My appearance in 1996Wayne Stegall

Copyright 2011 by Wayne Stegall
Created August 5, 2011.  See Document History at end for details.

Audio Philosophy

The human auditory system is amazing in its ability to process sound.  In the context of a multitude of sounds, it is possible to listen or focus on any or all of the sounds or sound sources in detail while hearing the whole of it as well.  Obviously, advanced correlation processing is occurring and of a kind as yet beyond that of any man-made signal processing systems.  This system is also adaptable, so that training can enhance specific sound processing skills.

This ability creates opportunity and dilemma.  Opportunity, in that this natural system is the most capable to evaluate the quality of a music reproduction system, not only because of its abstract mathematical powers but also because it is the same system by which the music reproduced is enjoyed.  Dilemma, in that the results of this advanced analysis does not return nice numbers that can be tabulated and compared.

To associate numbers with these advanced but abstract results, it becomes necessary to associate subjective impressions with scientific measurements.  The belief that 0.1% marks the threshold of audibility for hearing distortion is an association of this type.  For this reason, when I read subjective reviews, I find myself constantly analyzing what science might underlie the impressions given, which I generally accept as honest and true.

The adaptivity of the human auditory system gives rise to other dilemmas as well.  It is possible that regular listening to certain reproduction defects could render them acceptable and normal.  The unawareness by constant digital listeners of the deficits of digital reproduction compared to analog is an example.  It is also possible that analog bias prejudices digital listening as well.  Constant analytical listening can diminish musical enjoyment for the same reasons.  What about the placebo effect of brand name?

In the end, I am certain that all subjective audio impressions have some basis in science, whether or not that science has yet been discovered and that subjectivity is more objective than is generally credited.

Document History
August 5, 2011  Created.
August 9, 2011  Corrected some spelling.