Psychology And The Audiophile
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  1. #1
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    Psychology And The Audiophile

    Just curious if there has ever been a thread posted here about audio psychology? It seems to me it would be a very broad and rich topic for learning about the psychology of high end audio. It's also a very complex topic. Many books have been authored about acoustic psychology. But to narrow things down a might I'm thinking more along the lines of the psychology of choosing audio components.

    To me it's a very interesting topic for discussion. Especially as I'm just now sifting through voluminous bits of information so as to be able to make good choices regarding components. I do this trying very hard to keep as much of an open mind as possible. However, that keeping an open mind part can be very difficult. I've read through threads where I felt the poster/s had researched their information very well and made wise choices. I've read through others where I had a strong suspicion that the poster had let biases enter into their choices. I'm not interested in citing any posts or coming down on specific people for allowing bias to enter into their decisions. Why? Because at one time or another I've been that person.

    It applies to all kinds of products from guitars to amps, cars motorcycles, you name it. I've let bias influence my decisions. Over the years I would like to say that I've gotten better at gathering information and sussing out BS. I think I have with most things. Not so much with others. It's really all about not letting emotions enter into your decisions. As a bluegrass guitar/banjo/mandolin player and band member I've had to sift through lots of information, study the forums, and play a lot of top notch instruments to make sound (no pun intended) choices for instruments.

    The "fanboy effect". We've all seen it. There are different versions. There was a time when I thought Martin guitars were the best and nobody was going to convince me otherwise. Over time I found other builders were making guitars just as well if not better. But it was initially very difficult to admit that to myself. For many years, if it didn't have "Martin" on the headstock I wasn't interested in it. I've seen this phenomena with all kinds of products. From effects pedals for guitars to guitar strings. At times I failed miserably at being objective. With acoustic guitars, I was very "protective" of my purchases. IOW, sometimes I would simply dismiss other's choices as inferior without ever hearing or playing their choice of instrument myself. I soon found out that when I decided to try their brand I often preferred it.

    We all want to believe our choices are the best, even superior. Over the decades I've learned to keep my emotions and sense of brand loyalty out of my decisions and I've made much better choices because of it. So now I find myself in the process of sifting through volumes of information so I can make good, solid, wise, choices regarding high end audio components.

    I've been able to ID some of the fanboys and perhaps less objective posters. I still don't just dismiss posters I think are not being objective about their choices. I can still learn from them. I feel that objectivity is a matter of degree. Most of us, at our best, are not 100% objective. But, with the sheer numbers of top notch components it's actually difficult to make really bad decisions. Because a person doesn't like a certain component doesn't make it a bad component. For example, whether a person likes the DeVore 096 speaker or not, it's a top notch piece of equipment any way you cut it.

    And brand loyalty is not necessarily a bad thing. If you've purchased Brand X and you've had consistently great luck with it there's certainly nothing wrong with staying with that brand. Some people even have systems where every single component is the same brand.

    Anyway, the psychology of sound has always interested me. And, after returning to the high end audio hobby from a 40+ year hiatus I'm learning all kinds of information from forums such as this one (especially this one). I come by this interest in audio psychology "honestly" as I have a bachelors degree in psychology and a masters degree in counseling. I also have a doctor of dental surgery degree and 23 years of private practice experience as a general practitioner which presents it's own psychology. I'm now in my fourth year of retirement.

    But I've not seen a forum or thread addressing the psychology of the high end audio hobby. Perhaps there indeed have been? I'm just not aware of it.

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  3. #2
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    Re: Psychology And The Audiophile

    Interesting read. Are we talking mainly the psyc of Gear Purchases, or just anything/everything Audio?

    Firstly I think it may stem from what we all do for a living. Most here have or had High Tech, Law, Medical and similar careers. I think those fields all hold deeper thinkers and people who value things they work hard for more. We tend to be super critical and detail oriented.

    My background is 25 years of Toolmaker / Machine Designer and then a college degree at 42 and 14 years working for a Global CRO as a Principal Analyst for Regulatory Submission Software and all the servers, databases, document repositories, and networks that go with it.
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  5. #3
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    Psychology And The Audiophile

    Great post. Thank you.

    1. Itís all subjective. One manís trash is another manís treasure.

    2. ďFor example, whether a person likes the DeVore 096 speaker or not, it's a top notch piece of equipment any way you cut it.Ē

    - I donít agree. But not everyone likes my speakers either. See #1 and #3.

    3. If you like it, then thatís all that matters.

    4. Biases? I hear them all day long, and Iím guilty of them too (ďtubes rule!Ē)


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  7. #4
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    Re: Psychology And The Audiophile

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowfax View Post
    Interesting read. Are we talking mainly the psyc of Gear Purchases, or just anything/everything Audio?

    Firstly I think it may stem from what we all do for a living. Most here have or had High Tech, Law, Medical and similar careers. I think those fields all hold deeper thinkers and people who value things they work hard for more. We tend to be super critical and detail oriented.

    My background is 25 years of Toolmaker / Machine Designer and then a college degree at 42 and 14 years working for a Global CRO as a Principal Analyst for Regulatory Submission Software and all the servers, databases, document repositories, and networks that go with it.
    I agree. To summarize the general approach, “close enough rarely is.”
    Anthony
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    Re: Psychology And The Audiophile

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowfax View Post
    Firstly I think it may stem from what we all do for a living. Most here have or had High Tech, Law, Medical and similar careers. I think those fields all hold deeper thinkers and people who value things they work hard for more. We tend to be super critical and detail oriented.
    I agree with this for the most part... I do believe that everyone I know who is what I would call an audio enthusiast is more or less a deep thinker and certainly very much appreciates good music.

    In our audio club we have tech people (me included), a airline pilot, business consultant, writer for Stereophile, owner of an audio manufacture, medical field people, camera enthusiasts, horse ranch owner, etc., etc. So pretty much from many fields. The one thing we all have in common is we love good music and love playing with audio gear!
    Wyred 4 Sound STP-SE Stage 2; T+A DAC 8 DSD; T+A AMP 8; Audio Mirror SET 45s; KEF R700; AudioQuest Niagara 1000; Falcon Northwest Tiki; W4S Recovery; Oppo BDP-105; Technics ST-9030; Focal Clear; Astell & Kern AK240; Audeze iSine 10

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    Re: Psychology And The Audiophile

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    Re: Psychology And The Audiophile

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike View Post
    Great post. Thank you.

    1. It’s all subjective. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

    [...]

    3. If you like it, then that’s all that matters.
    Agreed. As Mike Moffat from Schiit Audio said (former design engineer of Theta Digital):

    "Stop taking this hobby so seriously. Have fun. That’s the purpose of this whole deal. Don’t assume what you like others will have to. Do your best to please yourself. No one else cares what you like."

    Your system is only for you. If your friends come over and like it, that's great. But some of my friends like the incisive sound of my system, others don't. The ones that don't probably never will. So what? I like my sound. To think you can have a system that pleases everyone is based on a faulty understanding of human psychology. And guess what, when my friends and I visit live concerts together, in some respects we hear the same sound differently too.
    Simaudio Moon Neo 260 DT CD Transport / MIT SL-Matrix Plus AES/EBU digital cable / Schiit Yggdrasil Analog 2 DAC / Tripp Lite 1000HG isolation transformer (only digital front end) / Octave HP 700 preamp / Octave RE 320 stereo amp with Super Black Box / Reference 3A Reflector monitors on Sound Anchors Signature Stands / dual JL Audio Fathom 112 v2 subwoofers on ASC SubTraps / ZenWave Audio D4 and SMSG cables / Acoustic treatment: tube traps, Tri-panels, window plugs, ceiling diffusers (all ASC), large absorbing panels (Acoustics First), diverse carpets chosen for acoustic properties: wool, polypropylene basket-weave

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  13. #8
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    Re: Psychology And The Audiophile

    There is plenty of cognitive bias built into everything we do with audio. This is especially true wrt auditioning and selecting gear for purchase.

    A lot universally held truths about gear are based on people's listening experience, which is subject to all kinds of bias.

    On listening bias:

    I was part of an AES demo in Chicago, where an experienced guitar player played an identical piece on two guitars - one an inexpensive Yamaha and the other a Ramirez owned at the time by Andres Segovia. The audience was encouraged to show their appreciation at the end of each piece. The order of the guitars was changed throughout the the day, sometimes the Yamaha would be first, sometimes the priceless Ramirez.

    What was the result?
    Tom

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    Re: Psychology And The Audiophile

    In putting your system together, I think you have to be very careful with expectation bias. Speakers are about the only component I trust myself to judge without a blind A/B procedure. Other components, particularly cables or anything in the realm of tweaks are best compared without knowing what's in or out.

    This was dramatically illustrated to me when I demoed an expensive tweak not too long ago. This component was known to have a particular and strong quality or effect (I won't say what). I listened for this quality's presence or absence as a friend took the component in and out of the system a few times. At the end of the test, I was sure-- very, very sure-- that on the last listen, the component was in and I was hearing it's effect. The surprising outcome was that it was not in the system.

    My takeaway is that the tweak was in reality having no audible effect in my system and that my brain manufactured the sound I thought I should be hearing. Of course, if my auditory fantasy has just happened to occur when the component was in the system, I would have been fooled in to thinking it was the tweak. So, it's important to conduct the test with enough A/B to rule out this chance.

    This is powerful stuff. This is why placebos work-- not just as a way to compare drugs, but as an mostly untapped way for medicine to actually use expectation to aid the brain/ body system to effect illness.
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  15. #10
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    Re: Psychology And The Audiophile

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy Myers View Post
    I agree with this for the most part... I do believe that everyone I know who is what I would call an audio enthusiast is more or less a deep thinker and certainly very much appreciates good music.

    In our audio club we have tech people (me included), a airline pilot, business consultant, writer for Stereophile, owner of an audio manufacture, medical field people, camera enthusiasts, horse ranch owner, etc., etc. So pretty much from many fields. The one thing we all have in common is we love good music and love playing with audio gear!
    Pretty much nailed our club as well along with a few musicians in the Jacksonville Symphony we also have an actual Otolaryngologists and a psychologist in ours and the psychologist thinks we are nuts when it comes to cables but we all love music and the journey to personal enjoyment.
    Chris

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