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“Audio Memory” ?

Discussion in 'audio' started by fegs, Jun 13, 2020.

  1. fegs

    fegs pfm Member

    Having now been a member on here for a couple of months and reading plenty of posts and learning a bit along the way,I got to thinking about “Audio Memory” for want if a better phrase, does such a thing exist?
    Reading posts where people change components or interconnects and then describe the differences is one interesting take on this, because by the time it’s taken to swap something surely that memory is fading?
    I know we can remember what things look, taste and smell like but these also fade with time.
    So does such a thing exist ? Are some people better than others at recalling sound?
    Maybe I’m talking bollocks and this subject has been done to death, apologies if that’s the case
    docstocker likes this.
  2. Whaleblue

    Whaleblue Southbound

    Done to death, normally as cable threads!

    Yes, it exists, but is as prone to error as every other memory. My conclusion is that a bit of “blind” testing can help if you really want to know if that difference really exists, but that’s also fraught with issues.
  3. Caledon1297

    Caledon1297 pfm Member


    (*delete as appropriate) ;)
  4. Vinny

    Vinny pfm Member

    Personally, I am crepe on two counts at this.
    For anything of broadly similar capability, I struggle to remember over more than a few tens of minutes. I also fail abysmally at describing sound.

    I have changed maybe 4 components in my system over the years that were massively different and would have stood out even after not hearing the system for days and possibly weeks. Other than that, A v. B within an hour or so please.

    At the other extreme, I have made changes that have been so subtle that they just begin to tire or annoy me after extended listening, when it hasn't happened previously, and I "hear" no real difference otherwise.
  5. Darren L

    Darren L pfm Member

    Yes it exists and yes some people have a clearer or better recollection or memory than others IMHO
  6. Curtis

    Curtis pfm Member

    The cable believers (cable lifters) have infinitely better audio memory than engineers.
    Best asking them for advice or membership!
    wow&flutter and Bob McC like this.
  7. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    For me yes, definitely. I’m not talking short-term micro-differences like the difference between two similarly measuring cables or whatever, more accurately recalling the things that you liked about a component many years ago. It has happened to me several times over the past decade, e.g. revisiting JR149s after a gap of well over 35 years, returning to idler drive turntables after a similar gap, living with a Quad 303 again etc. All were just how I remembered, but brought into better focus as I have learned so much more about system setup over that time-frame. With all of these things exactly what I loved about them was present and correct. I’m certain the exact same thing would occur with other products I have a strong mental picture of, e.g. the LP12 (of my era), Quad ESLs, Linn Kans etc. I’ve been amazed by just how strong my recollection has been, so many things sounding *exactly* as I remember even after decades.

    The micro-differences less so. When deciding on cables etc I have the phrase ‘Asda difference’ in mind, i.e. if I went shopping to the local Asda down the road for half an hour would I actually be able to tell which of two was plugged into the system when I got back? Some, yes, e.g. I could tell the difference between NAC A5 and my current Mogami for sure, but mostly probably not. Though to be honest with the smaller changes I do things over a far, far longer timeframe and just remove/reverse things out if I feel less comfortable listening after a week or more. I learned a long time ago that ‘initially impressive‘ is almost always ‘worse’!
    Sibbers, Weekender and Robert like this.
  8. vinylslug

    vinylslug pfm Member

    I find my short-term "audio memory" isn't that great. I often wonder if I'm inventing the differences that I might be hearing. But the feeling I have with a set of components over time does stay with me, so after a week or two I can decide with greater certainty what's better/missing/different.
  9. chartz

    chartz If it’s broke fix it!

    There is no real audio memory. All make-believe.

    Changing one little odd thing will have you believe in differences that are just a construct of your mind. Whether it is some passive component, or some op-amp, you actually will hear something.
    But only you mind lured you into being persuaded that you can hear something.

    Have a look at Harbeth forums too.
  10. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Very much marketing-driven IMO; a man who sells speakers argues speakers are the only real difference to be had in a system!
  11. chartz

    chartz If it’s broke fix it!

    I see it differently Tony, but fine!
  12. Darren L

    Darren L pfm Member

    I would say there is definitely auditory memory where a person can play a piece of music on hearing it or where a twitcher can recognise multiple different bird calls or indeed where an individual can recall the way a certain instrument or record player, amp or speakers with a definitive signature .
    Sue Pertwee-Tyr likes this.
  13. Gervais Cote

    Gervais Cote Predator

    I don’t know if it’s memory but here are a few experiences I had :

    Back in the 80’s, I listened to many amps in a show room and a Sugden A48mk2 really stood out of the rest for its musicality. Going back and forth from an amplifier to another made it more obvious even after waiting a few minutes to unplug and plug back the units. That’s the one I bought back then.

    In 2010, same process where I compared some Rega amps against a Nait5, Nait XS and Supernait. Bought the Supernait.

    Speaker wise, listened to many different ones and a tall and narrow Audio Physic was in another world in terms of details I never ever heard on my recordings. It was day and night compared to all of the other speakers in the shop. I didn’t buy them because I know too much detailing would drive me crazy on recordings that are not perfect.
  14. Robert

    Robert Tapehead

    Yes I would agree there Tony.

    Memory is great for the big canvas stuff, the overall impressions of how a component, system or room sounds. This goes back to something on the recent thread discussing accuracy - we all have a broad reference of what sound right and real. At that level, audio memory works just fine.

    The difficulty for us is that differences can often be very small indeed - I'm thinking dacs, codecs, filters, similar topology amplifiers, cables, supports/isolation primarily. This is where it gets difficult and where some sort of controlled comparison which doesn't stress audio memory is useful - sometimes.

    My take on this for, oh the past decade or so now is quite simple. I ask myself, if I left the room to make a coffee and someone swapped that amp, cable, dac, etc in use, would I notice? - are the differences material?
    I often find the answer to that question is no, and that makes life so much easier since I can switch the decision making onto things like design, build quality and aesthetics, or even the ethical position of the manufacturer being attuned to my own.

    By the same token, I've gradually revised my own view on blind and controlled testing.
    It can be very useful in focusing the senses, professional use, and outing audio quackery, but often the differences it highlights are simply not important to most people. Why go to extreme lengths to test for ultra subtle differences which simply don't impact the ability to enjoy a particular bit of kit.
    cooky1257 likes this.
  15. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    That’s exactly where I am but with the caveat that I’m certain some things that I can barely perceive can really impact my enjoyment long-term, e.g. I fell down a bit of a rabbit-hole with ‘posh’ film capacitors on the JR149s a few months back that needed to be reversed-out again to get the magic back. DACs are the same; I can really struggle to tell them apart, but maybe one of a pair I’ll still love after a month, the other will have all but stopped me listening. These days I try not to do anything that isn’t easily reversible and I never sell anything unless I’ve lived with its replacement long-term.
    darrenyeats likes this.
  16. Woodface

    Woodface pfm Member

    I only tend to make big changes now, not bothered about incremental. Last upgrade was from nap250/SBLs to ATC40S, big difference & a fundamental change to my system.
  17. Martyn Miles

    Martyn Miles pfm Member

    I call it ‘aural memory’ and it’s served me well.
    My most memorable ( apologies for the pun ) was the following:

    I was in Horns of Oxford, about ‘69/‘70 to listen to a full Quad system.
    Remember it well.

    Thorens TD124/SME 3009/Shure V15
    Quad 33/303
    Quad ESLs.

    Phil Tandy asked me what I’d like to listen to. Female vocal, I said.
    I had a Nana Mouskouri LP with me so we played ‘Scarborough Fair.’
    I listened, entranced.

    About half way through the track, in came the tubular bells.
    They really ‘hung in the air’ as though they were just behind the ESLs.
    I couldn’t quite believe it, it was so real.
    And I still recall it so well.

    Over the years I couldn’t get near that experience.

    Until I bought an LP12 with a Mission 774 arm and a Entre MC cartridge.
    With Spendor BC1s.

    I still play that Nana Mouskouri track and the tubular bells still hang in the air...
  18. fegs

    fegs pfm Member

    it’s more the memory I’m referring to not the difference perceived or otherwise, for me by the time I’ve swapped something how accurately can I compare it to the previous set up

    I think this could be the case, with me being at the poorer end of the scale

    Asda difference! I like that
  19. Mr Pig

    Mr Pig ^'- -'^

    My memory for a lot of things is terrible. I'm dyslexic. If you told me your phone number I'd have forgotten the beginning before you got to the end. I'm terrible for names, I can only remember things I read if I find the subject interesting.

    But my memory of sounds seems to be very good. For example years ago my son decided he didn't like the sound of his ride cymbal, a Zildjian A Custom. We went to drum shop and he spent ages hitting a wide range of cymbals before he decided he really like a certain Sabian one. I threw my arm up (metaphorically ;0) and said 'are you kidding me? That sound exactly the same as the one you don't like!!'. He insisted that it didn't but when we brought the A Custom to the shop and put the two side by side, they did.

    To be honest, it's a bit of a curse. If I hear a piece of music really click into place it makes it hard to enjoy it again later if things have changed as I know exactly what's missing. This has been a constant problem as I've changed my system over the years.

    I don't know if it's connected but I realized a while ago I am what seems to be called an 'overthinker'. I notice details irreverent to other people and think deeply about everything I see and do and I don't understand why other people don't do the same.
    Sue Pertwee-Tyr and fegs like this.
  20. James

    James Lord of the Erg\o/s

    I remember context and experiences therein very well. But attributing why I like one and not the other to the component level is entirely tenuous. I have heard the same or very similar systems sound both fantastic and dreadful, at different times and places of course. My supposition is that when we assess hifi, we are assessing its performance in a room and we are actually mostly assessing the room. I've heard some budget systems sound great, and some TOTL system sound dire.

    Nonetheless, there are underlying macro characteristics that are detectable and memorable. It is no small coincidence that I have gone back to vintage Jap-fi. You rarely forget the first time your jaw dropped hearing recorded music in high fidelity. Mine was over 40 years ago. How is that for audio/aural memory?

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