Should audio reviewers publish their hearing test results?

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Traditionally, measurements have long been used to evaluate various performance aspects of audio components with Frequency Response (FR) being a standard measure. Can, or should, a similar type of measurement, in the form of an Audiogram (see below), be applied to reviewers who critically listen to and evaluate the audiophile equipment consumers potentially will purchase?

Image courtesy of www.nationalhearingtest.org.

Given the frequency limitations of traditional audiograms, would readers benefit from knowing how “flat” a reviewer’s hearing might be? Would reviewers willingly subject themselves to that level of transparency?

I’d like to hear opinions from both readers and reviewers on this topic. Let the discussion begin!

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No.

If only because some readers will use said results as a stick to beat said reviewer each time they read something they don’t like, even if the reviewer’s observations show genuine insight or don’t relate to any hearing loss.

Understanding, assessing and talking about sound isn’t only about hearing ability; it’s about experience, an ability to know which comparisons to make and, most important of all, being able to actually say something about sound quality beyond “musical/true to source”.

Hearing test results tell us no more about a reviewer’s capabilities than an Audio Precision machine will tell us about a DAC’s soundstage width or its tone density.

Notions that will likely be lost on any would-be stick-wielding reader.

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What?

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Could you please speak a little louder, Michael?

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My answer is the same reason for i have no interest in the lab test results of certain magazines. NO

Just one additional point. Some time ago a magazine review confessed that after going to a concert he was reminded (or re-learned) how an actual guitar sounds like and that this was an important pointer for his review work now. Brilliant.

Perfect hearing but no clue on what you are hearing?

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As a reader I’d say no. I agree with Darko’s view that experience and the ability to express what you hear in a meaningful way are most important. Jim Smith in his book “Get Better Sound” has some interesting comments on hearing changes as one ages and the lack of impact it has in ones ability to discern the quality of musical sound.

Regards,

Mario

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Yes and no, both.

No: No matter the curve, “live music” will sound like live music. The reviewer will have a reference. If a reviewer is down 6 dB at 16K Hz, it won’t matter, because that reviewer’s ears are still calibrated to a true sound source and could tell if the balance is tipped up or down based on his consistent “self-calibration.” If a reviewer can still hear the treble “air” on a system, then that’s a good sign, I don’t care about he or she ‘measures.’

Yes: If a reviewer only reviews gear to compare to other gear, then having a measurement would be useful. If someone can’t hear anything above 8K, then I wouldn’t be able to put his or her reviews in context when I read about comparisons.

I have a friend in our audio club whose hearing cuts off at about 8K, and he builds his own speakers: he has no idea what is going on up top and left to his own devices, his speakers can sound terrible. (Interestingly, when we listen with him and work on his treble, he can hear the midrange improve.) Lots of interesting stuff can be learned from working with listening curves and relating it to how we perceive the sound.)

I also think that if we wanna hound reviewers about their curves, we better damned well be checking our own! I am 59 and have been to lots of loud shows, but used ear protection my whole life – I am still up to par at 17K, but roll off quickly there after. There is an old TV at my MIL’s house and the whine from it still bugs me, it’s between 15 and 16K. My kids use mosquito tones on their phones, they can hear 22K!! damn!

So, yes, for the sake of conversation and gear to gear comparison. Even the reviewers should be curious enough to want to do it, I think.

Back to No: Darko mentioned how it could be used as a cudgel against a reviewer. That is a crap thing to have to consider, but he’s likely right. Human nature votes No.

Given what I see of internet trolls, I land, sadly, in the “Best not” category, but would applaud anyone brave enough to disclose!

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Interesting! It is not just a figure, reviews depend enormously on hearing skills – most of the evaluations are made because “people hear things”.

Otherwise I see John’s point here. Everybody will point to that chart like ppl. are pointing to the measures in “some” other boards.

But I guess todays reviewers appraisements are so nuanced (on that gear-level) that this simple Hz-dB correlation would not make any difference.

Samples are “more precise” or “juicy” or “there is more plasticity in the roof” stuff like that is different from “well, that BOSE ist way too loud in the base!”

You either like the reviewer and made some good purchases while following his proposals – or not! Regardless oh his hearing skills (which have to be updated every year i guess).

Would be OK in a professional circumstance, e.g. someone who works in a recording studio and is dealing with big money (i guess people like that check their hearing anyway), i would not except this from reviewers.

On the other side: a simple prominent certificate on the hero-banner “I CANN HEAR THE SHIT OUT OF EVERYONE – visit my Grade A hearing test” will be an USP for some sponsors.

Maybe Sonarworks will provide settings for special reviewers: “Listen to your music like John Darko or Michael Fremer” 😉

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I’m not convinced it’s appropriate or necessary. I don’t think it’s uncommon for recording studio engineers to have hearing issues, but they learn to identify these and compensate for them without impacting the end result – their experience and ability is more important than their hearing test results. I imagine it will be the same for audio reviewers. From the reviews I’ve read by well regarded audiophiles, it’s clear that if they do have any issues it’s not affecting their ability to effectively review. And a poor reviewer is going to be a poor reviewer no matter how good their hearing is.

I guess there’s perhaps an exception for folks with major hearing issues (like the crappy tinnitus I suffer after too many loud concerts – Mark E Smith I’m looking at you), but at that point, should they be reviewing gear at all…?

Apart from all of which, how do we know that anyone experiences sound in the same way, regardless of how well their hearing measures?

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