Terminology building blocks

October 5, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

One of the easier ways to get on the wrong path is to build an understanding based on piecing together little-understood terms.

A good example of this problem might be explained in my earlier post about dynamic range. Relying only on the measured numbers to achieve a more dynamic recording can easily lead to the opposite.

Or, making a purchasing decision on an amplifier simply because it has better measurements. The THD might be low but what about IM and AM distortions? Step response?

And if you get those right what about the sonic differences between JFETS, MOSFETS, and BJTs?

Or, if DSD is closest to analog wouldn’t it make perfect sense to then return to analog when mixing? Is that the best sounding course or is it simply the most logical?

None of us are going to be able to have a deep enough understanding of the complex technological world we have to navigate to make good decisions based solely on knowledge depth.

Instead, we need to rely upon our senses.

We need to listen. Use our ears as the ultimate arbiter.

Our senses don’t get tangled up in terminology.

Subscribe to Paul's Posts

25 comments on “Terminology building blocks”

      1. Indeed they are. I learnt 35 years ago that reduction of noise and interference factors to adequate levels was the key requirement for being able to have audio replay do the 3D, holographic thing – but to date no-one takes this seriously enough. Which means no-one measures it. And therefore everyone has to fiddle like crazy to push their gear to a standard of integrity that achieves this result.

        The human ear is very sensitive to a lack of clarity of low level detail in the sound – if it is too blurred then it can’t be decoded by the mind; and the presentation just sounds, messy …

      2. They are presenting the popular measurements…the measurements that ‘we’ are accustomed to reading & ‘understanding’.
        Thanks for the link ps.
        His first story reminds me, again, of the Pioneer – ‘A400’ amplifier of the late 1980’s, which the manufacturer wanted to improve upon with the next model, the ‘A400X’ & subsequently ended up with a product that had better measurements but worse (flat) sound.

        1. My pleasure, FR! I had similar experiences with pseudo-innovations in audio. No wonder that there is a tradition in Japan for vacuum tubed equipment and a renaissance of vacuum tube designs in the rest of the world. 😉

  1. I agree. We need to rely on our senses. We simply have to be dedicated and proactive enough to try things out.

    Keep hacking away my audio family. Never give up!

    For now. I’m gonna keep listening. 🙂

    Enjoying the Bladerunner 2049 soundtrack with a pair of D-8000 Headphones on a well throughout tube amp.

    Cheers to all.

  2. It occurred to me that if Edison or whoever had invented digital recording and playback and 100 years later some bright spark invented analogue, and a game-changing device called a record player, would people want their new analogue equipment to sound as digital as possible?

    Methinks wanting digital to sound analogue is just a generational thing.

    On topic, 99.999% just listen and the other 0.001% (you know who you are) spend their life mostly frustrated and wanting more.

    1. Ha, story of my life. No, not really, but at one time we were taught greed is good. The desire for more is a driver for progress. Doesn’t everyone want more? The thing is don’t anguish about it. Best if you can be happy with what you’ve got and then happier still if a little more comes along. Look on it as a bonus. 🙂

    2. “There’s no such thing as enough”

      A digital signal has to be converted to an analogue signal before it sounds like music.
      I guess we would all be streaming…including you 😉

      1. What I find amusing is those who think they can attract people to audio by a bunch of measurements, or the delights of audio cables, probably turn off far more people than they attract. I rather prefer your old method of getting them in the door, getting a smile on their face and getting them to the cash register.

          1. “Melt the guns, we gotta melt the guns, melt the guns & nevermore to fire them
            Melt the guns, we gotta melt the guns, melt the guns & nevermore desire them” – XTC (English Settlement 1982)

  3. I have a mix of about 5 tracks I listen to when evaluating a system change. With any one of them, it doesn’t take 2 or 3 minutes into the track to know if I like or don’t like the change, because I know them so well. I think it’s important to have them as a baseline.

    1. My compilation CD has mostly segments of music, but I’ve been using it to great effect since the early 2000s. Like yours, Reed, it makes for very quick evaluations. It’s a great tool.

  4. “if Edison or whoever had invented digital recording and playback and 100 years later some bright spark invented analogue, and a game-changing device called a record player, would people want their new analogue equipment to sound as digital as possible?”

    Answer: No; most people, unless their priorities are convenience and small footprint of equipment, would want the new analog sound.

  5. As I have learned evaluating audio is not right out of the box. It takes time for your perception to let you actually hear what you’re hearing. As mentioned, having some baseline music helps but your perception is still in the way because you have heard the songs so many times. So, for me it just takes time. You can try distracting yourself while the music is playing as to put down your “perception guard”. I also like the 2’oclock in the mourning test listening when its dead quite with just enough volume to get the sound image.

  6. I am not sure who first said this and I am paraphrasing here. “The more you learn about something, the more you realize how little you know”. It may seem like I am contradicting this statement, but you should always learn as much as you can about something before you make a choice. By doing so you will be able to more easily decide if your choice should be made on preference ( i.e. to me this one sounds better ) or if there is a logical way to decide which is best.

  7. Terminology in and of itself is not the problem. Disseminating what the terminology means is what is most paramount. Take Digital Lens for example… many here know what it is or means. Does the general population know?

    Then the subject turns to measurements versus what something sounds like, then to what certain topologies of components sound like. (All based on terminology)

    While relying on our ears for what sounds pleasing to us, terminology is an integral part of that process. The interaction of measurements alone provides some clues. Again, terminology is needed.

    How do you plan on separating terminology from the audio chain? Never discuss? Don’t allow them in marketing materials? Just call BS on the ones you don’t understand or believe in?

    Terminology matters, but doesn’t describe everything. Measurements matter but don’t tell us everything.

      1. I’m taken. More terminology.
        What does an air lens sound like?
        What does it look like? Does it have different focal lengths? If air moves thru an air lens do it’s sound characteristics change?
        And on and so on.

        A fancy marketing term for galvanic isolation using light….

  8. It’s important to understand the new technologies and terminologies but the plethora of measurements and graphs on these measurement websites just don’t measure up to what our ears hear for the most part. This group of measurement uber alles brainwashed fools message to us is “It’s my way or the highway“.

    I used to challenge the biggest cheese on YouTube videos with his 150 some odd thousand viewers by making comments venturing into his Lions Den to challenge his beliefs about his love for his measurement equipment being more about than the actual sound of music.

    These measurement gurus and their sycophant cult followers will never change their opinions while we understand the beauty of music, the joy that it brings humanity and never the twain shall meet.

    Best thing is to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear on anything that they have to say. The components use your man user manual supplies us with just about all of the measurements we need when we make a decision on purchasing a piece of equipment to add to our Music System.

    Never forget Julian Hirsch if you’re old enough to remember who he was. A complete and utter joke.

  9. For all the promoting of trusting our senses I’ll suggest again that it would be very cool to be able to trust hearing the FR30 at the Florida Audio Expo in February. That show is quickly evolving into a very big deal for the south eastern United States and you might discover significant sales from a proper PS Audio presence there. There are big rooms to be used if they haven’t already been reserved. Really tired and jealous of seeing that the UK rates a presence and we don’t.

Leave a Reply

© 2022 PS Audio, Inc.

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram