I sometimes think it. Why? Two reasons – that’s no way to talk to each other, and I have lots of experience with changing my opinion. I used to think that cables didn’t – and couldn’t – matter, until it was demonstrated to my satisfaction that they did, at least a little and at least some of the time. I know that there are people out there who think some of my opinions about audio gear are silly and can’t be scientifically supported – and when they know their technical stuff I’m willing to listen as long as they’re civil to me.

    A member here recently put it this way in a private conversation:

    Of course that shouldn’t happen. The problem is, the tone of such responses is usually not so straightforward - it is more along the lines of "You're an idiot for thinking that you can use spaghetti as speaker wire." Or if the original response was just stating a scientific fact, someone else comes along and takes that as an excuse for mockery. What’s more, the science often isn’t indisputable – there’s a lot to measure, and a lot left for science to learn about relating measurement to perception.

    The same member went on to say

    Speaking for a moment as a moderator: It’s hard to moderate this stuff without appearing to (or actually, sometimes) taking sides, and none of the moderators would claim we’re perfect. What’s more, we all have opinions – which cover pretty much the whole range of possibilities – on this stuff. But if you look at the threads that have been locked, it is because the civility got lost, not because of the opinions expressed – at least that’s what we’ve tried to do.

    OK, moderator mode off. Bottom line, my opinion on how to discuss this stuff:

    1. Remember that your opinion is an opinion, and others have other opinions. And yours may change (if you’re not open to that, why discuss at all?)
    2. If you know the technical stuff, try to share it in a way that doesn’t insult others.
    3. Keep in mind that nobody’s opinion invalidates your choices, if you’re happy with them.

    Carry on.
    asilker likes this.


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  2. meggy

    meggy AK Subscriber Subscriber

    IMO, communicating by posting is an art form in itself and needs additional considerations in construction. It's easy to forget that writing lacks inflections and other delivery techniques that speaking utilizes. I think people compose most everything as they "hear it" in their own head, but that it can be easily mis-interpreted by the reader.

    My 79 year old father is a riot that way. He didn't get what SHOUTING was for a long long time no matter how many times I told him. Finally someone else told him, then he believed me. He just thought it was being enthusiatic.

    BTW, good info Rich. Thanks.
  3. ozmoid

    ozmoid Lunatic Member

    Thank you, Rich. Well said, and needed. :)
    I try to always be mindful of this, but I still slip up from time to time and "inflect" something I never intended. :no:
  4. Bigerik

    Bigerik AK Subscriber Subscriber

    I've Been Everywhere
    Excellent stuff, guys.

    Much appreciated you taking the time to post it here.

    I am thinking it needs to be a sticky.
  5. Negotiableterms

    Negotiableterms Administrator Staff Member Admin Subscriber

    I've always thought that attitude is everything:

    If the poster is focused on being right (meaning everyone has to agree), that usually comes through.

    If the poster is focused on trying to understand, to build theories, to reconcile differences, or just to have some fun, that comes through as well.

    AK is first and foremost a place for human interaction. Those posters willing to recognize that and accord others the civility we all deserve do well here, whether they're complete objectivists or pure subjectivists.

    BTW, were those kosher pickes?

    DENNYDOG Addicted Member

    South Central,MN
    Thanks Rich, very well put indeed. I know I have my opinions but am open to different ones also. It is always nice to hear and read about others peoples experiences that differ from mine. I know I don't have the best system money can buy or the cheapest but I think I and most other people can learn from other peoples experiences and put them to good use. I think that is what is so great about AK. ALL AUDIO. NO ATTITUDE.


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  7. matel

    matel Super Member

    Yup, there are certain threads we haven't mastered how to discuss. The first time I came out swinging. The next time seeing the seeds of destruction early on, this was going to take more intelligence and a presicly honed attitude to help this along . I still flubbed my reponse a liitle and thought I'll do better next time.
    It's an art form of sorts.I must say I'm totally impressed by you guys Rich Big E and NT.
  8. panhead

    panhead Mac owner for life.

    Opinions are valid.

    Here's my 2 cents on cables,tweeks & all the other related stuff.

    My opinion is that cables do not make a difference even though my amps cost $20K,ive tried a bunch of cables with a bunch of gear, while i did hear what i thought to be slight changes in the overall tone the changes were minute,this still dont give me the right to discount what others hear or have fun with :no:.

    Something i firmly believe is that most of the anti cable guys have lost sight of is that our hobby is just that,a hobby thats supposed to be fun for all,not an all out slugfest,complete with google links up the wazzoo posted in order to further ones own personal position:sigh:.

    I avoid most cable discussions for those reasons,i think that posting ones own personal hands on experience is one thing but if they dont have first hand knowlege then they have no reason to post other than to incite.

    I think a cable forum could actually work here at AK & i also think this is the only forum where such discussions would work but heavy moderation would be needed to keep the threads on track.
  9. tentoze

    tentoze Twangophile

    Somewhere Else

    Don't look now, but you're posting in it.
  10. Snade

    Snade humble AK member

    I think as AK members, we have to understand this is a forum about audio gear and most of the members have a passion for the hobby.

    As such, there are many technical questions and subjects that generate strong opinions.

    We've got a good mix here of technical types with blunt communication styles and non-technical types that can be overly sensitive to very direct feedback.

    I take it as a badge of honor if I say something stupid and get wacked with some blunt commentary.

    I actually enjoy some of these debates on speaker wire that get all heated. Let's not be too sensitive.

    It's all fun.

    Cheers, Snade
  11. Fran604g

    Fran604g Love at first sound... Subscriber

    Finger Lakes Territory, RONYC
    Well said, Rich. I still see myself as a newcomer 'round these parts, and try to not offend anyone. That being said, I've seen the same behavior in many, many AK folks, as well. I was talking to my 27 year old son over Thanksgiving Dinner about AK, as I often mention it to him when he's here (which is very infrequent). One of the comments that I made stands out in my mind right now, I told him, "What truly makes AK a one of kind message board are the Mods, they're fantastic, they take pride in AK, and they do this voluntarily..."

    I don't have a clue how many posts here get scrapped, but I've gotta believe it's not a lot.

    By you guys reminding us guys to, "keep it civil" from time to time, AK has become and, I hope, will remain, the best unbiased audio database around.

    And by the way, I replaced my old RCA patch cables with some PE cables that were suggested by one of the members, and I definately noticed a drop in the noise and an improvement in the sound. Without this venue, I likely would have never tried the change.



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  12. panhead

    panhead Mac owner for life.

    Cool,didnt know but now i do:thmbsp:
  13. KingBubba

    KingBubba "Too Much Stuff" Subscriber

    Brooksville, Fl.
    I think this thread is a reflection of why AK is a pleasure to be part of. BTW pickles do conduct electricity and would make a better speaker conductor than spaghetti, IMHO. For many years I would create an "electric pickle" for Halloween fun. Take one LARGE dill pickle and insert a common 12 penny nail in each end, making sure that the nails don't touch in the middle. Take a lamp cord, with plug, and stripping the end of the wires, attach one wire to one nail and one to the other. Plug the pickle in the wall outlet and watch the fun. The sizzling noise adds to the overall effect, but the smell is horrible. Don't touch the pickle while it is plugged in, Duh!!!

  14. Fisherdude

    Fisherdude Regular Dude - Super Mod Staff Member Super Mod

    Out West.
    Clearly there's a "sweet spot" that's somewhere in between heavy moderation and no moderation. Believe it or not, the mods love an enthusiastic conversation about something audio. It's why we do this. The original conversation that Rich and I were having was all about what we need to do so that we CAN have a forum where interesting, spirited discussions can take place, without anybody getting their knuckles whacked.

    Well, not too often.

    I'll add a thought to Snade's comments...I think my sweet spot is where we're very sensitive to other's thoughts, and not overly sensitive about our own.
  15. luvvinvinyl

    luvvinvinyl Lily! Staff Member Admin Subscriber

    South of Detroit
    What an astute observation! The "Golden Rule" for the forum.

  16. ozmoid

    ozmoid Lunatic Member

    I'm here to learn - and I have, but I suffer no illusion that I'm done. :music:
    I wondered what that was I smelled. :pawprint: :yuck:

    Thank you! I knew there had to be a reason Justen was using pickles instead of spaghetti. :scratch2:


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  17. Negotiableterms

    Negotiableterms Administrator Staff Member Admin Subscriber

    While we're on this tricky topic, I'd like to suggest that there's a place here for scientific theory. In my mind, TOL isn't supposed to outlaw science. Rather, it's supposed to allow subjective discussions to occur without being shouted down by "dumb scientists".

    This forum is Erik's domain, so it's all his call, but I've not seen him turn down sincere efforts at genuine scientific discussion. He frequently nukes "dumb science" posts. I don't envy him that job, because it's darn difficult to draw the line between dumb science and real science.

    For example, in my mind (not necessarily in Erik's) there's no requirement that you actually be able to manipulate Lord Kelvin's cable equations to discuss cable science, but if you've never even heard of Kelvin's work, and really think that all cables conduct electricity the same way, you shouldn't be the one to espouse the scientific side of the discussion. Another way of saying it is that if you've tried to do your homework, your comments are likely welcome, and if you haven't, shaddup. Again, these are my views, and it's a good thing I'm not the mod here, as they would make this forum even more difficult to moderate.

    This thread is about food for thought... so there's a little more.
  18. Bigerik

    Bigerik AK Subscriber Subscriber

    I've Been Everywhere
    Nope. Sincere scientific discussion is certainly welcome here. In fact, some of the best such posts, by Arkay and House de Kris are stickied here.
    In fact, I would love to have MORE scientific discussion here. But the problem has always been people using science as a bludgeon, NOT a discussion tool. Would love to see someone try to explain why people are hearing differences, instead of the usual "if you can't measure it, it doesn't exist." The truth is probably somewhere between those two concepts, and I would love to see it posted and discussed.
    To clarify one thing that NT discussed, I just want to make it totally clear that there has never been a single post deleted from TOL because of scientific content. There is not bias in TOL either for or against the subjective or objective view. That being said, the mod team can spot a trolling post a mile away that is using science to end discussion, not allow for it. It is easy to see the difference between someone with an open mind who wants to discuss vs a guy coming in just to mock and flame. That has never been tolerated, and nor will it be. Ever.
    These are just my 2 cents. Please keep this discussion going. Would love to hear everyones comments.
  19. Tangent

    Tangent Sweet nightmares!

    Ontario, Canada
    I'll have to admit that I'm one of those guys who fly by the seat of their... ears. :D In other words, if it sounds good to me, I'll keep it and even recommend that people listen to one for themselves. I'd never say "go out and buy it - it's GREAT" as I've heard too much stuff that sounded great elsewhere and crappy at my place. Or crappy at my place and great at a friends place.

    I've noticed (here and elsewhere) that people use science as a bludgeon - to borrow your words. Then they go off and cite proof about double blind test results, bring up that Randi guy, whatever. I'd like to see some of those people actually try some different stuff in their systems. That's what the cable swap program was all about - free try outs! Cool!

    And if they can't hear any difference, well, that's their reality. Or if the difference is so small that the cost in cables (for example) does not justify the expense - that's cool, too!

    But I must say that, in my limited experience, the components you have (receiver, speakers, CD player, DAC, turntable, cartridge, separates, tubes, solid state, interconnects, speaker wires, room acoustics, etc., etc.) play a BIG part in the sound produced for your listening enjoyment. Proof? Just visit some stereo stores, bring your favourite CDs and have some fun!

    What was my point again? Oh, I dunno........
  20. Zygmo

    Zygmo Super Member

    I agree with civility....but we need to have fun too! I don't mind my ideas or opinions being attacked...just don't get personal. In other words...because someone has what you consider a stupid idea....that does not mean the person who said it is stupid.

    Ummmm..however....that guy who said, for better sound, he preferred his speaker wire twisted clockwise, instead of counterclockwise (unless you live in Australia, of course)...welllllllll........................

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