Antique bias

The best violinists in the world will tell you that nothing sounds better than a true, million dollar Stradivarius. The proof is incontrovertible & if you hand someone a handmade, Italian Stradivarius and a brand new, just made cheap violin, in a blind test they will choose… The newly made violin

When the lights were dimmed and the musicians donned dark glasses, the soloists' top choice out of a dozen old and new violins tested was by far a new one. So was the second choice, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

As a budding musician, I see this in “The DAW Wars”. People will claim, without any sort of actual backing data, that Such & Such Digital Audio Workstation produces a clearer / better sounding / blah blah blah than DAW X. This is also a phenomenon with audiophiles, who will swear on a stack of LPs that analogue simply sounds better even though they are listening to said ‘analogue’ recording via MP3. There’s also the 44.1KHz / 16bit output idiocy. I hate to tell you folks, CD quality is as good as your ears can possibly hear. Period. Blind studies such as the one above have proven time & time again, the human ear cannot perceive any difference with higher bit & sample rates (this has nothing to do with compression, where a higher bit & sample rate gives less artifacts, but in the end you’re still hearing 44/16).

The sad thing is that this applies to everything, from guns, to sewing machines. People will get into shouting matches of the minutia of their ‘chosen’ whatever, not realizing that if they were to remove the brand label and do a true, blind test (how in the hell would you do that with guns? Count me out of that particular experiment) they’d generally not be able to discern the differences they claim are so important.

A few years back, circa 2000BC (before children), I loved drinking wine. I was at the stage where, completely blind folded, about 80% of the time I could pick out the white from the red, I was that good. But I recall people who were ultra-snooty and would ‘spit out’ bad wine because they could tell what month the grapes were picked in and if the vineyard worker had washed their hands or not.

Turns out, most of those people were full of shit too. Blind taste tests had them raving about the Box Of Wine’s floral hints.

This isn’t to say there’s not a such thing as quality – there is. A good quality [whatever item] will help someone achieve their results better and more predictably. Good tools make the work easier, last longer, and aren’t as prone to falling apart when you need them most & this applies to any tool, be it a gun, socket wrench, piano, riding crop, or chainsaw (sounds like a fun Friday evening, no?)

Just don’t let your bias affect your judgment too much. It will always color it and you’ll tend to move in the directions your biases lead you, but be aware of them. You may be missing out on something you’d like better simply because you believe your particular tool is better because your particular tool is better.

posted by by Robb Allen @
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