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  • solive
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
I posted a new blog posting that summarizes some recent  experimental evidence  where I tested a group of teenagers' preferences in loudspeakers and  MP3 versus CD music formats. This is just the beginning of a more thorough study, so the results are very preliminary. Still I thought it would be interesting to get some feedback.

I could find no evidence that these high school students preferred the "sizzling sounds of MP3" over higher quality lossless formats, as reported by Jonathan Berger. I also found they preferred the most accurate, neutral loudspeakers when given the opportunity to hear and compare them with something less accurate and neutral.

These results are not too surprising to me, but the media seems to have been reporting a different story over the past year.


Cheers
Sean
Audio Musings
Sean Olive
Audio Musings

  • odigg
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #1
These results are not too surprising to me, but the media seems to have been reporting a different story over the past year.


Who would have thought?  The media reporting sensationalist news without properly researching the claims behind it.

Thanks for this research as it's quite valuable.  I'm curious, have you ever administered a controlled test where you asked listeners to compare a number (say 3) of speakers that are colored a similar way with one neutral speaker?  I'm curious as to if this changes your results since the "normal" speakers may then seem to be colored ones and the neutral speaker seen to be the oddball or deviant speaker.

Also, I was not able to access the slideshow because a google account is needed.  Could you remove this restriction?

Finally, an off topic question.  I've noticed that in a few pictures (e.g. your avatar) you have the K701 headphone.  Is there any particular reason for your selection of this headphone?
  • Last Edit: 19 June, 2010, 12:41:26 AM by odigg

  • solive
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #2
These results are not too surprising to me, but the media seems to have been reporting a different story over the past year.


Who would have thought?  The media reporting sensationalist news without properly researching the claims behind it.

Thanks for this research as it's quite valuable.  I'm curious, have you ever administered a controlled test where you asked listeners to compare a number (say 3) of speakers that are colored a similar way with one neutral speaker?  I'm curious as to if this changes your results since the "normal" speakers may then seem to be colored ones and the neutral speaker seen to be the oddball or deviant speaker.

Also, I was not able to access the slideshow because a google account is needed.  Could you remove this restriction?

Finally, an off topic question.  I've noticed that in a few pictures (e.g. your avatar) you have the K701 headphone.  Is there any particular reason for your selection of this headphone?


Thanks for the feedback. I thought I had shared the Google doc  slide show but I was mistaken - it's now shared.

I've administered numerous tests where one loudspeaker is relatively neutral and the others are colored in different ways. With trained listeners, it's usually not a problem since they can recognize what is colored and what is not.  I have administered some tests where there were clearly  contextual effects where the accurate speaker may have sounded too bright or too dull depending on how many other loudspeakers were in the test that were too bright or too dull.  Usually these contextual effects have more to do with macro spectral balance  effects-- not narrow band colorations. The solution is to have 1 or 2 anchors that are known to be neutral and too bright or too dull.

The AKG K701 headphones are a Harman product, which we use for various purposes: Binaural Room Scanning playback, listener training, etc So I have quite a few pairs of them at work and at home. My Avatar shows my cat wearing a pair  (not his choice)
  • Last Edit: 19 June, 2010, 01:12:37 AM by solive
Sean Olive
Audio Musings

  • odigg
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #3
Thanks for the answers and the slideshow.  I'm curious as to why you used 128kbps MP3s instead of a higher bitrate?  Higher bitrate MP3s are quite common nowadays from sources like Amazon.com.  I was a surprised to see your sample preferred CDs to MP3s, but of course the lower bitrate partly explains this.  128kbps seems to be transparent for many people, so I'm still somewhat perplexed by the results of the CD vs MP3 preference.

Maybe that's the difference between between ages 16-18 and 30+

As for the K701, there is an ongoing fight on if that headphone is neutral or colored.  I thought perhaps you had measured and decided it was the most neutral product out there, but it being a Harmon product is certainly a great reason to use it!

As for my colored versus neutral speaker question, there's always some debate about liking neutrality versus what you are used to if you have been acclimated to a colored speaker.  It's just of ongoing interest to me about how people pick speakers and how they form judgments of what accurate or good sound is.
  • Last Edit: 19 June, 2010, 01:23:33 AM by odigg

  • Notat
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #4
Nice work Sean. You have a fun job and I'll bet the kids had a fun field trip.

The results are not surprising to me either.

I am interested to know how your test subjects were selected. If this was a voluntary field trip, were they self-selected with an interest in audio?

  • Notat
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #5
I'm curious as to why you used 128kbps MP3s instead of a higher bitrate?  Higher bitrate MP3s are quite common nowadays from sources like Amazon.com.

This is answered and acknowledged in the blog post.

  • odigg
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #6
This is answered and acknowledged in the blog post.


Yes, you are right.  So much for the value of skimming.

  • db1989
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #7
Interesting, thanks for posting.

I wonder what would result from a similar trial of dynamic vs. heavily compressed and/or clipped masters.

My Avatar shows my cat wearing a pair  (not his choice)
But he looks like he's having such fun!

  • solive
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #8
Interesting, thanks for posting.

I wonder what would result from a similar trial of dynamic vs. heavily compressed and/or clipped masters.

My Avatar shows my cat wearing a pair  (not his choice)
But he looks like he's having such fun!


That would be an interesting experiment.  If you could show that kids and adults actually prefer their music with more dynamics, etc,then perhaps the record executives would leave well alone the recording when it's mixed and mastered.
  • Last Edit: 19 June, 2010, 01:07:36 PM by solive
Sean Olive
Audio Musings

  • db1989
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #9
I'm sure you'd become a legend here, and in many other places, if you could accomplish that! (Stop getting our hopes up. )

  • solive
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #10
Nice work Sean. You have a fun job and I'll bet the kids had a fun field trip.

The results are not surprising to me either.

I am interested to know how your test subjects were selected. If this was a voluntary field trip, were they self-selected with an interest in audio?


The test subjects were from a local high school in Los Angeles. The school is a Music/Performing Arts Magnate, so many of the students are musically trained - but not all. It made a good sample to compare against Berger's since his subjects in his Mp3 study were also music students attending at Stanford although they were slightly older by as much as 3-4 years.

The high school teacher contacted me wanting a tour of Harman to learn more about the science and engineering of audio equipment. I said fine, as long as I can run your class through some listening experiments, which he jumped at.  I always take the opportunity to gather data when people come to visit me.  You can't in or out of  my lab unless you give me some data. There's no free lunch.
  • Last Edit: 19 June, 2010, 03:10:27 PM by solive
Sean Olive
Audio Musings

  • solive
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #11
I'm sure you'd become a legend here, and in many other places, if you could accomplish that! (Stop getting our hopes up. )


I think I'm already becoming a legend over at the martin logan owners' forum.  The thread is called: "Gen Y prefers more accurate audio - but does not like ML"

They don't seem to like the fact that Generation Y may have better hearing and taste in sound quality than they do...It is interesting that they admit they can identify which model is ML based on how terrible the anechoic measurements are. That's like  OJ admitting that was his glove, DNA, footprint and smoking gun left at the murder scene but he didn't kill her? Hmmm...
Sean Olive
Audio Musings

  • db1989
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #12
Heh, and they're already questioning your methods and integrity . . . Oh well! Does their manufacturer of choice ever do controlled, non-commercial-purpose tests like this?

  • solive
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #13
Heh, and they're already questioning your methods and integrity . . . Oh well! Does their manufacturer of choice ever do controlled, non-commercial-purpose tests like this?


Not to my knowledge; if they did wouldn't they be publishing them in the J.AES, product brochures, or at least on their website?
Sean Olive
Audio Musings

  • db1989
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #14
I'd think so, but in any case I don't follow audio tech news or research.  Still, I had a hunch there wouldn't be any. This seems to render their criticism rather hollow. Oh, and prepare to be sad:
Quote
Looks like his "blog" is just thinly veiled marketing hype for all the Harman branded gear. Totally biased IMHO, and of no educational value. I have removed that "bookmark" from my audio favorites.
Despite the fact you report results anonymously, use double-blind/objective methods, etc. "Science! Huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!" (And I find it useful to read a page before favouriting it.)

  • cyberdux
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #15
Sean, what a fascinating job you have. I think I might be jealous! The youth are often given a great deal less credit than they are due especially by the press. I guess this happens every generation though.

Have you conducted the same experiment by gender? I would find those results very interesting.

(One off the topic question: Why do so many people use cats in thier avatars????)

  • solive
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #16
I'd think so, but in any case I don't follow audio tech news or research.  Still, I had a hunch there wouldn't be any. This seems to render their criticism rather hollow. Oh, and prepare to be sad:
Quote
Looks like his "blog" is just thinly veiled marketing hype for all the Harman branded gear. Totally biased IMHO, and of no educational value. I have removed that "bookmark" from my audio favorites.
Despite the fact you report results anonymously, use double-blind/objective methods, etc. "Science! Huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!" (And I find it useful to read a page before favouriting it.)


Yes, I think  the Catholic Church said something like that (Science! Huh! What is it good for?)when Galileo told them that  their belief system about the solar system didn't jive with reality. People seen to have trouble accepting the truth when they've already put down $3800 on something far removed from it
  • Last Edit: 19 June, 2010, 10:55:55 PM by solive
Sean Olive
Audio Musings

  • solive
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #17
Sean, what a fascinating job you have. I think I might be jealous! The youth are often given a great deal less credit than they are due especially by the press. I guess this happens every generation though.

Have you conducted the same experiment by gender? I would find those results very interesting.

(One off the topic question: Why do so many people use cats in thier avatars????)


Thanks Cyberdux.  .I haven't done the gender analysis yet but there were only 5 females out of the 18 listeners. I plan on running more people through this test so stay tuned

Listener 1 was a female and preferred CD 12/12 times. She said the differences were plainly obvious to her after the  first trial. She wrote back to me to thank me and said she was so excited after the field trip she went home and practiced her violin for 1 hour. I wish I could get my daughter that excited so she would practice the piano  1 hour
  • Last Edit: 19 June, 2010, 11:06:21 PM by solive
Sean Olive
Audio Musings

  • Axon
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #18
Excellent post  but I have two small nitpicks.

Yes, I think  the Catholic Church said something like that (Science! Huh! What is it good for?)when Galileo told them that  their belief system about the solar system didn't jive with reality.
While anti-scientism was certainly the end result, this is a vast oversimplification of the relationship between the Church and Galileo.

At the time, the distinction between secular and religious scientific research was slight; of the (few) secular academics and philosophers, many opposed Galileo; the Pope initially supported the publication of the Dialogues, and some have speculated that his later opposition to it was mostly done for political reasons rather than anything else.

Galileo promoted Copernicanism while opposing Tychonic cosmology, notably omitting any reference to it in the Dialogues, even though it was a numerically equivalent alternative which one could argue was not disproven until several hundred years later (observation of stellar parallax). Of course there are other issues with Tychonic theory related to inertial frames, but there was dreadfully little that was scientifically known at the time which could seriously disprove the scientific theory which was, in fact, being promoted in the Church.

Part of Galileo's dislike of the Tychonic theory was due to a theory of tides he was advocating, which was not merely dead wrong, but internally inconsistent (Wikipedia quotes Skeptical Inquirer as describing this part of the Dialogues as "cockamamie"!).

Also, anybody who frames a debate with a character named "Simplicio" is an enormous douche who deserves to be cockpunched.

---

Also, what's with using underscores for horizontal rules between sections? If you can bold text, you can use <hr>, right?

  • odigg
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #19
The youth are often given a great deal less credit than they are due especially by the press. I guess this happens every generation though.


Damn youth and their 16khz+ hearing.  Maybe that's why they can hear the difference between 128kpbs lossy and CDs.

Have you conducted the same experiment by gender? I would find those results very interesting.


Something that I would find very interesting would be the results with regards to the split between gender as far as a love of gear.  Many audiophiles seem to be men and just as obsessed with gear as they are music.  How would this influence the results of this type of blind test?  Could you measure enjoyment of the different genders based on if the music is being reproduced transparently or not (e.g. a colored speaker on low bitrate lossy file)?
  • Last Edit: 20 June, 2010, 02:58:43 AM by odigg

  • cyberdux
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #20
"Many audiophiles seem to be men and just as obsessed with gear as they are music. How would this influence the results of this type of blind test? Could you measure enjoyment of the different genders based on if the music is being reproduced transparently or not (e.g. a colored speaker on low bitrate lossy file)?"

Sometimes one wonders whether some of these men actually like music at all after many years of bowing down and worshipping at the throne of brushed aluminium, perspex, and glass.

To do this test at all, the gear might indeed have to be hidden. 


PS Please forgive me, I do not know how to "quote" correctly so that the poster quoted is correctly attributed.

  • odigg
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #21
To do this test at all, the gear might indeed have to be hidden.


Yes, that's exactly the type of test I was talking about.  From what I've seen of women and men, there are different ideas of "value," "High End" and so forth and so on.  When if the gear is hidden (as is done in all of Sean Olive's tests) there may be certain psychological factors that play into what different genders consider to be "High Fidelity" sound and what makes for "Good" gear since people will have to guess at what gear is being used.
  • Last Edit: 20 June, 2010, 04:03:05 AM by odigg

  • dhromed
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #22
Have you conducted the same experiment by gender? I would find those results very interesting.


Don't women have a higher upper limit anyway? That one woman's 100% CD preference seems to support that.

Damn youth and their 16khz+ hearing.  Maybe that's why they can hear the difference between 128kpbs lossy and CDs.

Huh, my hearing cuts off at ~17+KHz*, at least on my current setup. Is 28 still "youth"?


*) measured with the audiocheck.net downloaded mp3 and subsequently with foobar's tone:// and Audacity's Chirp. Not that I can hear any of it when there's tons of music below 17, naturally.
  • Last Edit: 20 June, 2010, 08:32:59 AM by dhromed

  • googlebot
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #23
Please don't say "Generation Y".  It makes one look like a media language parrot.

Your project itself is well done, as all the stuff you post here. I hope that it will get the attention it deserves.

  • ajinfla
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Some New Evidence that Generation Y May Prefer Accurate Sound
Reply #24
I have some doubts about concluding that because a speaker was preferred under very unusual circumstances - listened to by a cluster of people, with a single speaker in the middle of a large room, directly in front of the cluster, playing a mono signal - that an accurate prediction for stereo performance in a real room can be made.
Perhaps if the tests were repeated in stereo, with the speakers positioned as the would be in a real, reverberant, typically sized/furnished room and the same preferences remained, then I suppose such conclusions could be drawn.

cheers,

AJ

p.s. I don't own, nor would I own any ML speakers
Loudspeaker manufacturer