If you can’t hear or see it

December 9, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

Most of us are unaware of the tiny creatures traversing our skin and body. Like this micro spider, called Demodex.


This common creature runs around in the pores of our skin. Most of us are hosts to them, and yet we are unaware of their existence.

If I had told my ancestors of several hundred years ago that this space alien-looking creature was on their skin, they’d likely have me locked up as a lunatic. They could not see these creatures even with the strongest magnifying glasses of the day.

Because they cannot see them, it stands to reason they do not exist.

Yet they do exist. Then and now.

The fact that we cannot see or measure something does not mean they do not exist any more than if you do not hear changes in audio systems (that others do) they are not real.

It is worth considering that when our experiences do not match that of others it does not mean one experience is less or more valid.

All it means is that we did not have the same experience.

The only truly valid tests are those shared on systems with enough resolving power to present those changes. Two people looking at the same electron microscopic image will see the same micro spider.

Makes you want to go wash your face. 🙂

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37 comments on “If you can’t hear or see it”

  1. The way we see and hear, as much with our brain, means we have our own unique reality. Other people’s reality is of no consequence to us.

    Digital electronics reached a point 10+ years ago that they can process data at such high frequencies and with such a low noise floor that detail ceased to be an issue. What is often described by reviewers and clearly audible when listening to different loudspeakers is a an apparent difference in the level of detail. There is an increasing number of loudspeakers that are perceived as so detailed – etched is the word often used – that they do not sound very natural or pleasant.

    I asked my PS Audio dealer to compare the Stellar Phono and the Primare R35. He said, and I quote: “ Out of the 2 the Primare is the more musical, the PS Audio is the more detailed. Both are excellent, though for me, for the styles of music I tend to listen to (70s/80s rock, metal, folk, indie etc) the Primare is my choice. For female vocals, jazz etc the PS Audio would perform incredibly well.” A good description that the level of detail is as much a matter of taste.

    1. It’s all about choice again. We all want definitive answers, this is better than that, but those answers don’t exist because we are all different. As mentioned yesterday, we’re lucky to have so much choice as there should be something to suit everyone. It’s just the choosing part that can be tricky. Cost and design enter the equation, as well as sound, and differences can be minimal.

      1. It certainly is. In 2016 I made a choice to stick to PCM rather than implement DSD, not least because I was mainly streaming (another choice) and Qobuz had just abandoned their plan to stream DSD (they had announced an October 2016 launch date). So I bought a PCM system and a couple of years later a software update made it able to play DSD64. It is only because of my musical preferences that in the last 6 years I’ve only bought 2 or 3 DSD downloads.

        At the time I thought Qobuz abandoned DSD for technical reasons. I suspect the reason was more lack of content, as DSD file producers would likely have lost most of their download revenues and gained only a few crumbs of streaming revenues.

        So choices and economics.

    2. Umm, the detail is *in the recording* … a playback chain can either hide it entirely, or blur it pleasantly, or reveal it in a quite distorted and irritating way; or, accurately reproduce it. Personally, I prefer the latter … because it makes for the most immersive, engaging listening. Unfortunately, it requires a high level of integrity of the overall system to achieve the last option – which is why it’s rarely heard …

  2. If you can’t hear it…
    Next week our Melbourne Audio Club will experience my organized live presentation by AudioQuest.

    … where dis-believers will have their prior convictions (of either way) converted.
    Yeah. Sigh.

  3. It never seems to amaze that most forums are rife with those who make it their business to bully, insult, degrade and make fun of anyone that dares voice an opinion on what they hear in different scenario like:

    “I purchased a new power cord and wow what a difference it made today.”
    “ROON had an update today, the sound quality in my system is not as good or maybe the sound quality is better after the latest updates.”
    “Wow I put a VPI DB-5 on top of my amplifier and a whole new level of blackness was detected.”
    I installed a new USB cable or Ethernet cable today and the expansion of the bass and soundstage in my room was incredible.”
    “ It’s taken about two weeks of constant breaking in before the DAC or phono stage to manifest itself.”

    The knives come out quickly to belittle the writer for daring about what they heard. They refuse to listen or try anything new and boldly deny, disregard, and disrespect anyone who dares claim
    that they do. I write and explain what I heard for those that like to tweek their systems. I’m not writing to convince or put down those that don’t.

    Why bother to post or read about something they don’t believe in while they jumping up and down claiming they only do this to prevent fraud and saving your money?

    I don’t see many posts started purposely to antagonize and enrage the unbelievers and doubters.
    I just don’t read or react to posts of that nature.

    1. sgrowan,
      Hear! Hear!
      Let them make fools of themselves & show other contributors what deep-seated emotional problems they are saddled with, as apparently is their want…”Look at me! Look at me! I’m so f#@ked-up that I have to insult people who don’t agree with me!”
      When they start insulting me personally, as some are want to do, because I am not in complete lockstep with their thoughts/beliefs on home-audio, well, THAT’s where I draw the line & I start firing back.
      All’s fair in love & war 😉

    2. It’s about as ridiculous as saying Jazz is better than Classical. Paul often says DSD is better than PCM, which I just take to be his opinion. I’ve always believed burn-in is the period of time required for psychoacoustic adjustment to a new product and has no basis in reality.

      I’m all for trying things, even if they sound a bit crazy, and welcome reading about them. All the fun of the fair. I tried cable elevation. Rather than spending a fortune on ceramic things, I bought some $10/3m rectangular electrical conduit, put some acoustic foam inside and the cable between the foam. I then stuck on a wood-pattern vinyl wrap. It’s a cheap and effective solution and hid the ugly cables, which now are back sitting on the floor.

      I agree 100% with FR’s comment. There is one guy who takes a polarised and abrasive attitude on a couple of well-known sites, who happens to be a dealer in high-end digital gear very near me (10 minutes). He was much more easy-going before the objectivists turned up. He got banned from a site that I suspect generated quite a lot of business and he has probably suffered quite badly for it. It’s his own fault. The customer is always right, or at least usually.

      1. Steven,
        I hear that a whole bunch of cables got together & decided
        that you’re not all that good-looking either…just quietly 😉

        England all out for 281…in 51 overs?
        I’m in shock 😮

      2. Related to the burn in disbelief:

        the self fulfilling prophecy in case of many doubtful people is, that they tend to doubt things which are not immediately self explaining AND have little patience in trying out/listening for differences AND don’t have a setup scenario (gear or setup/placement) easily revealing a certain grade of sound quality characteristics.

        All this together repeatedly proves their perspective disbelief for the next topic and makes it pointless to argue 😉

        1. Listening to some Bill Evans with the wife. Lucky her, she’s just got back from her yoga studio, it’s owned by a billionaire jazz nut, they often have live music, a trio with tabla this evening. How much fun is that?

          If burn-in is as thing, I can’t say I’ve experienced it. I’ve never bought anything on sale or return and had to wait 200 hours for it to get right. I bought a phono amp this year and the dealer said it would take a while to settle down, but it’s not changed. The demo unit I had was almost new as well. Others may have a different view.

          You can make audio choices as simple or as complicated as you want.

          1. Yes, nothing unusual in this experience. I probably wouldn’t hear a difference then, too. It all depends on the scenario.

            If you have a setup where you hear into the throat of the singer and if you just slightly toe out or in the speakers all this is gone, then you hear different things than if speakers and listening position is just roughly done etc. And no one else than yourself would spend the time to get this tweaked out, as it would take too long.

            At the end we would all hear the same things or not. We all just have differently sensible scenarios I’d say.

            And the volume level we listen to for differences also makes a difference.

            1. I did not set up my speakers. The dealer did. He’s done it with hundreds of pairs of Wilson, they flew him over to Utah and he is their principal UK dealer. I could never have done it so well. The positions are marked on the floor, also for the single listening chair. He demonstrated that fine adjustment of toe-in balances imaging (in) and soundstage (out), but within limits the overall sound quality is not affected. With more people in the room I can use a 6-speaker spatial system. There was a big benefit from stripping the walls back to the brick and removing the ceiling and rebuilding with acoustic treatment. As the room is effectively sound-proofed, I can listen as loud as I like.
              Having had a very “vocal” week – an opera, an oratorio, a musical and a play – all unamplified acoustic, and having listened at home to another oratorio on Thursday when my wife was at the ballet, I am more than happy with what the stereo system can do. My only friend with an interest in home audio does not like it, but his taste is different and he likes a heavier sound.

    3. It is envy driven human internet-nature for some to make themselves feel better by dredging people down to their level. Never bothered to try different cables? Then it’s all BS. Can’t afford that high end speaker? Then it’s ridiculous overpriced garbage. If a Ferrari is way out of your budget, then scour specs & details until you find that something that justifies your need to call Ferrari owners idiots. “Only 411 horsepower and no air conditioning for $800k?? Pffft, I wouldn’t take one if they GAVE me one”.
      Those people.

      I’ve tried some cable upgrades that didn’t really improve things enough to justify their price. Some were not detectable at all. I got my Sony MDR-Z1R this week. Gave them a good test drive. Wonderful. Swapped the stock balanced cable with one of my better cables. That is, to date, the most significant head shaking eye opening improvement I’ve ever experienced. Literally almost a ‘naw…this can’t be!’ difference. If you told me that same story, I might not fully accept its validity. Hell, prior to then I wouldn’t have believed myself.

      So I’m betting the naysayers are naytriers with a side dish of envy.
      I know I have Ferrari envy…..
      (For me it would be a 308, 328 or a 246GT Dino. No AC and not enough horsepower to get you into too much trouble…)

      1. Stephen Jay Gould, a scientist and great writer, used a term he called “argument from personal incredulity.” If your experience and education simply don’t include some level of knowledge about a particular field, you’re inclined to dismiss the extraordinary as — literally — unbelievable. At the same time Gould, as much as I loved his writing, illustrated the flip side of that: if your experience and education are of a certain bent, you’re just as likely to reject a countervailing theory. Gould, a good postwar socialist and “nurture over nature” progressive, condemned A.O. Wilson’s theory of evolutionary psychology as irredeemably deterministic, though it’s pretty well established today. So what Paul says is true. Best to keep an open mind, and ear, when assessing our hobby.

      2. Pikpen to check whether we get any hateful responses, I will only state that the chairs and flares optioned 246GTS happens to be the absolute pinnacle of automotive art ever achieved. And one could have purchased brand new for less than 20k

  4. Some people see better than others, but no one can see or feel Demodex mites on their skin, even though they are real. Without advanced tools, there are limits to what humans can see. Likewise, some people can hear better than others, but there are real sonic differences, often measurable with advanced tools, that no one can hear. There are limits to what we can hear, so there are limits to what matters in audio design and playback. The old expression “everything matters” is false, so why do audiophiles accept it on faith?

    And by the way, just like our eyes can trick us, so can our ears. Some things we “hear” are not real.

      1. You’re correct, but that’s not a negation of what I wrote. To restate: 1) Our senses trick us sometimes because our brains have to make sense of a deluge of sensory data, passing along to consciousness a mere trickle of that torrent; it’s a highly transformed interpretation of reality. 2) There are physical limits to what any human can hear. 3) Not everything matters.

        1. Fair enough.
          I am coming from a purely auditory perspective with my previous reply.
          Some days my home-audio rig sounds better than on other days.
          Is it my rig or is it my hearing?
          More than likely it’s my hearing.

  5. After reading every comment slowly and carefully posted so far today, I come to the same conclusion.

    When I decided to back away from all of the bluster and just enjoy listening to music, I’m a much happier person.

    The pot stirring that goes on in so many community groups can make anybody crazy. I’ve had enough crazy in my life so I retreat back to my music which gives me much happiness.

    The bottom line is that what I have read here today by several of the common sense commenters that I certainly agree with was when one of them said in very different words that I interpret as… ‘Just walk away from the negativity and the confusion It makes for a happier life’. I’ve always found this difficult to do and I will still check out the posts every morning but I am on the path to let a lot of this crazy roll off my back like water on a duck. I also realize that I am part of the problem and I will try to deal with that accordingly as well.

  6. There are good tiny creatures and there are bad ones. The good ones help keep the bad ones in check. For example, good bacteria kill bad bacteria and fungi that can take over if the good bacteria are destroyed by antibiotics or antiseptics. It’s a balancing act.

      1. You’re right though the two do resemble one another.

        “Demodex mites are parasites that live on the surface of human skin and look a lot like tardigrades, otherwise known as water bears, only Demodex mites have long tails called flagella (singular: flagellum) that help them move around efficiently. “

  7. Some of those that dismiss the differences in whatever piece of equipment maybe due to the lack of opportunity to hear the difference. Many years ago there was a local store I visited and heard many wonderful things. Today the nearest HIFI store to me is over 100 miles away thus my ‘experience’ to compare and hear differences in amps, several speakers, etc, side by side is very limited, although I am very aware they exist.

    Opportunity versus denial.

    Just a side note.
    Recently I had a visit from my daughter, 26 and very busy with nursing school and working. She is quite the ‘ Iphone’ generation and has no knowledge of a good stereo system. While here I told her about my new equipment and played it a while. While playing some Nora Jones she mentioned they sound right in the middle, is the center channel speaker on? Then I played a few minutes on Caravanserai by Santana. She said “It sounds like it fills the entire room”

    I feel I have accomplished part of my goal.

    Also what I am currently using are some average speakers, really meant to use with the theater system. So I am happy to see the release of the Aspen FR20s on the website. Hope to get a chance to hear them. Still awaiting a review of the FR30 in Stereophile, I assume they will at some point.

    1. Morris,
      ‘The Absolute Sound’ & ‘HiFi News & Record Review’ have done reviews on
      the aspen FR30.
      Maybe they can be of some interest to you until ‘Stereophile’ issue a review.

  8. I think the interesting conundrum posed by Paul’s post is that it takes a scientifically developed instrument to observe the Demodex. Unaided, our own senses are not adequate. Yet we often argue that when it comes to audio our own senses are better than any instrument.

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