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09-05-2008, 12:17 AM   #46
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debunking audiophile myths part one

QuoteOriginally posted by FHPhotographer Quote
I take your well reasoned point; we're doing it to ourselves in a thousand little ways, not the least of which is audio recording where the very notion of color and depth found on LPs is lost in the sonic perfection of CD.
All the LP playback system has over CD is decreased stereo field, decreased bass response, (severely) decreased treble response, surface noise and much increased distortion (particularly second order). Engineers used to tear their hair out knowing how their fine recordings were to be crushed under the vinyl wheels.

If you want to add back some "colour" to CDs, just get a tube amp. It rolls of the highs and adds back some "warm" distortion. Some I've heard sound very nice, but it's not what the artists intended, it's a subjective listener re-interpretation.

The analogy to some lenses, particularly cheap Russian jobs with dancing bokeh, is clear (though I use that word advisedly).

09-05-2008, 03:54 AM   #47
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QuoteOriginally posted by FHPhotographer Quote
Then I realized I was getting sucked into the perfection paradox and forgetting that, for ordinary amateur photographers like me, good should be good enough.
For me, one of the beautiful things about Pentax is that the vast majority of their lenses and cameras are "good enough". With a few notable execptions, they generally don't build crap equipment. Their inexpensive cameras aren't cheaply made...they just have fewer features than the more expensive cameras.
Likewise, their less expensive lenses are just slower, not necessarily lower in image quality. Everything they make is "good enough", PLUS it's usually less expensive (and often higher quality) than comparable gear from their competitors.
09-05-2008, 07:51 AM   #48
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QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote
All the LP playback system has over CD is decreased stereo field, decreased bass response, (severely) decreased treble response, surface noise and much increased distortion (particularly second order). Engineers used to tear their hair out knowing how their fine recordings were to be crushed under the vinyl wheels.

If you want to add back some "colour" to CDs, just get a tube amp. It rolls of the highs and adds back some "warm" distortion. Some I've heard sound very nice, but it's not what the artists intended, it's a subjective listener re-interpretation.

The analogy to some lenses, particularly cheap Russian jobs with dancing bokeh, is clear (though I use that word advisedly).
I could disabuse you of this objectivist dogma in about ten minutes. First of all, not all tube amps are coloured. Secondly, you could not reliably tell a great CD player from a great turntable system in a blind listening test (assuming no pops on the record). You need to go to a good shop and have a listen to some better gear.
09-05-2008, 10:50 AM   #49
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
I could disabuse you of this objectivist dogma in about ten minutes. First of all, not all tube amps are coloured. Secondly, you could not reliably tell a great CD player from a great turntable system in a blind listening test (assuming no pops on the record). You need to go to a good shop and have a listen to some better gear.
You assume I haven't? I have an all Linn-system in mothballs (since I moved continents). It sounded very nice. Not the best possible, but that is only for the independently wealthy. I have heard audiophile systems where the cables alone cost $30,000. I have heard sound in some great studios. In fact I am a trained audio engineer, so I know when people are trying to sell me illusions. Like those $30,000 audio cables.

Truth is, there is nothing an audiophile can do to reproduce sound that an engineer can't do with 1/10 the money. Or 1/100. The rest is BS, plain and simple. (See, this thread is on topic!)

I am not an objectivist but neither do I ignore facts. Like the fact that you cannot put stereo sound on a record below a certain frequency. Or the stylus will jump right out of the groove with the mechanical energy it picks up. Yes, I know that a platter cut with wider grooves will be better in this regard, but how many symphonies are cut as a series of dozens of 12" singles? None.

This means that for certain music (say classical organ pieces) there will be missing fundamentals, or at least those that are channel compromised. Our amazing ears provide the difference. This is a well-understood psychoacoustic phenomenon.

Sound is a highly subjective experience -- that is its beauty. We can disagree on what sounds we prefer but not on some physical facts.

09-05-2008, 10:59 AM   #50
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An interesting analogy and second OP thoughts

QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
I could disabuse you of this objectivist dogma in about ten minutes. First of all, not all tube amps are coloured. Secondly, you could not reliably tell a great CD player from a great turntable system in a blind listening test (assuming no pops on the record). You need to go to a good shop and have a listen to some better gear.
This is out of my area, but it does seem analgous to the issue concerning primes: advocates claim subjective virtues for the lenses just as LP advocates for their preferred media. As Justice Poter Stewart said about pornography, I can't define it but I know it when I see (hear) it.

What I hear on my LPs is "richer" and more nuanced than what I hear from a my CD. Itg seems more "harmonious" (just as prime-lens advocates claim for their lenses). It may be the case that an excellent CD-based system can match, or surpass, even the best LP system, but I don't have one of those; I've just got average consumer middle-of-the-road stuff and I "hear" a subjective quality from the LP that I don't from the CD.

I'm sure you have data that can prove I'm wrong; but again, it's a cost-benefit issue. Is the extra 5-10% worth a magnitude increase in cost to get it? In this case, only an audiophile could answer, but for me, good is good enough.

Thanks for the feedback, however, it does give me a different take on the prime-vs-zoom issue,
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09-05-2008, 12:06 PM   #51
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Hmmm. The tube/tranny, LP/CD sort of thing is based on the idea that measurable perfection equates to quality of experience. No doubt a higher resolving and signal/noising widget is a higher resolving and signal/noising wideget. What's being argued is this: does it also make this a better widget in all dimensions? The Tube/LP folks say no, not necessarily, it is the artful mix of inevitable (some measurable) design trade offs, with emotional connection (within fidelity) the goal.

Correspondingly the lens world is topsy turvy here: it is the (less well resolving) zoom folks who have to argue that resolution and signal/noise (aka contrast) aren't all there is in an absolute sense: but rather their artful combination. Which actually would be the old Leica argument as well. Emotional connection within fidelity, not due to fidelity. (where the sterile thing comes in)

Dragging cost based on current new equipment is a confusion: When I ask this question it's between a <$50 Takumar (say) and a >$300 zoom, say, in order to get at the first layer of the problem: does better bench testing necessarily result in better photography? Myself, a given lens will tend to 'make sense' or it won't, most of the time. Most lenses make at least pretty good sense these days. Zoom or prime, some break out in song easier than others. I'm sure what goes into that is measurable, only the measurements are complex enough that most published measures resort to sample images and descriptions for the song bits.
09-05-2008, 12:28 PM   #52
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Hooray! A thread mostly dedicated to philosophy and photography...less techy b.s....less empiricism and more aesthetics. Can this forum handle the fun? (Wasn't Aristophanes most famous for writing Greek comedies? Such serious philosophy from our modern forum Aristophanes--but welcomed just the same.)

Last month, I and photo buddy were banging away on a tiny waterfall just outside Olympic Nat. Park in the NW U.S. My 13 year old son wasn't enjoying the second hour of high tech imaging so he got playful. He took a back-up body and FA* lens and did what many of us wish we had the guts to do...he played around with zoom effects. We've all read about it, but with no prior knowledge of zoom effects this kid of mine got the best images of the tiny falls.

Did it need to be an FA* lens? Heck no!
Did it need to be shot at 6 megapixels? Not really.
Is sharpness even at issue? Clearly not.
Did the photographer care about the technical merits of the equipment? Not one iota.
The kid has no technical expertise either, he just wanted to have fun and get images that he'd want on his myspace, or maybe even print for mom.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
Wish adults (or me at least) could keep the view of the "mission" as clear as kids can.
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09-05-2008, 02:40 PM   #53
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I can't help but think that this photo, excellent as it is, would have been sharper with the XrDi at least, though the FA* zooms trounce the Tammy. Matter of fact, I know for a fact that photography would have come to an end had he used a FA*, as no other images are possible or necessary. There is an obvious amount of green CA as well as non-centered distortion here that sadly relegates it, and the lens responsible, to the Near Miss category. Sell it quick!



09-05-2008, 02:47 PM   #54
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nesster Quote
Hmmm. The tube/tranny, LP/CD sort of thing is based on the idea that measurable perfection equates to quality of experience. No doubt a higher resolving and signal/noising widget is a higher resolving and signal/noising wideget. What's being argued is this: does it also make this a better widget in all dimensions? The Tube/LP folks say no, not necessarily, it is the artful mix of inevitable (some measurable) design trade offs, with emotional connection (within fidelity) the goal.

Correspondingly the lens world is topsy turvy here: it is the (less well resolving) zoom folks who have to argue that resolution and signal/noise (aka contrast) aren't all there is in an absolute sense: but rather their artful combination. Which actually would be the old Leica argument as well. Emotional connection within fidelity, not due to fidelity. (where the sterile thing comes in)
I'm pretty sure I agree with you here, but let me put it in what are, for me, plainer terms:

Primes are like CD's: in every *measurable* way, objectively superior to zooms / LP's at any given price point. If one subjectively *prefers* the sound of the measurable distortions produced by most LP systems, or is unable to perceive the loss in IQ that comes with a zoom and *is* able to perceive the practical advantages of the zoom, then of course, the LP or zoom may be good enough. And indeed, perhaps even better for your intended use.
09-05-2008, 03:29 PM   #55
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
If one subjectively *prefers* the sound of the measurable distortions produced by most LP systems, or is unable to perceive the loss in IQ that comes with a zoom and *is* able to perceive the practical advantages of the zoom, then of course, the LP or zoom may be good enough. And indeed, perhaps even better for your intended use.
That brings up an interesting question. What if you could only have one lens, say the DA 18-250mm or the DA 35mm Macro (since they're priced similarly)?

I'd have to go with the zoom, because ultimate quality wouldn't be as important to me as decent quality with better range.

Last edited by audiobomber; 09-05-2008 at 09:01 PM.
09-05-2008, 03:40 PM   #56
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QuoteOriginally posted by FHPhotographer Quote
This is out of my area, but it does seem analgous to the issue concerning primes: advocates claim subjective virtues for the lenses just as LP advocates for their preferred media. As Justice Poter Stewart said about pornography, I can't define it but I know it when I see (hear) it.
It's more analogous to digital images versus analogue (film).

Digital is space/time measured frequency like CD's. Can find a tone in everything, but can be overwhelmed by everything (noise).

Film is space/time measured amplitude, like LP's. More dynamic range, struggles to define the absolute lows and highs (flare and shadow).
09-05-2008, 03:48 PM   #57
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
That brings up an interesting question. What if you could only one lens, say the DA 18-250mm or the DA 35mm Macro (since they're priced similarly)?

I'd have to go with the zoom, because ultimate quality wouldn't be as important to me as decent quality with better range.
I'd have to go with the DA 35mm macro.

Less mass and volume, easier to carry. Value of IQ is subjective. Content is king.

Of course, if I am itching to take a shot of the asongbird 80 feet away, I'll have to put the timer on and huck the camera in its general direction and hope for the best. Bloody expensive hobby, this.
09-06-2008, 02:24 AM   #58
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QuoteOriginally posted by Aristophanes Quote
Of course, if I am itching to take a shot of the asongbird 80 feet away, I'll have to put the timer on and huck the camera in its general direction and hope for the best. Bloody expensive hobby, this.
Taken with a simple two element achromatic 500mm FL scope and a 6mp DL. Distance about 60 feet. Cost of lens new $100. Cropped and compressed.

Last edited by wildman; 12-26-2008 at 01:00 PM.
09-06-2008, 03:42 AM   #59
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
Primes are like CD's: in every *measurable* way, objectively superior to zooms / LP's at any given price point. If one subjectively *prefers* the sound of the measurable distortions produced by most LP systems, or is unable to perceive the loss in IQ that comes with a zoom and *is* able to perceive the practical advantages of the zoom, then of course, the LP or zoom may be good enough. And indeed, perhaps even better for your intended use.
That's an interesting way to draw the analogy.

A personal note: Some might think from my previous posts that I'm really down on vinyl. That wouldn't explain why I own a wall of records and invested good money in making those sound sources render as true as possible. But when CD came along I investigated it thoroughly and heard the first and second generation players as they came out. (I sat in on a private audition of the very first Nakamichi unit, for example.)

These players sounded terrible.

But by the third gen the hardware was much better. As prices fell it became possible to listen to near-pristene audio for, say, $1,000 from CD. To get the same experience from vinyl it took about $10,000, including the price of a Nitty Gritty cleaning machine. Now you can get most of the same for $100, listening to MP3 files.

Of course if you compare side by side in a perfect listening environment the MP3 files (even extreme setting from LAME) do not sound as good as the CD. But why not just enjoy the music? Only the equivalent of pixel-peeping fanatics would care about the "lost bits". Or the perfect listening experience, which rarely exists anyway.

Besides, over-compressed source material does a lot more to harm the music than any decent playback system.

QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
That brings up an interesting question. What if you could only have one lens, say the DA 18-250mm or the DA 35mm Macro (since they're priced similarly)?

I'd have to go with the zoom, because ultimate quality wouldn't be as important to me as decent quality with better range.
I would go with the DA35 without question. If I had only one lens, that would be it. Because the quality is more important to me than the benefit of telephoto. It's wide enough for most purposes, focuses as close as physically possible and renders great images.

It seems there is a sliding scale. On one end is versatility and low quality, in the middle is moderate to good quality but less versatility and on the other end unsurpassed quality made for one purpose only.

The DA35 is special since it has unsurpassed quality but, as a macro, it's also quite versatile. And it doesn't even cost too much -- really, this lens is off the scale!
09-06-2008, 04:18 AM   #60
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QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote

Of course if you compare side by side in a perfect listening environment the MP3 files (even extreme setting from LAME) do not sound as good as the CD. But why not just enjoy the music? Only the equivalent of pixel-peeping fanatics would care about the "lost bits". Or the perfect listening experience, which rarely exists anyway.

Besides, over-compressed source material does a lot more to harm the music than any decent playback system.
This is an interesting point, re. the way we view many photos these days, via the internet, jpeg compressed, small sized (or alternately insanely blown up at 100% 72DPI)...

Thing is, just like with music, resolution at source does make it through all sorts of lossy stuff, save for purpose-built noise reduction schemes. Well, perhaps Dolby wasn't too destructive in this sense.

--

I brought up old lenses for the purpose of introducing a bit of perspective. In the old days many primes weren't that good - and forget about zooms! It's really been the last maybe 20 years that so much progress has been made.

So to a degree the prime bias is a conservative, even reactionary attitude: a bigoted out-of-hand prejudice: by definition zooms must be worse than primes!

Thing is, times have changed. Using the audio analogy, in the old days there were pieces that achieved remarkable performance, but these were like mountain tops. In modern audio, the absolute level may be equivalent, in real enjoyment terms, or much higher, in technical performance, but the valleys are not so deep.

That is, the average quality is much higher now. Things are more democratic. Though you still pay for construction, exclusivity, and the last inch of performance.
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