Introduction/home page

audiothiest [pronounced: awe-dee-oh-thiest] is an ongoing research project with one primary objective: to remove religious dogma from all audiophile ideologies. This includes -- but is not limited to -- the subjective-objective continuum. In the past, projects and procedures such as Hydrogenaudio.org and ABX testing (aka "objectivists"), have concentrated mostly on filtering out subjective elements. While test methodology is an ever-evolving science, the objectivists seem to have adhered to the scientific method. This is a good thing.
However, too much faith in present-day science -- both doctrinally and procedurally -- can lead to compromised conclusions.
 audiothiest challenges such objectivist cults: from currently-accepted premises/assumptions, to practices/procedures, on through to conjectures and conclusions.  For example, contemplating the history of metrology, psychoacoustics, and electrical engineering (and other foundations of audio tests): how have these disciplines changed/evolved over the past few decades; and, where might they be in decades to come? 

In-the-works and Coming soon:

Why HydrogenAudio "matters" ... why invest in time/effort criticizing it/them?
Quick answer: All criticism outlined below coupled with HA's relatively "high" Internet reputation. "Internet reputation" is based on: Google PageRank (HA is PR6), SERP (Search Engine Rank Position: E.g., for a particular search query, will the SE result be #1, #2, etc. on the Query-Results page? ); high Alexa ranking. None of these metrics necessarily indicate quality, authenticity or legitimacy of content.

Unrealistic projected/perceived importance of content posted on HydrogenAudio: HA is, first and foremost, a sociological bulletin board (aka discussion forum). While it is a legitimate non-profit, it is not a recognized scientific body or research organization. It is, above all -- and like most forums, eBBS and "message boards" -- a portal or medium for human socialization. (Also see Overconfidence is the human norm article and related discussion below)

One-trick pony: HA's "claim-to-fame" is its strict comittment to ABX/blind (so-called objective) audio testing. (Subforums such as Foobar, FLAC and EAC are "owner's manual"-type support groups). Effectively, then, HA is a one-trick pony -- and hence a lot rides on this "scientific isolate" ... including sponsor ($$) support, political liasons (many of which are predictably back-end/off-list collaborations).

The Case Against HydrogenAudio. A critical analysis that will examine the 10+ year history of this putatively "science-based"/"objective" organization. How has this dot.org affected or influenced the audio-enthusiast community? Does it cause more harm than good? Might it be responsible -- even accidentally/inadvertently -- for actually curtailing audio-technology evolution? How has its internal bureaucracy and often cult-like membership played a role?

Related articles/projects being outlined:

Moderators' Monarchy: As was noted by member spoon (Sep 30 2011) in the 10th anniversary Happy birthday, hydrogenaudio! thread, "It is surprising after 10 years how many of the old guard are still at HA, even the moderators, many names the same."   Delimited imagination (as noted in HydrogenAudiophilia below) -- and typical de rigueur sociological attachment to a forum/group -- perpetuate this type of status-quo contentment. Term limits imposed on those in power allow for much more democratic leadership as well as new-minds/fresh-ideas evolution. Watching the Watchers is an important objective of the audiothiest project.

HydrogenAudiophilia: A debilitating  "Locked-in Syndrome" caused by years of inside-the-box thinking and upheld by overbearing micro-moderation and antiquated "Terms-of-Service" contractuality. It is this pathology -- as will be explained in an upcoming analysis -- which actually may have led to audio-engineering stagnation.

NOTE: Binomial nomenclature of HydrogenAudio membership, genus/species: Hydrogenia Audiota -- Specific species members may also be referred to as audiots. 

Lost Opportunities / No Clear Goals / Non-Proactive, Non-Forward-thinking: Important audio-coding innovations -- lossless (MLP, FLAC); lossy (MP3) -- preceded HydrogenAudio (domain registered Sept 2001). Hence, there have been a few minor tweaks (FLAC 24/96, etc.) -- and HA's "influence" in the promotion of these minor tweaks is questionable at best. On the other hand ... DVD-Audio is dead, SACD was abandoned by Sony and its popularity is minor (whether it offers any real fidelity advantages is beside the point). Also ... pricey, fragile, inconvenient vinyl has become orders-of-magnitude more popular ... and the price of better audio gear is still absurdly high. HA and its membership could have guided the industry to effectively improve and economize-to-scale. Yet they chose (continue to choose) to focus on worthless, repetitive, old-technology lossy and non-high-rez lossless bit-rate tests, ad nauseam
  • to be added: timeline of recent audio developments, and where HA fits in.
Abuse/misuse of term/category "Objectivism" as a metonym. Similar to the way in which politicians categorize themselves a Republicans (party of Lincoln) or Democrats (party of Roosevelt). This does imply that objectivist audiophiles do no genuinely believe they are committed to their design of objective-science-based methodology/tests. But if their premises, experimental designs and/or methodologies are wrong, their conclusions will be fallacious. In the psychological sciences, these belief pathologies may be referred to as confabulation or cognitive dissonance.

Subjective audiophiles, objective audiophiles, and Hydrogenaudiophiles: Rationalism, Empiricism, and Religion: (coming soon)

The Case for Hydrogenaudio: Pro: HA provides important services, e.g. dedicated sub-forums for AAC, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, EAC and Foobar.
Con: Those sub-forums can just as effectively reside on Google Groups, DIYaudio, AudioAsylum, etc. By encapsulating these useful sub-forums with its controversial stance (TOS #8) on blind testing -- i.e., in the same web site -- the general public may be misled into over-believing the legitimacy of the latter. It is unimportant whether the HA web site is constructed this way unintentionally or deliberately/politically -- the end effect is the same.

The Pathology of Boredom: Whether it's cable swappers at Stereophile or yet-another-lossy-bit-rate-ABX-test at Hydrogenaudio ... the drive to engage in these activities all come from the innate human desire to alleviate boredom. And easy, low-hanging-fruit tweaks (hobbies) are an obvious source of relief. It's perfectly okay to have these "hobbies". They scratch and temporarily relieve a persistent itch. Yet, they are lazy and counter-productive hobbies as they do not fundamentally promote the science (and art) of audio-technology evolution. E.g, the thread/post counts on lossy-compression topics at HA is relatively high compared to threads dealing with cutting-edge topics. This sends the wrong message to the technology-development industry (and their financial/elite decision makers).

HA body politic (= strong opinions posted on the message board) a result of overconfidence (link to Nature paper)

Other articles/projects currently being outlined:

On the Misuse of Objectivisim and Abuse of Science: (under construction)

Victims of Science Orthodoxy: Galileo, et. al. Hydrogenaudiophiles and similar-minded audio objectivists claim their methods and procedures are grounded in science. But as history demonstrates, human science -- an ephemeral and ever-evolving toolkit built from human interpretations/evaluations of natural phenomena -- is often wrong. Underdevelped science is the rule, not the exception (TBC).

Introducing Evolutionary Audiology: A science-based approach that incorporates evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology and psychoacoustics. Using evolutionary audiology, we can explain why ABX/blind testing is not only ineffective in comparing/contrasting micro-acoustic differences, but is concomitantly counterproductive in such tests.

Fundamental shortcomings of ABX/blind testing:
  • Ultimate decision (e.g. of two compared audio samples under test; "can I hear a difference") is still a subjective, binary choice based on human-perceived events.
  • Human perception is subject to myriad physiological, psychological and physical phenomena and synergistic/systemic processes. E.g., health/medication; sleep debt; immediate mood; emotional preconceptions and convictions; testing while down with a head cold or under different atmospheric/elevation conditions. These, and other factors, importantly affect the ultimate, binary choice...blind or unblind.
  • "Music" largely absent for most of human evolution. Nature sounds are psycho-acoustically significant to survival. Hence, selection pressures have tuned human psychoacoustics to Nature sounds. NO exclusive Nature-sound ABX/blind test -- nor any previous published paper or discussion thread -- has investigated this issue ... until it was brought up on HA in an original thread started July 12, 2011, by hollowman here: ABX of Nature/evo-adapted cues (i.e. non-music). It was largely and unexaminedly dismissed as irrelevant (e.g., db1989's low-effort scoffs here, here, and here; and greynols' derisions here and here ). IOW, rather than honestly admit that topical research data is scarce or nonexistent, the subject is mocked or ridiculed, including mild ad hominem attacks. Note that both db1989 and greynol are "SUPER MODERATORS"--they represent HA's Administrative/"elite" class). 
  • "Unnaturalness" of deliberate/active/focused testing ... this includes both active-blind-"objective" and active-unblind-"subjective" listening tests. Again, the reference point is the quotidian evolutionary environment. Passive listening --  a nonactivity in which there is no concentration/pressure on the test itself -- is the closest analog to "evolutionary listening."
  • Statistically-significant opinions (i.e., general consensus) among the audiophile community indicate that ABX/blind tests do not work (and may even be counterproductive). Many Hydrogenaudiophiles believe that corporate-greed-based marketing, psychological power of suggestion, and/or pathological psychosomatics trick the listeners' mind-brain system into false perceptions (ie., hearing nonexistent differences). The DIY audio community -- individuals with high technical skills/knowledge (of circuit theory/design and topology as well test-instrumentation skills and a fundamental grasp of engineering/science principles; and which routinely criticizes the Stereophile/TAS/audiophile community for promoting high-$ gear and snake-oil tweaks -- does not accept ABX/blind testing as important. Many topical threads/articles on myriad DIY forums/blogs support this consensus: Ex1, Ex2, Ex3, etc.
  • The simple fact that there is a major debate (The Great ABX Debate): i.e., two significant divided camps, each comprised of "high-intellect" individuals (some with advanced academic/research credentials, professional/industry background/experience).
  • to be cont. (expand all bullets above; animal models/tests of unblind, ABX/blind; ABX/blind vs. logical fallacies, Falsifiability) 
Note: we are mostly discussing micro-acoustic differences here -- the type audiophiles and audio enthusiasts are "anal" about.  "Who cares!" is an important comment that the general public often makes when confronted with this topic. Nevertheless, the general public does care about macro-acoustic differences. So ....via rich, topically-directed forum discussions, why not shift the focus to them? E.g., the need for high rez (24-bit/192kHz and beyond) ... or active psychoacoustic processing.
References:

YouTube Video

From Rocky Mountain Audio Festival 2010: RMAF10: High Resolution from the Masters. With: Keith O. Johnson, co-founder of Reference Recordings/Pacific Microsonics (HDCD)/Spectral Audio.
@ 13:25 "Play a bad recording and the ears will shut down. Now go to a good recording and you have to wait for the feedback to start recovering and process. That means you can’t A-B something by flipping a switch. That isn’t going to happen. You got to wait. And it means that if I play a really crummy recording… then you have to wait a long time for the ears to settle down and be back to a perceptual mode again.  At that point you can go into “sonic nirvana” which is the visual acoustic."
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BELOW ... the audiothiest group has webified original, text-based content submitted by hollowman (a member of Hydrogenaudio). 
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On Oct 2, 2011, the moderators at Hydrogenaudio.org asked hollowman to remove the content below from hollowman's Hydrogenaudio.org "About Me" page. Their stated reason: "Please remove the TOS #8 violation regarding the relative sound quality between your personal media players in your about me page."
The content was created by hollowman in order to plainly, openly, and honestly document (list) the audio gear hollowman uses. hollowman further enhanced his gear info with images and prices. Such member-page "gear lists" -- frequently used by other hi-fi-enthusiast or computer-hardware forums -- serve as helpful and important points of reference. Provided that no obvious profit- of personal-agenda is evident (e.g., via affiliate-sales or manuf. hyperlinks)  such information can, for instance, help others in troubleshooting and problem-solving. Other than the obvious assistance to search-engine keyword/phrase queries, such mine-friendly and warehoused data increases the scope, dimensionality and "bit-depth" of a user/member -- i.e., beyond that of mere words and sentences tossed off in threads and posts and other casual comments.
Believe that they believe: All the above said, hollowman believes HA mods (and HA's general/collective community) are honestly committed to the belief -- as narrow-minded and inside-box-thinking as it may be -- that such information detracts from HA's "non-profit" or "objective-science" agenda (HA's TOS #8). However, history has consistently proven that honest people (incl. clergy and even scientists) who believe in honest at-the-time collective wisdom are often ultimately proven wrong. The scientists that condemned Galileo is one of many examples.
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(hollowman was instructed by HA moderators to remove content below)

My sole audio system (ca. late 2011) consists of ONLY two components and costs less than USD $300
(stock/commercial photos used only for illustration purposes)
(1) Colorfly CK4 (2011 USD $140) -- pictured below next to (higher-priced, but lower SQ) iPod touch: 


(above) The C4 DAP will play 24/192 high-rez files and has a fairly HQ built-in headphone amp.

 (2) VSONIC GR07 IEM earphones (2011 USD $150) -- pictured below: 

Sometimes, I use a DIY headphone amp -- which has crossfeed and a bit higher SQ. 

Notes/Personal philosophy/Paradigm shift: I abandoned high-maintenance vinyl and tradit. "home-component" setups long ago, and relatively-unergonomic CD-/PC-/laptop-based playback about five years back. Loudspeakers, car audio and $$ home-theater jobs ... what are those ;) ??!! Inexpensive, earphones-only portable combos (coming largely from niche, emerging-market Chinese manufs., as shown above, integrated with DIY gear), finally allow me to abandon audio as a cumbersome + $$ hobby. My sole "system" prior to 6 mos. ago... 


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Re: post edit, Oct 12 2011, 01:25
QUOTE
"...this latest tantrum of yours".
Of MINE. Hmmm....You suggest a pathology. Interesting, psycho-analytical comment. 
db1989, your reactionary comments are demonstrative of an extremely sensitive and insecure individual. Very refreshing. And, of course, were making some progress./QUOTE

 db1989 REPLY:
The pathology is yours. I don’t care to entertain your narcisissm any further by providing you with attention.

…Or maybe I am a psycho and I’m already planning to trace your location and cut off your head.

Who can really tell these days?

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Re: post edit, Oct 8 2011, 11:09
 
QUOTE
Again, as I noted in the deleted post, I edited the fullquote to a relevant, nonpointless chunk.Which I did not dispute, saying that I might have made an error and that I was fully open to your clarifying this and telling me what you wanted me to edit back into your post. /QUOTE

 db1989 REPLY: 
And yet the below is what I get?

QUOTE
You, db1989, play political games like this as well as replying to MY posts, in general, in a certain ...uh ... demeanor. You may be ATTEMPTING to intimidate me on a psycho-personal level. And you use your superficial "authority" in a self-serving, emotion-driven, politically-biased fashion. You should be aware that this will have ... uh ...repercussions. /QUOTE

 db1989 REPLY: 
You might want to seek help for that victim complex. 

How am I in any way even appearing to be persecuting you? How is it at all political? Just what are you on about?

And what repercussions? I’m all ears! Are you going to go running to an admin? Surely they would be just as baffled by this latest tantrum of yours—totally unwarranted, in response to what I intended to be an apologetic, conciliatory, and as fair as possible post—as am I?

Whatever.


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