Graham's Blog . . .

Clash of the Titans - Art & Science

Posted by John Askew
June 2nd, 2018

This is a guest post, and the views of the author are not necessarily those of Graham or HiFi System Components Ltd.

Art/Music/Science venn diagram

Subjectivism in Hi-Fi reviews is a topic covered by Douglas Self under the title Science and Subjectivism. This is an excellent article and well worth the time taken to read and consider.

The main body of the article is well argued, although I find it looses it's bite at the close. Don't be put off by this, it is as good as it gets so far as this subject is concerned. In particular the shift from measurement performance to subjective opinion in Hi-Fi magazines in the 1970's. This is only lacking an informed explanation for this change of editorial policy, or at least an educated guess.

So here's my perspective. By replacing hard scientific measurements with literary opinion the balance of power is put in the hands of manufacturers marketing departments and copywriters (journalists) of magazines. Respect for the intelligence and education of the individual now replaced with arrogant contempt for dumb consumerism. The consumer is led on to dream and imagine through literary fantasy. Don't take my word for it..... we've already been bamboozled. Buy this because we say so, or at least, your once trusted advisor does. It's not about High Fidelity. It's all about cold cash consumption. This shift allows big business to flog under performing overpriced products on the basis of once respected magazine recommendations. They win, we get what we deserve? Or do we?

I believe CD was hyped on both sides beyond its technology and performance to one end. Resell music collections in the latest expensive format. I bought my first CD player in 1987, but; I'd not heard a good turntable so never appreciated the criticism from vinyl aficionados. It's taken decades to deliver what was promised. I recall hard science binary code being touted as proof of this revolution, backed up by everyone including the Blue Peter dog. No doubt chasing the raspberry jam (sans seeds) used to demonstrate the magic of a laser.

Proof enough of the hype is in the myriad of cd's being 'Remastered' again. However, I now believe digital is capable of distortion free reproduction, unlike vinyl which is prone to noise by virtue of the mechanics of the turntable setup. But there's just something Primal about Vinyl. As for noise? Perhaps one should first consider what is silence?...

I find myself torn between the undeniable logic of measurements, the hard facts of Physics, and my own creative experience in setting up my system. I am all too aware of the basic 'electrical engineer' perspective which ranges from the simple ignorant statement 'a cable is a cable' End of discussion! To a more enlightened view involving metallurgy and insulation materials. Reading about the annealing process should be enough to realise that copper wire is not all produced in the same way nor of the same quality, and may by virtue of this, not all sound the same? If the crystalline structure of a single drawn wire is not perfectly identical, how can the electrical performance be identical one direction from the other? Combined with numerous conductor configurations, Twisted pair, Star Quad, Shotgun, Braided, Coax, various insulation materials, each affects the electrical behaviour, performance and.... the sound. To be fair this is the pursuit of quantum improvement. But it all adds up. Now try telling that to some 'Engineers'! Good luck! Just remember some people stop learning, their path becomes so well worn, that with age comes ignorance and dismissive arrogance, not wisdom and an open enthusiastic mind. 'Just keep buying bigger loudspeakers, yer Def sod!'

There seems to be lack of broad or shared knowledge in overlapping scientific disciplines. A reluctance or refusal to acknowledge that sound is much more than a measurement or display/graph on an oscilloscope.

Science is unable to explain Emotions and their effects. Unable to explain the impact of music on emotions beyond the bleedin' obvious. Science is lost in the mind. Psychoacoustics is fascinating and the only worthy reference here is the Legendary Siegfried Linkwitz. Brilliant engineer unlike no other. Seriously out of my depth, but you may also find his researches into audio a light relief from your day job! His website can and should change your opinions if not your life. It should certainly change your loudspeakers!

I have bought the Lx521 licence and plans and have deliberately dangled a carrot I can't afford, but can't afford to ignore.

As to Grahams' Upside-down turntable I see something much broader than the superficial aesthetics some commented upon. This is not a finished DIY project, nor a prototype. I see an intelligent and considered experiment. A practical application of turntable design principles from a solid foundation, a good basic turntable, with a key step improvement. My understanding and experiments have led me to believe the key to clean audio signal reproduction from vinyl is management of mechanical resonance, It's all about good vibrations.

I have also removed the motor from the plinth of my deck and remounted it, with the added step of a secondary platform to further isolate the plinth from the motor. The motor pillar protrudes through a hole cut in this platform which is sat on four vinyl cones and feet.

The proof is loud and clear through my stethoscope. Results are most excellent. Obviously I'd say that, wouldn't I? We spend our lives deciding who and what to trust, or, are our values and judgements made for us by, erm.... people in the media who we trust?

This is a rather ridiculous state of modern consumer psychology. Consumer behaviour is a very interesting area of marketing because somewhere in our buying behaviour we are all Suckers, all of us. We love to read a good story. Kerrr-Ching!

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