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  1. #1

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    Thumbs down Bad Mojo from an Audio Engineer

    I had a chance to speak to an audio engineer at a party on Saturday. Really, really seemed to know his stuff. I'm not ashamed to say I was lost during certain points of the conversation, though I certainly had my fair share of drinks in the belly.

    Basically... his take on audio was simple. He referred to the hobby as a "synthetic market." Not only were cables a big sham. So was the source. So was the amp. Zilch, no, nada difference between a signal coming from your TV and one coming from a top o' the line Wadia cdp. All in our heads amigos and amigas.

    Amps? Same deal. Asked me how much my amp was worth and proceeded to tell me not to spend another dime. In fact, he suggested I sell it and pick up the cheapest receiver I could get my hands on. Seriously.

    Of course he gave a bit of creedence to speaker design, but set the bar quite low before the "synthetic market" reared its ugly head. Buy some Infinities at Best Box and call it a day.

    Interestingly, he believed the preamp was the single most important component. And if money was burning a hole in your pocket, feel free to splurge as you may get what you pay for in this instance.

    I don't doubt for a second that the man knew his science, but he was a certifiable nutjob plain and simple. Completely blinded by the snake oil of "cold, hard facts". Works both ways IMO. Scary thing was I don't think he was rocking the boat for ****s and giggles. He honestly believed in the toxic waste that was spewing from his pie hole.

    I went, filled up my drink and never returned.
    Last edited by zombie boy 2000; 06-04-2007 at 11:05 AM.
    I never had it like this where I grew up. But I send my kids here because the fact is you go to one of the best schools in the country: Rushmore. Now, for some of you it doesn't matter. You were born rich and you're going to stay rich. But here's my advice to the rest of you: Take dead aim on the rich boys. Get them in the crosshairs and take them down. Just remember, they can buy anything but they can't buy backbone. Don't let them forget it. Thank you.Herman Blume - Rushmore

  2. #2

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    Someone pissed in his coffee. LOL

  3. #3
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    Wow that is scary. Like you were saying, I always seem to come across the people who believe the other way (Monster will make your $20 system sound like a $2000 system, a pair of white van speakers are the best he's ever listened to and he paid $1000 for them, etc).
    If you ever see this guy again, and as Eric Cartman so politely put it, "I'd kick him in the nutz!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by zombie boy 2000 View Post
    Basically... his take on audio was simple. He referred to the hobby as a "synthetic market." Not only were cables a big sham. So was the source. So was the amp. Zilch, no, nada difference between a signal coming from your TV and one coming from a top o' the line Wadia cdp. All in our heads amigos and amigas.

    Amps? Same deal. Asked me how much my amp was worth and proceeded to tell me not to spend another dime. In fact, he suggested I sell it and pick up the cheapest receiver I could get my hands on. Seriously.
    And thus you have tons of crappy sounding consumer gear.

    To give him a break though, in his business what determines success is producing the cheapest to manufacture gear while still giving the consumer 90% of the enjoyment allowing them to still be competitive with all the other consumer companies. AND, he is absolutely correct, after performing his magic cables really don't mean didley.
    madmax
    Last edited by madmax; 06-04-2007 at 11:34 AM.
    Vinyl, the final frontier...

    Avantgarde horns, 300b tubes, thats the kinda crap I want... :D

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    Did you expect anything less from an engineer? Not to knock them at all, but they usually measure with equipment rather than their ears.

    Anybody who tries can hear a difference with most upgrades. Even those that do not take it seriously.

    My best friend is a mechanical engineer, greatest guy on the planet and smart as hell. He can build a space shuttle from scratch, yet lose the ignition key. He drafted a new type of internal combustion engine when we were in High School, yet cannot balance his check book.

    YMMV.
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    I have a degree in Physics, and have worked as a manufacturing, mechanical and process engineer in my career. Now I'm most of the way through my MBA and moving into marketing. I have worked with plenty of engineers in my career and can say with confidence that at least 50% of the engineers out there have no business being engineers because they are too narrow minded no matter what the product.
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    You have meet JohnK in person?
    Please. Please contact me a ben62670 @ yahoo.com. Make sure to include who you are, and you are from Polk so I don't delete your email. Also I am now physically unable to work on any projects. If you need help let these guys know. There are many people who will help if you let them know where you are.
    Thanks
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    no doubt about it.

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    He was an odd one.. that's for sure. Like I said, he wasn't confrontational or intentionally controversial. I wish some of the more knowledgable members could have heard him, because he seemed to know amplifier design inside and out. But then again, my Rosetta stone might have told me otherwise.

    Of no small note, he had never heard of this band or that band or this band or that group or this band. Not really into music.

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    The more that I think about this the more I am irritated. This is a clear instance of a design engineer who only thinks in absolute terms. I work with plenty of them....and as a result, we have some pretty crappy products. There is variability in any material and manufacturing process. The understanding of these variations, what can and can not be controlled, and how much they can be controlled, is the key to design. different manufacturing processes are chosen because they can be controlled better than others, but that might make a product more expensive. A design that has wide varience tendency might sound great if everything is produced exactly to the specification of each component....but do you know the probability of that happening? ...really low. As a result, the product works less than optimal and certain interactions of variation may cause different undersireable results.

    Any 6-sigma trained peeps out there will know what I mean here, other's may just think I made an incoherant rant....(well...maybe it is still incoherant...i'm pissed at this guy because he represents a big part of what is wrong with my current company...although the product is different)
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  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by zombie boy 2000 View Post
    He was an odd one.. that's for sure. Like I said, he wasn't confrontational or intentionally controversial. I wish some of the more knowledgable members could have heard him, because he seemed to know amplifier design inside and out. But then again, my Rosetta stone might have told me otherwise.

    Of no small note, he had never heard of this band or that band or this band or that group or this band. Not really into music.
    So he's not even into audio? That would be like hiring an amish automotive engineer. What does he care abotu what he is designing. His horse will get him where he needs to go just fine.
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  12. #12

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    ...man this pissed me off..... hit too close to my current job frustrations.........
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  13. #13

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    My local audio repair guy I've used a couple times thinks tubes are stupid. He said they are a "big waste of power", whatever that meant. I didn't feel like getting into it with him.
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    Quote Originally Posted by a_mattison View Post
    So he's not even into audio? That would be like hiring an amish automotive engineer. What does he care abotu what he is designing. His horse will get him where he needs to go just fine.
    He's into audio, but could really care less about music.

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    Quote Originally Posted by riglehart View Post
    My local audio repair guy I've used a couple times thinks tubes are stupid. He said they are a "big waste of power", whatever that meant. I didn't feel like getting into it with him.
    Which reminds me of how this guy went off on Class A amps and how they're one of the biggest hoaxes on the market. "Big waste of power" was pretty much his assertion. And that there is no true thing as a zero-feedback design and even if there was, you wouldn't be able to tell a difference in a blind listening test between a Class A/B and a Class A amp.
    Last edited by zombie boy 2000; 06-04-2007 at 12:28 PM.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by zombie boy 2000 View Post
    He's into audio, but could really care less about music.
    HUH??
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  17. #17

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    I've got a 40WPC Yamaha amp I'll sell this guy for only $1500.:D
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    Quote Originally Posted by a_mattison View Post
    HUH??
    Exactly.... but you gotta admit, it's not that far off from being so wrapped up in your gear that you catch yourself listening to nothing but well mastered Muzak:p

    He's just scored a triple-whammy because not only does his gear suck. He can't hear worth shinola and his music selection is non-existent. He might as well be banging two rocks together.

  19. #19

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    I see that your Schwartz is as big as mine!
    Let me tell you something about life, around every corner monsters await. I know, I am one.

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  20. #20

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    I had a similar experience that left me dumb-founded... Turned out a guy I used to work with had a music recording studio on the side. We talked for awhile, pretty interesting conversations on audio. So great, come over for a demo of the studio.

    Long story short, he basically had a HTIB/ bookshelf Sony type setup around his mixing board, including mis-matched tweeters (radio shack box still propping up one of the speakers.) It sounded pretty blech. But his recording equipment was impressive, like you could hear your fingernail scratching your thumb real distinctly, while barely moving your finger.

    So, he was WAY more interested in music recording than music playback. It was wild disappointment for me, but also a glimpse in to different parts of the audio world.
    Work is the curse of the drinking class

  21. #21

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    Default engineers

    Quote Originally Posted by venomclan View Post
    Did you expect anything less from an engineer? Not to knock them at all, but they usually measure with equipment rather than their ears.

    Anybody who tries can hear a difference with most upgrades. Even those that do not take it seriously.

    My best friend is a mechanical engineer, greatest guy on the planet and smart as hell. He can build a space shuttle from scratch, yet lose the ignition key. He drafted a new type of internal combustion engine when we were in High School, yet cannot balance his check book.

    YMMV.
    V
    haha, i think i know the same guy, his name is Carl, right?

    it's funny, living by the space center i see the same thing, shuttle software programmers who dont know how to copy a file in windows.

    I recently met a new guy at work who used to design speakers for a major speaker company for 10 years. he gave me a lot of insight into how speaker companies operate. it's all marketing driven he said. the marketing person would come in and say ok we want a speaker that is something like this... and sells for $1500 retail. so then they would go in the lab and say ok we need to try and make a decent sounding speaker that size with $180 of parts.
    then when they were bored they would pass the time saying, ok what happens if we tried something cool with some good drivers or complex design or something, and would end up making some $20,000 reference design speaker .

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    So was he claiming that there were was no sonic improvement between the $20,000 reference speaker and the $1500 model? Even the loon I met on Saturday conceded the importance of speakers... His issues mainly centered around amplification, source, and cables.

    Like I mentioned previously and oddly enough, he valued the preamp immensely -- claiming it to be the single most important component (speakers included).

  23. #23

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    This is an audio engineer? . He needs to turn in his credentials right now.

    WOW...............JUST WOW! I suppose it's possible to be an audio engineer and not be into the nuances of reproduced audio. Much like you can be a car designer/engineer and not be a race car driver.

    The vitrol he was spewing certainly sounded absolute in the way you described it. My dad is an engineer and one of his faults (not to him) is his inflexibility. He is black or white.......no gray! Although he has mellowed with age.

    This guy has to be an abberation. Talk to John Curl or Victor Campos or Nelson Pass or Matt Polk they are audio engineers (in a sense) and you don't get that kind of mojo from them.
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

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  24. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by digitalman View Post
    haha, i think i know the same guy, his name is Carl, right?

    it's funny, living by the space center i see the same thing, shuttle software programmers who dont know how to copy a file in windows.

    I recently met a new guy at work who used to design speakers for a major speaker company for 10 years. he gave me a lot of insight into how speaker companies operate. it's all marketing driven he said. the marketing person would come in and say ok we want a speaker that is something like this... and sells for $1500 retail. so then they would go in the lab and say ok we need to try and make a decent sounding speaker that size with $180 of parts.
    then when they were bored they would pass the time saying, ok what happens if we tried something cool with some good drivers or complex design or something, and would end up making some $20,000 reference design speaker .
    Nah its Matt. Comes down to seeing the forrest for the trees. While cables are very subjective, I see no chance for an argument on speakers or amps.
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    The key word here is "engineer". I work with them everyday, computer engineers who don't know the difference between memory and a hard drive. Seriously.

    I had to help an engineer troubleshoot a program he was using one day. He was missing a *.dll file, which the error message was clearly telling him. I told him to copy the *.dll from the install CD into the Windows, System, and the programs directories---BAM it worked fine. Then I told him to delete each one, one at a time, to figure out which directory the program was calling for to get the *.dll, and get rid of the ones he didn't need.

    I'M A WAREHOUSE GUY.
    Last edited by steveinaz; 06-04-2007 at 03:54 PM.

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    Default What is an "audio engineer"?

    Quote Originally Posted by zombie boy 2000 View Post
    I had a chance to speak to an audio engineer at a party on Saturday.
    The term "engineer" is used very loosely these days. It is (inappropriately) applied to everything from a person with a professional 4 year engineering degree ( e.g. electrical engineer, mechanical engineer) to a person who performs skilled, semi-skilled, or unskilled labor (sanitation engineer (janitor), security engineer (security guard), railroad engineer). When I first told my father that I wanted to major in engineering in college, he thought that I wanted to work for the railroad!

    The term "audio engineer" could apply to someone with four or more years of formal academic training which culminated in the granting of a bachelors degree in electrical engineering. Some engineering schools even offer a specialization in audio engineering. However, the term "audio engineer" today commonly means someone who manages the technical aspects of a recording session in a recording studio or the technical/sound/mixing aspects of a broadcast program. Most of these people have no formal academic training in electronics, electrical engineering, or even acoustics. They learned their "trade" by serving an apprenticeship for a few years under an experienced "audio engineer". Relatively few of them have the actual know-how necessary to produce a high fidelity recording.

    Some of these "audio engineers" formerly played in or currently play in bands and herein lies a dirty truth. Imagine someone whose hearing has been subjected for years to loud stage music and then this person manages to get a job as a recording "engineer" or audio "engineer". Do you see where I am going with this?

    It is no wonder that there are so many crappy recordings these days because there are so many crappy "audio engineers" who really can't hear worth a damn. So, when your audio engineer acquaintance spun the old "all equipment sounds alike" thread, I don't doubt that it all really does sound alike to him, because his ears are most likely busted. He probably wouldn't be able to recognize high fidelity sound if it came up and bit him on the ears.;)

    The scary thing is that many of these people ("audio engineers") are walking around with compromised hearing and they are not even aware that their ears are not functioning properly.
    Last edited by DarqueKnight; 06-04-2007 at 06:53 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by steveinaz View Post
    The key word here is "engineer". I work with them everyday, computer engineers who don't know the difference between memory and a hard drive. Seriously.
    From what you describe, there is no way that these people could be real computer engineers. A computer engineer is someone who holds a minimum B.S. degree in computer engineering, from an accredited institution, and who is a specialist in the theoretical and practical design of computer hardware. The people you describe are most likely poorly trained computer technicians.

    Companies like to add the title "engineer" to non-engineering job functions because they think it sounds nice and it adds a bit of "prestige" to the job title. For example, some repair shops give their mechanics the pretentious title of "automotive engineer". It sounds nice, but it is a gross exaggeration to the point of being a lie. An automotive engineer is someone who is formally trained in the application of mathematical and scientific theory to the design of automobiles and automotive systems. This is very different from the diagnostic, maintenance, and repair work that an automotive mechanic does. It is practices like these which tarnish the reputation and prestige of the engineering profession.

    Many states have laws which prohibit the use of the word "engineer" in an occupational title if the job does not actually require the knowledge and skill level of a degreed engineer. Obviously, the states and the engineering profession have not done a good job in enforcing those laws.

    The federal government is very strict about the use of the occupational description "engineer". A federal occupational job title cannot include the term "engineer" unless it requires an individual with at least a four year engineering degree from a nationally accredited engineering school.
    Last edited by DarqueKnight; 06-04-2007 at 06:42 PM.
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    That was my thought about audio amps based on my Physics E+M class, and then I realized that not all amplifiers were ideal and followed ohms law... and not all electrons were in a vacuum. That took about 10 minutes looking at amp specs. Bad audio engineer.
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    Lots of people don't grasp the difference between design and implementation (realization). Lot of folks will say that two amps, built using the same electrical design schematic and having the same performance measurements will sound the same. But what if amp A is built using a resonant thin steel chassis with bargain basement parts and amp B is built using a thick anti-resonant milled aluminum chassis with premium parts? Would you expect to hear a difference?
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    Quote Originally Posted by a_mattison View Post
    ...man this pissed me off..... hit too close to my current job frustrations.........
    I hear you a_mattison, my former employer was a recording engineer and he's exactly the same way as this guy. He says zip cord and monster cable all sound the same, how can a $200 interconnect change the way a source sound when the recording was done on a $40 microphone?, he's says stuff like this all the time.
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