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SQ really is subjective.
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Re: SQ really is subjective.
My experiiences in doing demonstration of great sounding audio for lots of different people--experienced critical listeners and neophytes is that there is a certain sound that gets a "Wow, that's awesome" from nearly everyone. Some deviations from that certain sound are more objectionable than others and sometimes people prefer some of the deviations. More or less bass is one of them. More or less high frequency is another. However, the overall shape of the response, has to be maintained within some limits in order to get the "wow". I've posted that response here many times.
My method in arriving at this wasn't the same kind of science that Sean does--it wasn't a controlled experiment, it's been 30 years of building systems and products and listening carefully to what people say. In my experience, the difference between a "trained" and "untrained" listener has nothing to do with hearing acuity or even an understanding of system building, woofers, tweeters, crossovers, equalization or what have you. The "training" is in being able to explain to the person doing the survey WHAT you don't like. It's the job of the salesperson or installer to be the translator and a good one listens to what you mean and not necessarily what you say.
Years ago when I was an installer, we had a customer who came in for a pretty good system. I think we installed a couple of amplifiers, a sub and 4 speakers. He loved it. He left. A week later he came back and said it wasn't loud enough. We added amplifiers and another sub. He loved it again. He came back a week later and said, "It still isn't loud enough". We doubled the speakers in the front, doubled the power again, added two more subs. He loved it a third time. He came back a week later and said, it's better but still not quite loud enough. We were out of space in the car to add more and the thing was ridiculously loud.
My boss (really smart guy who is now no longer in the industry because he teaches music at a local university) went out to the the car and asked the guy to play something at the level he usually listens. The volume control was 1/4 of the way up. Normal listening level. Hmmm...WTF? I go out to the car and jump in the back seat. My boss asks the guy to play a song that he thinks is a good example of what's missing. He puts on some vocal track and says, "See, whe she sings that note, it isn't loud enough and when the bass player plays that part of the music, it isn't loud enough."
We took out half the power in the car and traded in the amplifiers for a pair of Audio Control EQTs and spent the rest the day in the car with an RTA. The next day, the guy came to pick up the car, listened and said, "That's exactly what I wanted".
This taught me to listen MUCH more carefully to what people MEAN and to do some additional investigation when necessary. The disconnect was that the customer's ability to articulate his desires using words we understood wasn't well developed--he didn't speak audiophile--but it had nothing to do with his ears. My job as a product manager is to TRANSLATE, which means I have to be the expert. The job of a salesman or an installer is also to TRANSLATE.
What Sean does is another kind of translation. He performs carefully controlled experiments in order to be able to express the results in another language--the language of science, which has its own rules and constraints--the most important being repeatability. Sometimes that means limiting the words people use to describe the experience and for that, training is required. You can read about the listener training program at Harman online. I don't know where it is, but just Google "Harman Listener Training".
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