1. Things you need to know about the new ‘Conversations’ PM system:

    a) DO NOT REPLY TO THE NOTIFICATION EMAIL! I get them, not the intended recipient. I get a lot of them and I do not want them! It is just a notification, log into the site and reply from there.

    b) To delete old conversations use the ‘Leave conversation’ option. This is just delete by another name.
    Dismiss Notice

Illusions - what do we really see

Discussion in 'audio' started by westsea, Oct 5, 2017.

  1. westsea

    westsea Retirement present

    There are many objective v subjective debates relating to the audio world which I have followed over the last few years, many have turned on the premise that the mind influences significantly that which we hear.
    FWIW here is a link to an annual world wide competition the that asks you to vote for the best visual illusion of the year Voting closes tonight 5th Oct at 9pm
    Declaring an interest - a friend has entered 'Windmills of the Mind' which is science based.
    The question, I think. If our minds can be fooled visually - assuming that you agree that they are, can we similarly be misled by clever marketing in Audio; bear in mind that applications of the illusion competition are used in marketing?
  2. zippy

    zippy pfm Member

    People often forget that it is the brain that does most of the 'hearing' (i.e. it interprets the sounds into something we understand, in this case music).
    As the above visual illusions show, the brain is easily fooled, so yes it must be possible to create auditory illusion which might make something sounds 'better'.
    I have myself heard perfectly reasonable stereo produced by a single speaker (but it had to be in a dark room where the eyes had no influence)
  3. Andrew.B

    Andrew.B pfm Member

  4. whatsnext

    whatsnext Naimless

    I think we all must know someone who's EARS are Infallible and unquestionable.
  5. darrenyeats

    darrenyeats pfm Member

    This is a deep philosophical question I think.

    On the practical side, technical knowledge and blind listening are extremely helpful (though IMV they don't answer everything).
  6. Buntobox

    Buntobox pfm Member

    Psychoacoustics is a big subject. I'm never very sure if I actually hear a difference when something is changed on my system or whether I'm only hearing what I expect to hear, given I know the change has happened.
    I did try an experiment with my wife, who's got a great pair of ears on her. About a year ago I trialled an Isol8 mains cleaner upper and didn't tell my wife it was there. After a couple of minutes of her favourite symphony (Bruckner's fifth, Berlin Phil, Karajan), she said, "What have you done? The bass is tighter and deeper". I took that to be an indication a genuine improvement had occurred and I bought the Isol8 on the strength of it.
  7. adamdea

    adamdea You are not a sound quality evaluation device

    Thereby brilliantly illustrating that expectation bias is as much a problem in experimental analysis as an effect observed in the subjects of experiments.
  8. Julf

    Julf Facts are our friends

    Also see "Clever Hans".
  9. camverton

    camverton pfm Member

    I find that what I actually hear is less important than what I think I hear.

    After all our emotional responses are based on what we think we hear, not necessarily on the measurable sound approaching our ears. The equipment that produces the sound is only part of the equation, our mind being another part, and that is subject to all sorts of influences affecting the illusion of hearing sound recorded in another place appear to be in our living room.

    To resist the influence of our mind is, for most people, futile. Better to embrace it and go for equipment that gives us a sense of confidence that it will deliver a good response in our minds.

    Of course it might be cheaper to train our minds to resist all illusion (and fortunately absurd claims are relatively easy to resist), but then that might get in the way of enjoying the music!

    On that basis a heavy, beautifully constructed amp sounds better than a light one where the casing appears to be made of old baked bean tins. A beautiful looking speaker sounds better than an ugly lump of plastic coated mdf and a clean bicycle always seems to go quicker than a dirty one.

    Beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder, which is why I have a pair of MBL 126 speakers and only clean my bike when it is going to be reassembled in an airport!
  10. Whaleblue

    Whaleblue Southbound

    Unlucky, but I guess you can’t have everything.*

    *I hearby invoke the pfm just-pulling-your-leg article of understanding ;)
  11. Hipper

    Hipper pfm Member

  12. Ciunas Audio

    Ciunas Audio Trade: Ciunas Audio

    That's not an illusion - it illustrates how our perception works - when we focus on something we are often not aware of other things outside of this focus that are 'obvious'.

    It's called inattentional blindness

    There's also inattentional deafness

    It's relevant to listening to audio to hear differences - we can only focus on a small number of elements in the auditory scene at any point in time, thus missing everything outside of this focus
  13. FireMoon

    FireMoon pfm Member

    There isn't a sound engineer or mixer who at some point hasn't....Spent 5 -10 minutes fiddling with say the Bass Guitar sound, trying all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff thinking..."Hmmmm that's better" only to realise that, they were actually fiddling with the wrong channel and you have done 0 to the root of chuff all to the actual sound or level of the Bass.
  14. FireMoon

    FireMoon pfm Member

    It's often mooted in the world of mixing that, The human brain can only concentrate on 3 separate strands of a mix at any one time. That is, you are listening to a mix you are in effect, only say, listening Bass Drums and Vocals and everything else that might be present is just a "background sound". The best way of checking levels in a mix is to play it back as quietly as possible and then, anything that "stands out" as dominant is in need of gaining down and that you cannot hear, ie bass drum needs gaining up.
  15. gingermrkettle

    gingermrkettle Deep vein trombonist

    Jumping genres, explain string quartets then? Also conductors capable of picking out details when a full orchestra is playing?
  16. Cesare

    Cesare pfm Member

    I think the point is not that 4 musicians can't produce a really beautiful sound, or texture, just that it's bloody difficult to follow multiple musical phrases at the same time. I certainly can't follow 4 lines, probably maxing out at 2 and a bit.

    As for conductors, i'm fairly convinced they are space aliens ;-) I think what's normally going on is that they have a memory for what the piece 'should' sound like, and can quickly focus in on an anomaly, so really they aren't following all the musicians, but are spotting the glaring mistakes. If you know a recording well, and listen to another interpretation you tend to get that experience when you go 'no no, that's not how it should be played', and I guess conductors can jump from a score to a mental model of what it should sound like, and then A/B this with what is going on. As I said, space aliens.
  17. AndyU

    AndyU pfm Member

    Luckily, Bach was not so constrained. To say nothing of Mozart. Let alone Gabrieli!
  18. Ciunas Audio

    Ciunas Audio Trade: Ciunas Audio

    As zippy said earlier, it's the brain that does the heavy lifting - that's responsible for auditory perception (processing). The brain has limited capabilities & limited working memory which constrains what we are conscious of, in the moment.

    There are also different ways of listening - analytical Vs holistic (for want of a better word). In analytic listening, we can only focus on a limited number of elements in the auditory scene but in holistic listening (our main mode of recreational listening) we are doing something different - sensing the effect of the whole sound on us, moment to moment.

    So there isn't just one type of auditory processing used when listening - we seem to be able to switch between these modes of listening although I've seen some people who I suspect aren't capable of doing this

    It's premised that in this type of holistic listening we use patterns & statistical analysis. For instance, if listening to the sound of applause, it's a wash of sound we hear, not any particular element although some elements pop out into our awareness, at times. Now listen to the sound of rain on a tin roof & we can usually differentiate this sound from applause. Both consist of a mix of random frequencies with random timing & are changing all the time but they have different statistical frequency distributions.
  19. gingermrkettle

    gingermrkettle Deep vein trombonist

    Or, in extremis, Tallis.
  20. Ciunas Audio

    Ciunas Audio Trade: Ciunas Audio

    Listening in a non-analytic way allows this & anything that jumps out (doesn't fit the expected pattern) gets focussed on, analytically

Share This Page


  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice