"Violinists blast holes in violin experiment"

A follow-up to a recent thread. I felt the interesting nature of this article warranted a fresh thread.

Τheater of the absurd.
So where do you wish to focus on? Preplanned conditions for predictable outcome. Another evidence of solemn manipulation and a compelling proof of the inexhaustible machinations the industry devises in order to fulfill their marketing needs. I'm excited by Frank Almond's decision to expose this parody festival.
This is interesting beyond the usual.
Double blind testing...and I am not a psychiatrist so don't believe what I'm about to say....wreaks havoc with the evaluative process of people...puts them in an almost paranoid state.

Example...we all know what pineapple tastes like, right?
Blindfold a group, and fool them with (you may have to mash it so the texture doesn't give it away)...oranges or some other fruit that can pass as similar.

Recently the movie, 'Hereafter' featured a cooking segment in which the 'chefs' were asked to, while blindfolded, identify various foods...they could not.

I started playing Alto Sax as a child of 7 years old...my parents bought an inexpensive Conn, as I recall...at 17...playing professionally, I bought a Selmer Mark VI, considered to be the 'best' of the day...the difference was, in a word, unbelieveable...not just in the way it played for me the musician, but for (and I realize that it's interactively related) those listening...'Wow, what did you do?' 'Gee, you sound like a different musician Larry, what's up?'

So, to say that the Strad sounds the same, or there's no difference only points to the lack of scientific safeguards that have to be taken during any experiment of this kind.

Jim Thiel, one time, many years ago said to me...'There's no such thing as a small difference Larry...it depends entirely on who's experiencing that difference.'

That stuck with me, resonated...some thirty years later, I'm remembering it and passing it on.

Good listening,

When blindfolded, even professional chefs often fail at identifying common foods, or even determining which is pork and which is turkey.
Yes, double blind test can be poorly designed, implemented and the results can be misconstrued. At the same time human senses can be easily confused, mislead and outright wrong. The problem for audiophiles is that we hold as an article of faith that we can tell very subtle differences between equipment using our flawed senses.

As a famous audiophile once said, "a man's got to know his limitations".
I don't know if the experiment was well designed or not, but it just seems odd to me that owners of very expensive violins and audio gear are so adamantly opposed to being asked to identify it without being able to see what they are listening to.
I daresay that had the tests returned a result in favour of the old 'Strads'......there would be not a voice raised in protest?
The best results in audio come from blind tests. This is especially true for turntables. The pretty ones with the names were always considered so much better than "Rega"; however, in blind tests that changed. Some of those much more expensive than Rega were graded equal, which is why I own a "Rega'.
I particularly liked the title of the article, 'They Blinded Me With Science'(very profound, but- could have been, "Deafened Me"). The bottom line though: As long as YOU are satisfied with the staus quo(your system, listening abilities or whatever), that's all that matters(in YOUR room). I suppose it's human nature to try to convince others that their senses and abilities are all wrong. Especially when yours fail to discern, or identify, differences. A good man will understand that his limitations do not apply to everyone. BTW: Great quote, Lrsky!
Thx Rodman99999.
Nice to know someone is paying attention...my comments about the Chef's class apparently went unnoticed...
To the original point...when I ran my own audio store...I worked for years to be able to do blind tests...
I would always do an A/B/A

New cables would arrive...I'd listen to the A...then the B....then the A...making notes on each...Don't try to fool me with repeats...let me hear it in that order.
BUT...it's not for everyone...early on, I felt staged...as if I was being tested...funny.
In later years...it came more naturally...but I can fully see the stress that this kind of experience creates.

Jim Thiel...one of a kind...sorely missed...not only brilliant...a gentle soul.


Interesting point.
I'd say that you're probably right...but only because it would seem to support conventional wisdom and not fly in the face of it.

We've been told for years that the Strads were the Violin to own...anything that supported that theology would not be questioned...you're most likely 100% right.

Great catch.

Larry, based on your experience doing A/B/A blind tests and no surprises, do you think that your expectations might have influenced what you heard?

Don't be so sure about blind tasting. I attended blind wine tastings every Tuesday night (+/- 30 per year) for about three years with industry professionals (excluding myself, just an enthusiast who was friendly with the owner of the restaurant that hosted these events).

Bottom line: skills vary. Two individuals were astonishingly accurate. The tastings were themed around similar wine types; for example high end Napa Cabernets on one night or modestly priced Chardonnay from the Macon on another. Wines were placed in numbered bags by the restaurant staff and poured by same. No way to cheat - as far I could figure, anyway.

Both of the above mentioned tasters could identify their own product from a batch of 20-25 similar wines with near 100% accuracy (when they had an eligible product of their own in the running). They were also highly accurate in identifying vintages, properties and producers - though rarely all three at once. Both could also consistently identify the one "ringer" that was always introduced. Both of them picked out which 2 wines were identical on both occasions that a single wine ended up being contributed twice. Incidentally, that is a hard trick. When one of them told me which 2 he thought were identical, I went back to re- taste. I objected to his conclusion on the grounds that one was more tannic. He responded that the more tannic bottle was colder.

Like most people who attended these events (experienced tasters, all), I would have great nights on which I was impressed with my own skill and embarrassing nights on which I provided fodder for years of abuse at the hands of other attendees. Skilled tasters can be consistently discerning when operating "in the dark". Less skilled tasters - like yours truly - maybe not so consistent.


"Larry, based on your experience doing A/B/A blind tests and no surprises, do you think that your expectations might have influenced what you heard?"

OK, I'm thick some times, so maybe I'm misunderstanding, if so forgive me.
By doing the test the way we did...A/B/A , and NOT knowing what A or B was...I can't imagine that I had ANY expectations.
I knew we had a control and a variable.
Let's say new preamp...A, might be an existing one in the store...B might be the new one, but I didn't have any idea which was which...so 'expectations' could not have been part of my thinking.

Emperically...how does A sound...importantly, after that evaluation, how does B compare? How is it better? Worse?


My question asks if once you have zeroed in on what the differences between cable A and cable B are, can you identify those differences if you don't know whether you are listening to cable A or cable B?

I am not trying to attack you personaly. I have always been puzzled that audio reviewers can go on for pages about the "jaw dropping" differences between component X and component Y but if you ask them to listen blindly and determine whether they are listening to X or Y they give you all kinds of reasons why blind tests are flawed as they back out the door.

I am not an objectivist. I believe that many differences in components can't be measured yet. Jitter was not observed for years after cd was introduced for instance.

Also, I understand that long term listening in familiar surroundings is the way to determine which components one prefers. But I am puzzled as to why professional reviewers are so opposed to any form of blind testing and just wanted to get your experience with the process. I am not trying to start an argument about blind testing and I hope I don't.
Whether the Strads are superior instruments or not, that the new instruments are sonically close enough to even have this argument. I think the new instruments have proven that, objectively, the Strads and Guaneris are worth millions more only because of their rarity, not because of their sound is millions better. The sonic gap in new vs old is much narrower than their prices indicate.
I make custom endpins for cello and bass. Most musicians have trouble hearing a difference between pins, even when there is a 1 db difference in output between 2 pins under audition. This could be caused by their position under the ear and behind the instrument. When someone else plays their instrument and the original player is listening in the audience then that musican can hear the difference immediately.

Also if a violin is under the chin and has or has not a chin rest the instrument will mechanically react with the players skull and facial structure. We don't just listen thru our ears we use many parts of our body to make audible judgments. Tom
**** I think the new instruments have proven that, objectively, the Strads and Guaneris are worth millions more only because of their rarity, not because of their sound is millions better.****

Yes, it is amazing and fortuitous that one could get "close" to the sound of the best for a lot less money. But how does one put a price on the best? To a great artist, having the very best is a no-brainer and easily justifies the expense.

Excellent observations, Theaudiotweak. Thanks for sharing.
Audiotweak, I agree, and apparently the eyes are the most important after the ears. I wonder why some people choose to listen in the dark or with their eyes closed. Doesn't make sense does it?
I have read that violinists spend hours, days, weeks "working in" their instruments in order to be able to get the response & feel they are looking for. That is if someone, even another virtuoso, picked up Nigel Kennedy's violin and played it for a few minutes, then it may take Kennedy hours/days/weeks of playing before the instrument is back to where he wants it.
If this is true then the test really doesn't prove much as the tone & feel of the violins will be changing every time someone plays it.
My endpin designs actually seem to set up new vibrational patterns within the wooden body of the instrument. My pins are more reactive by design as well as serve as a method for mechanical grounding.

The very cool thing about all of this is that the wood has a memory even though the materials maybe a few hundred years old. A new pin can fire new vibrational patterns and you can sense all of this happen with your very ears over a matter of minutes. The cello will grow in physical size and stature. You will hear the tone become more extended in both directions and it will take on more bloom and focus at the same time. The first time I recorded this by accident it almost floored me. The other thing that happens goes back to my first point. When the musician took my pin out of the same cello and put his original pin back and played the same passage the cello sounded the same. This to me was a huge disappointment until as he played longer I could hear the instrument collapse and revert to its original sound shape. That only took a few minutes. I found this remarkable that dead wood could still have new pathways of sonic convergence align and dissapate all caused by the introduction of a new material and geometry.

As Dover wrote a musician's playing style probably would be retained with in the instrument until the next player came along and played his style into the same wooden body.How long does it take to pour the old influence out and pour the new influence into the body? I found with my devices that this can happen in minutes but improves greatly over time..became more whole and organic. With no added device to the playing of the violin the only variations would be the musician's technique and the his or her's bone strutcure

Based on my experience with the cello that they do have a variable acoustic memory and because of that I would take no stock in the methods or findings of the violins under test.
Tomcy6...to be honest...yes, I believe I can.
A few years ago, I went to an audio store to hear a particular Integrated amplifier on a pair of speakers that I'm very familiar with.
About 30 seconds into the audition, I asked:
"Are you using Audioquest speaker wires and or interconnects?"
The salesman was floored, as he knew I couldn't/hadn't seen the cables or interconnects.
Speaker cables and interconnects can, and sometimes do, offer very subtle changes, nuances to or FROM the sound.
Generally, at least for me, errors of commission are easier to quantify than errors of simple omission-I suppose this would fall under the topic of 'It's not what's right, but what's wrong', that creates dissatisfaction in an audio system.

The degree to which I can/do identify differences is fairly constant...the variable nature of cables, again, depending on their sonic character and the aforementioned omission/commission characteristics would be the keys to my ability to hear it.
Generally, longer sessions make those evaluations easier for me...as I do NOT grow accustomed to the sound...the longer I hear it incorrectly, the more I dislike it.

Blind tests, again, to me, are easy...I grew to become good at it, but it took many months/years of losing that 'angst' most people seem to experience when 'staged' with such tests/comparisons.

I hope this makes sense...great question.