Effect of Ageing on Audiophile Preferences


#1

Effect of Ageing on Audiophile Preferences

The following are some thoughts I’ve had on the potential effects of ageing on audiophile preferences in audio equipment, and how ageing has influenced the audio industry. My comments are not meant to cast any aspersion on older people (I am old), but to stimulate thought and discussion.

Recently I have been wondering how our audio preferences change over time due to normal ageing. Some questions that have sparked my curiosity are: 1) Why do audio systems that used to thrill us lose their magic, while new systems may astound us like a breath of fresh air?; 2) Are the latest versions of top-rated equipment (amps, preamps, cables, loudspeakers, etc.) really better than the previous versions?; 3) Why do some reviewers proclaim a component their new reference standard only to replace it with a new reference a few years later?; 4) Why does there seem to be a greater emphasis on frequency extremes (deeper bass and extended top end) in product design and marketing?; 5) What is it about tubes that make them particularly pleasant to listen to? Could changes in our hearing due to ageing at least partially answer these questions?

Think of it. What do you see when you go to a high-end audio show? Mainly older, affluent males who have listened to high-end audio gear their entire professional lives, being catered to by equally ageing equipment designers, manufacturers and salesmen. It seems logical that as the hearing of these folks (myself included) changes with age, that deliberate or even accidental tonal changes in the design of the components can make them more appealing to us. To test my hypothesis, one could assemble a group of younger listeners to double-blind audition earlier top-rated gear and compare to later versions of the same brand of similar build quality. I wonder what the conclusions of such an experiment would be.

When I was a kid I remember my 40-year old father ramping up the volume on the Magnavox hi-fi to play loudly a trumpet orchestral piece to impress guests. He thought it sounded wonderful, but I cringed and had to cover my ears to shield them from the pain of top-end distortion. When I was in my early twenties my new Sony television emitted a continuous, shrill, high-pitched sound that was utterly driving me crazy. I took the TV to a repair shop and the middle-aged technician could not hear the sound, while I could hear it loud and clear. I had to exchange the TV for a whole new unit. In my early thirties I invested in my first stereo system. Among the amplifiers that I tried was a very expensive, highly-rated all tube unit that the 50-ish audio store salesman and hi-fi magazine reviewers said easily bested anything on the market. Well, I could not stand the shrill and piercing sound, tilted uncomfortably toward the treble end of the spectrum. He told me the amp would settle down with burn-in. I wasn’t going to take a chance … I returned it to the disbelieving salesman. These were my first clues that older people have a more attenuated hearing range than younger people, which is demonstrated in their audio preferences.

I have subsequently researched and learned that a healthy young person’s hearing range is 20 to 20,000 Hz, and as wide as 12 to 28,000 Hz in laboratory conditions. Men lose 5 to 10 dB in the upper frequencies by age 40, and the loss continues with additional age. By the time we are middle-aged the upper limit reduces to 12,000 to 14,000 Hz. Beyond middle age, our sensitivity to frequency extremes at both ends continues to decline. Some of us are blessed in our older years with better hearing and listening skills than others; even so, an older person’s “golden ear” cannot compete with a youngster forever.

So, where is this leading? I’m guessing that part of our need to “upgrade” as we get older may have something to do with our need for greater emphasis on the frequency extremes, something we miss from our younger years when our hearing sensitivity was greater. But there’s more to the story than just range sensitivity. Our hearing changes in other ways. Biological changes in the inner ear and our brains affect how clearly we hear and how well we sort out sounds. Could it be that vacuum tubes have a filtering effect that makes it easier for our ageing ears and brains to process sounds, thereby promoting a sense of clarity and resolution? We know that tube circuits can filter out or favor certain harmonics and distortions, altering the character and intelligibility of the sound. Tube designs can also “warm” the sound by filtering out undesirable noise in the upper registers that confuses ageing brains. Whatever tubes do, they seem to have a greater appreciation by older people than by youngsters who are quite happy with music delivered through their miniature solid state devices.

Think back in your own experiences. What once sounded phenomenal to your younger ears now sounds lackluster. The greatest amp or loudspeaker you ever heard a few years later is no longer the greatest amp or loudspeaker you ever heard. Are the components used to build amps and loudspeakers that much better today than a few years ago? Or is the difference more in how they are fine-tuned by older engineers to fit the ears of themselves and those of older reviewers and consumers?

I would like to hear what other forum members think of my hypothesis.


#2

I think it is a lot of things. Without a doubt equipment has gotten better. If something used to sound good, but now sounds bad, I think it has less to with hearing, and more to do with the component. If something sounds better, that is progress.

I recently read Michael Fremer say that at 70 he knows that his hearing isn’t as good, but his listening has never been better. And I have noticed that when my system was getting better, I tended to listen louder. I think that is a combination of lower distortion, and less background noise. It may be partially due to my hearing less at the extremes, but I still hear the shimmer or bite of cymbals. I hear more inner detail. I believe my listening skills are better. In the last year I have been lucky enough to be regularly exposed to the best home system of anyone I personally know and I can hear how good it is. I’m talking about all the latest AR reference gear with Vandersteen 5A. In his bedroom system he has PSA BHK preamp, BHK 250, DMP, and Directstream. Our next listening session will be a comparison of the PSA and AR gear. Other than the amp, too heavy to move. I’m sure I will have no problem hearing the differences.

I’m bankruptcy poor these days, but the 5As would be on my shortlist. Along with Legacy Aeris or if I moved and had a bigger room the V system. Amps would be Coda or PSA, digital gear would be DMP and a DSD. I’m getting older, but I find music and getting the most out of it, a way of life. It is way more than a hobby. It is a lifelong quest.


#3

I agree that there are many improvements in audio equipment due to technology and design innovation, but I also think that changes in hearing can affect user perception of new equipment. I do not dispute that older audiophiles have excellent listening abilities and can expertly evaluate what their ears hear, but it is not possible for us to continue to hear 20 to 20,000Hz with the same intensity and lucidity as when we were twenty years old. Research shows that men lose 5 to 10 dB in the upper frequencies by age 40, and the loss continues with additional age. So, it stands to reason that younger audiophiles prefer a different frequency balance than older audiophiles. As we age we naturally need more reinforcement of the frequency extremes, particularly the higher frequencies, to achieve the same level of musical satisfaction.

When reviewers report “It is as those a veil has been removed.”,“I can now more easily pinpoint individual instruments in space.”, “The sound is dramatically more musical.”, “I can hear the sheen of the cymbal decay.”, “There is an air and sparkle that was missing before.” etc., it suggests that the higher frequencies have been enhanced. If one goes back and reads reviews of earlier top-rated equipment one sees the same accolades that are used with the latest revisions. The equipment designers and reviewers have typically aged together and their ears have changed accordingly.

A few years ago the highest ranked interconnects and cables were pure copper, praised for their balance of presentation and even-handedness. Then came silver-plated copper and pure silver wire that challenged pure copper for best sound. Silver wire typically enhances the higher frequencies which ageing ears need and appreciate. When I was younger I did not like the brightness of silver wire. Copper was fine. Now I find silver plated and pure silver more pleasing and natural sounding than copper in some parts of my system.

Vacuum tubes are a good tool to explore human hearing. Some people like bright tubes while others prefer more neutral sounding tubes. Tubes allow folks of different ages to fine tune their systems to suit their particular hearing ranges at their particular stage in life. It would be very interesting to see which tubes older people prefer compared to the younger folks.

Older people like me remember how beautifully sounding the juke boxes and home hi-fi’s were in the old days. I’ll bet if we heard those same systems with our “today ears” we would be disappointed and would be thinking “It’s time for an upgrade”!


#4

I think there’s a lot of merit to these thoughts and have had similar ones myself, though I am uncertain I agree to the conclusions.

I have been in this industry for more than four decades and can say that the goals we strive for in new equipment haven’t really changed in all that time. When I first started I was in my late 20’s and the field was populated with older affluent males. Just like today. They were looking for the same things then that the same group now looks for. A realistic listening experience in the home.

Just like your dad blasting the Magnavox to hear the trumpet. Imagine if that trumpet player were in your living room. You’d have covered your ears then too.

I don’t think things have changed.


#5

All enthusiast activities are dominated by affluent older males; they have the time and can afford the toys. The entire purpose of a hobby is to waste time and money.

jeffstarr said I recently read Michael Fremer say that at 70 he knows that his hearing isn't as good, but his listening has never been better.
This. We learn. I similarly find that most musicians' understanding and interpretation of music improves as they age.

At age 67 Wilma Cozart Fine began a ten year project remastering the Mercury Living Presence recordings for CD. They are wonderful and the sound spectacular. Her age-compromised hearing certainly did not hold her back.


#6

+1, Paul and Elk.

Though Elk, I would replace “waste time and money” (I realize it’s probably ironic) with “fill your days with joy, which may or may not involve significant cost”. Both because some really good stuff isn’t costly, and because one man’s unaffordable is another’s chump change - especially these days ; )

JosephLG - I agree to some extent, though I think there has always been a taste for “revealing” sorts of gear among a segment of this hobby, and that may have to do with hearing - independent of age - as well as tastes and preferences. Every show I go to is full of irritating-sounding systems. “Revealing” is a word I always find suspect, as it so often is not the natural and musically balanced sort of “revealing” one experiences in an acoutically good, quiet hall, with sensitive players interacting with each other and the room.

Some things I heard two days in a row at this year’s Axpona were rhapsodized over in the audio press, despite sounding awful to me. I mention that I went back for a second time, as we often read about stuff that didn’t get dialed in until Saturday or Sunday. Sometimes the sheer charm, presence, fame or reputation of the maker (especially when they are presenting the gear) seems to color people’s perceptions. But those sorts of encounters (at shows) with gear are suspect by their nature - usually sort, crowded, in a bad room or from a bad seat. Maybe the reviewer heard something I didn’t, spent more time or time after hours, or was privvy to information I wasn’t. Or maybe not.

The opposite of your suggestion could be argued - that there are likely MORE listeners in this ageing group who can quickly discern the shrill-sounding, musically-imbalanced stuff from what a neophyte (young or old) might be THRILLED by for its sheer size and volume, or ability to reveal and differentiate details, hall spaces, etc. Often the inexperienced listener is listening with his or her mind, so to speak, rather than with the ears. They are looking for impressive, interesting and exciting aspects of the SOUND, rather than the ability of the system to render realistic music.

At any rate - interesting question, thanks!


#7
badbeef said I would replace "waste time and money" (I realize it's probably ironic) with "fill your days with joy, which may or may not involve significant cost".
Well . . . OK . . . I guess. :)

Although I find troubling that as a culture we desperately seek “free time,” which we subsequently squander by watching Game of Thrones. Time wasted. Money tossed. Obsessing over cables, speaker placement, equipment choices, servers falls into this same category. Make a choice and put on some music.

There is a separate delicious irony that the best sounding equipment is typically designed by over 40 somethings. Arnie is not picking out the best sounding firmware and Bascom designing spectacular equipment as a result of their physically superior hearing.

I am currently listening to Bach’s Matthäus-Passion. Wrong time of the year, but always magnificent. Its only failing is, as a passion, it lacks trumpet parts.


#8
JosephLG said

I agree that there are many improvements in audio equipment due to technology and design innovation, but I also think that changes in hearing can affect user perception of new equipment. So, it stands to reason that younger audiophiles prefer a different frequency balance than older audiophiles. As we age we naturally need more reinforcement of the frequency extremes, particularly the higher frequencies, to achieve the same level of musical satisfaction.

When reviewers report “It is as those a veil has been removed.”,“I can now more easily pinpoint individual instruments in space.”, “The sound is dramatically more musical.”, “I can hear the sheen of the cymbal decay.”, “There is an air and sparkle that was missing before.” etc., it suggests that the higher frequencies have been enhanced.

A few years ago the highest ranked interconnects and cables were pure copper, praised for their balance of presentation and even-handedness. Then came silver-plated copper and pure silver wire that challenged pure copper for best sound. Silver wire typically enhances the higher frequencies which ageing ears need and appreciate. When I was younger I did not like the brightness of silver wire. Copper was fine. Now I find silver plated and pure silver more pleasing and natural sounding than copper in some parts of my system.

Vacuum tubes are a good tool to explore human hearing. Some people like bright tubes while others prefer more neutral sounding tubes. Tubes allow folks of different ages to fine tune their systems to suit their particular hearing ranges at their particular stage in life. It would be very interesting to see which tubes older people prefer compared to the younger folks.

Older people like me remember how beautifully sounding the juke boxes and home hi-fi’s were in the old days. I’ll bet if we heard those same systems with our “today ears” we would be disappointed and would be thinking “It’s time for an upgrade”!

Ok, let's take it by the above, edited to save space paragraphs. [I hit a wrong button, so while my post may have been showing, I was editing it.]

When you read reviews that include measurements, you can see if the response has been tipped up, generally I see a flat response from 20 - 20k, if anything you will see roll off at the extremes. I can’t remember the last time I saw a component that measured with jacked up high frequencies. There are sometimes comments about impedance mismatches that usually decrease, rather than increase the higher frequencies. Really younger listeners often prefer exaggerated bass, you can hear it when they drive by with boomy bass pouring out of the car. I imagine you could take a group of components put together that would create a bright sound, but it is not the norm.

Reviewers can be making those claims due to a lower noise floor, or less jitter. There are better resistors, caps, and implementation that will make a new generation of a component sound better. Take the Directstream DACs, for the majority of listeners, each firmware update has been an improvement. Do you think it is because Ted is older than when it was released, he has altered the frequency response? If you read his posts, he has found ways to lower jitter, and the noise floor. I think he has said the frequency response is basically the same.

As to interconnects, I’m not sure where you are getting this a few years ago copper stuff. Appr 15 years ago, I was using silver wire in my system, the ICs between my DAC, my phono preamp, my tuner to my preamp were, and still are silver. The 15ft runs from my preamp to my amp are silver. The only place I have consistently used copper is for speaker wires. Three different sets since the mid '90s. Kimber 4TC, The earlier blue version, replaced because of a glare in the upper midrange, the Mapleshade Clearviews, two sets per speaker. I replaced those about 7 years ago with a bi-wire set of Audioquest Rocket 88. I don’t believe that silver wires are all brighter than copper, they can be, but it is not an absolute. There are many things that effect the sound of wire, the dielectrics of the insulation, the solder, if soldered, the construction, and the plugs.

What tubes do you consider brighter? I have found with the varieties that I have experience with the 6CG7/6FQ7, 12AU7, and minor experience with EL34, and 12AX7, they went from neutral to warmer, with some just not sounding as good. My CT5 uses 6H30s which are extremely neutral. Audio Research uses them extensively, and I believe Victor of BAT, was the first one to use them regularly, promoting them as the super tube. The 6H30 comes in three varieties, the Sovtek, the EH gold pins that are basically a Sovtek with gold pins, and the NOS which if you can find a matched pair sell for a minimum of 3 times as much as the EHs. My tube guy tells me that the NOS are very similar to the other two, and not worth the cost. Well if I win the lottery, I will find out for myself. And the thing with tubes, the most desired, and highest rated hasn’t changed over the years. Tubes are known for adding warmth to a system, although I imagine a circuit could be built that would make the component sound bright.

As to remembering jukeboxes and older systems, most can’t compete with the advances, that is why you would be disappointed. Early solid state was not great. But there are some amps that were great then like the McIntosh 275, and are still considered great today. I remember a lot of things fondly from my past that wouldn’t live up to the memories. Take LSD for example, great fun then, now it would just last way too long, to have a great time. Old cars are fun to drive, and work on, but in the 60-70s, I don’t think you could buy an American car that could do 12 second quarter miles, straight off the showroom floor, and if it did, it would take longer to get it back to 0. Most things in life have gotten better with progress. Not all, some things were mature technologies or arts, long before we were born.

I’m not saying your theory of our ears changing may influence our choices of components is wrong, but not to the degree you think. There are a number of audio companies where sons and daughters are part of the business and are involved in designing. I can think of three easy examples, PSA, Paul’s son, Vandersteen, and Wilson speakers. I think Wilson’s son headed up the new Alexx that has gotten rave reviews. And voicing is done by ear, but is backed up by measurements.


#9

The only frequency anomalies I see in modern equipment is a little bit of mid-bass boost in small speakers and equipment meant to drive them. They do not produce real bass so this is a good compromise.


#10

To be honest I don’t see the connection between ageing and audio preferences in term of hearing ability. Just as far as more experience of elder listeners matters and a possible change of taste.

But I have a few opinions around all this.

Hearing loss:

I think the typical loss of high frequencies with age makes a bit of difference in evaluating absolute top end but not in changing preferences in terms of brighter or lackluster audio performance. This is more a question of a presence dip as hearing loss, which is more a question of accidents with loud levels that can affect younger and older as well.

Some say the brain fully compensates even strong presence dips. That’s something I doubt. I think someone experienced with a 10-20 dB presence loss is perfectly able to differentiate all audio aspects better than a non experienced without hearing loss, but I think he hears recordings less bright than someone without loss and can’t really judge absolute presence brightness level objectively. Differences in level between two samples he certainly can judge the same way as one without loss.

Changes from old to new high end:

Certainly everything evolved over the years. But I think the main aspect that improved was phase accuracy, accuracy in general due to better electronic parts and elimination of noise of different kinds (incl. Jitter etc.) within the whole setups. All this especially led to more accuracy and ambiance and soundstage information. The biggest changes imo happened in digital sources, cabling and important other components to avoid noise and improve infrastructure like power circuit etc.

I think speakers and other components didn’t improve to the same degree in their importance to the whole. Differences between various amp and speaker concepts are quite transferable from then to now.

I accept disagreement from pro’s with technical background I dont have. My opinion here is just an impression :wink:

Reviewers and hype of new gear:

I’d say except in digital technology, rave reviews of the newer against the older equipment within a range of 1-5 (in certain cases even more) years are often much exaggerated.


#11

I love the responses that my controversial post has generated so far. I appreciate the serious thought some have given to my post. I fully anticipated the diversity of viewpoints received and fully agree with the validity of many of the counterpoints. I hope you all understand that I knew I would be stirring the pot with this one, and I knew you would not disappoint. Hopefully a glimmer of my humor came through.

Whenever anyone challenges my hearing ability I immediately bristle. I remember how at age 33 I had a hearing exam for a job interview and the tester told me my hearing was “good”. I asked, “What does that mean? I thought I had perfect hearing.” The tester replied, “You do have perfect hearing, for a 30-year old man!” I still today have perfect hearing, but for a 65-year old man! Like all of you, I am an excellent listener and know what sounds good to my ears. PS Audio products, by the way, sound good to my ageing ears. Maybe because its designers are mature folks with a mature hearing profile similar to mine. They can make their equipment sing to my liking.

Most responders disagreed in some way(s) with my “conclusions”, although I really didn’t have any conclusion other than that normal hearing changes in people as they age influence their preferences in audio equipment design and selection. [Questions are not conclusions.] I would need statistics to establish the magnitude of that influence and to draw any real conclusions. I will never be able to generate such statistics on my own.

Many interpreted my post as asserting that the industry has not advanced with new and better gear. I did not say that. I said, among other things, that biological changes in listeners’ hearing as they age accounts in part for their response to and enthusiasm for new systems. I did suggest that new upgrade versions of equipment models using the same basic design and build quality might be prompted by changes in the hearing of the equipment designers and end users. I can name many loudspeaker, DAC and amplifier designers who have revised their newer models to, at least perceptually, boost the high end of the frequency range and to make their units sound more “neutral” with “added air and sparkle”. Some users like these changes, and some do not. Many people prefer the older flavors. Who knows if age really has anything to do with it?

I want to particularly acknowledge the counterpoint offered by one responder that many leading audio companies have developed multi-generational leadership (father and son, for example), which helps assure that both older and younger ears are involved in the evolution of product lines. I know that some companies involve listening panels in product development. Hopefully these panels include a mix of young, middle-aged and old. We will never know what debates go on in-house between different age groups about what prototypes sound best. Probably Father always wins!

I could rebut particular points in some responses. Examples: early wonderful sounding juke-boxes were tubed, not solid state; many tubes are notoriously bright-sounding and preferred for that reason by some users, while others prefer dark sounding; kids love exaggerated bass partly because they’ve listened to music too loud for too long and consequently lost hearing sensitivity at the low end; flatter frequency responses are not necessarily an improvement in sound …ask BHK and Nelson Pass; etc. But I think we are all in general agreement that as we age our biological hearing changes do exert some influence on what audio equipment and components we prefer. The question remains: by how much.

Try the following experiment:

Have you ever noticed how for most of us our ears get bigger as we age? Is that nature’s way of helping us compensate for loss of hearing?. Try this experiment. When listening to your stereo or even watching television, cup your hands behind your ears and (Voila!) you will hear the higher frequencies more clearly and the sound is more present and colorful. It seems to be more than just raising the volume. There seems to be a high frequency extension thing going on too. It’s like a new stereo component has been inserted, for free!

Paul, can PS Audio make and distribute “listening ears” that do the same thing as cupped hands? The cups can have changeable materials to adjust the sound character. Be sure to give me a royalty on any sales!


#12
JosephLG said

I love the responses that my controversial post has generated


It does not strike me as particularly controversial. It is a pretty gentle, softball question.
I think we are all in general agreement that as we age our biological hearing changes do exert some influence on what audio equipment and components we prefer.
I'm not in agreement whatsoever.

I also gave examples of “older” people with presumably compromised hearing who easily can out listen those with objectively superior hearing. Additionally, most truly skilled mastering engineers are well over 40. They are not producing overly bright records.

I also note skilled performers do not prefer brighter sounding instruments as they age, such as seeking out a brighter piano. Those who play wind instruments and sing can easily change tone and do not produce a brighter timbre to compensate for hearing loss.

An acoustic instrument played in a superb hall and a wonderful playback system sound excellent to both young and old.

On the subject of ageing ears, have you ever noticed how for most of us our ears get bigger as we age? Is that nature's way of helping us compensate for loss of hearing dB?.
No. Our noses also grow. Cartilage continues to grow throughout our entire lifetime. Our earlobes also elongate from the effect of gravity.

#13

Bigger ears with age as compensation for hearing loss:

I see this as part of the mentioned humor;-)

I recently read that our body is built for max 50 years to work more or less troublefree. Everything behind is based on luck, chance and fortune. So there might be not that much meaning in what happens then.

Maybe this was a joke, too 4_gif


#14

A bunch of discussions on hearing and audio:

http://www.psaudio.com/forum/general-discussions-and-miscellaneous-ramblings/hearing-damage/

http://www.psaudio.com/pauls-posts/hearing/

http://www.psaudio.com/pauls-posts/hearing-vs-listening/

http://www.psaudio.com/pauls-posts/listening-vs-hearing/

http://www.psaudio.com/pauls-posts/are-you-good-enough/

http://www.psaudio.com/pauls-posts/listening-ears-shut/


#15
jazznut said Bigger ears with age as compensation for hearing loss: I see this as part of the mentioned humor;-)
I would have thought so, but for the description of the cupped hand experiment which follows. The OP appears serious.

#16

Elk, thanks for those references. I scanned them and did see the discussion of the guy who cupped his hands and also the guy who bragged about his big ears. But I did not see specific discussion of the normal frequency changes that occur with age and how it might influence audio equipment design.

I think the science is there for those who want to understand better how our hearing changes and how we can benefit from different frequency boosts during our journey through life. I’m not just talking about ears getting bigger – although that is an observable and documented biological fact. I think new equipment designs by ageing engineers actually do benefit us older listeners because the designers themselves have hearing that has evolved similar to ours and they can tweak previous designs and come up with new ones that sound better to us, or at least recommend tubes that sound great to their mature ears.

Look at the charts below. The older we get the more the higher frequencies have to be bumped in order for us to even hear them. We are not talking about minor changes in frequency sensitivities. These are major and start even before middle-age. The higher frequencies and harmonics of nearly every musical instrument are impacted by this sensitivity decline. If you listen to full orchestra, piano, organ, and similar instruments presenting high fundamental tones plus the highest harmonics, the impact is even more dramatic.

I still say that changes in our hearing is part of the reason (of course not all of the reason) we crave new audio gear as we get older and get excited over a new component. “The veil is lifted!” “A new window has been opened into the music.” “My old system is bland in comparison.” What the new system is allowing us to do is hear things more like we did in our youth. I would welcome, and not be offended, if BHK cares to comment on any of this. After all, he designed the new PS Audio preamp and amplifiers based on his experience and ear. He might say everything I’m saying is hogwash. I will still love and treasure his preamp, for as long as it sounds good to my ageing ears!

Young-vs-Old-Ears.jpgdB-Threshold-Age-Shift.gifInstrument-Frequency-Range.png


#17

That ear cup adaptor was discussed, and I believe a version was available, years ago. Sam Tellig wrote about it in his monthly column.

I enjoyed Sam’s writing, but after he recommended the Radio Shack portable CD player as being something special, I went and bought one, early afternoon. Two hours later I returned it, and never trusted his recommendations again. Still enjoyed his column, just not his hearing. After he recommended the I believe it was a 3400 model, people started selling power supplies, special adaptor cables, to get the most out of them. My CAL Audio DX-1 their base model player just sounded so much better, and sold for less after you added everything to turn the 3400 into an audiophile player.

I didn’t find most of your posts controversial, I didn’t agree with everything, but that’s ok. I imagine a tube based juke box could sound pretty good. Although the way they handled records, they were meant for bars and environments with background noise. Hey what about the little ones that were at each booth. You don’t see those anymore.


#18

The ear cup experiment was just to hold your attention and evoke a (possibly humorous) response from Paul. but I’m serious about our ears getting bigger (along with our stomachs). In any case, it’s time for “Audiology 1” class. Be sure to look at the graphs and text I added to my previous post (number 16 above). I would welcome additional comments by Paul and others who may be so inclined, based on “the new supporting evidence” which I’m sure is not new information to Paul and other experts. But from the sound of some of the responses, some people don’t believe ageing loss of hearing sensitivity is much of an influence. They say the brain somehow compensates…


#19

FWIW Elk (among others) is correct. This is all old ground for many (most?) of us, as you get older you smile more at the naiveté of people making assumptions about what others can or can’t do, can or can’t experience, can or can’t perceive…

Hearing threshold tests miss for many reasons. They are testing artificial sound under artificial situations. The tones are simple enough that they don’t accurately simulate anything we normally have to listen to and we’re pretty bad doing lots of things with, for example, pure sine waves. Adding a warble (or removing it), for example, changes lots of things. The standardized test results are also averages over a sample of people that don’t necessarily represent audiophiles. Also there are many things, e.g. white noise, that will extend the sensitivity of hearing (“dither”.) The tests are measuring one narrow part of our perception, but don’t take into account our ability to localize, say, impulses in time and space which obviously are much more useful in creating the illusion of soundstage, etc. (Try to accurately localize the test tones that are typically used for hearing tests and see how that compares to anything you hear in normal life.)

I’m not saying the tests are useless, but trying to draw conclusions based on them is misguided if you don’t also have a better idea about how we hear and what the tests really measure.

Instead of assuming that we only use an FFT (frequency detectors with overlapping bands) to sense audio, consider that the ear/brain is a system with feedback that adapts itself to search for patterns that we are interested in. If one path starts failing another can be used. As we get older varying parts of our hearing fail, but perhaps we should think in terms of lowering bandwidths to the brain instead of changing sensitivities. That’s why ear training makes such a difference in what we can perceive.

My high frequency sensitivity isn’t what it used to be, but I can still hear changes in sound stage, changes in jitter, etc. that one might think would be compromised. What I deal with more is that I have to listen longer for some things than I used to or it takes more concentration than I used to need.

[I’ll delete my sermonizing paragraph about diversity…]


#20

Oops I forgot to add:

FWIW my wife, daughter and I still hear the same things, describe them similarly and prefer the same changes in of cables, changes in components, changes to the DS software, etc. even tho both of them have hearing thresholds that are at least 30dB more sensitive than mine above, say, 4kHz. They are pretty useful for reliable blind testing.