energetic, stony character and a chocolatey mid-range

Those are terms I found in descriptions of wine and high fidelity sound, respectively. Descriptors like that have always made me wonder: Do they name anything objective? Do wine experts agree on whether or not a particular wine exhibits an ‘energetic, stony character’? Do audiophiles agree on what a ‘chocolatey mid-range’ sounds like?

Some of these terms are plausible. I can very well imagine a wine having ‘earthy tones’, and ‘tinny’ music is something we can all recognize. But what about the more esoteric descriptors? Which ones are authentic? Are they objective or just subjective? How many are just the inventions of pretentious poseurs?

I’ve heard of experiments where the labels are swapped between bottles of cheap and expensive wines, causing the tasters to praise the cheap wine and criticize the expensive one. I also remember a story about audiophiles being unable to tell the difference between sound carried over deluxe, super expensive cables vs a “cable” made of wire coat hangers soldered together. On the other hand, some wines are definitely and objectively worse than others, and you can certainly tell that speakers make a huge difference in the quality of the sound delivered.

I thought it would be interesting to have a thread to discuss this. Wine lovers and audiophiles, please weigh in! I’ll also do some research and post what I find in the comments.

8 thoughts on “energetic, stony character and a chocolatey mid-range

  1. Haha. People are selling audiophile USB cables. USB!

    No fancy cable can improve USB sound quality, because USB is digital, not analog. The only time it would make a difference would be if you were upgrading from a cable so bad that it caused massive packet loss.

    This company, Snake River Audio, is selling a USB cable for $575. They should change their name to ‘Snake Oil Audio’. Here’s part of their product description:

    Our Boomslang Series of digital cables are hand-crafted one at a time with meticulous attention to detail. We start by taking our own high quality, pure silver (.999) wire. We utilize Single Solid Core wiring – not hundreds of signal-reducing tiny strands. This allows the digital signal to fully open up and ‘breathe’ easily without restraint. No more ‘flat’ digital music. Now, your soundstage is wide open, while maintaining that tight detail and imaging. Truly an incredible cable!

    Lol @ “This allows the digital signal to fully open up and ‘breathe’ easily without restraint.” What a crock.

  2. I used to frequent audiokarma.

    It caters to the loonies and to people helping with technical questions.

    Actual research suggests that people perceive a 2 dB difference in loudness as a difference in quality.

    There’s also the fact that no two speakers have the same frequency response or evenness of output (audio equivalent of viewing angle).

    There are speakers optimized for small rooms and “near field” listening, and speakers designed for large spaces.

    Speakers that cover the lowest audible octave tend to be large and expensive.

    Speakers preferred by rock listeners, and speakers preferred by classical listeners. Mostly based on loudness and frequency response.

  3. Regarding “near field” vs more remote listening:

    Low frequency accuracy is extremely sensitive to speaker placement and room size.

    Also, it’s much easier to design for a small listening area.

  4. petrushka:

    Actual research suggests that people perceive a 2 dB difference in loudness as a difference in quality.

    That’s interesting. I wonder if that’s true across most of the hearing range. And across individuals.

    Thinking out loud, I would guess that louder is preferable to softer at the quiet end of the range, simply because details are hard to hear when the music’s too soft. At the other end, I would expect softer to be preferable to louder because louder is too harsh. If all of that is true, I wonder at what decibel level(s) the preference shifts.

  5. keiths:
    An excellent article on the inability of people to taste the difference between cheap wine and expensive wine:

    Does expensive wine taste better?

    Personal opinion:

    In every category I can think of, I prefer best selling products to artisanal. Wine, brandy, beer. I unashamedly prefer wines and beers that are non-acidic, slightly sweet. Sometimes I’m offered what is described as a good French wine, and if find it good, it’s because it’s a lot like Black Box.

    I think products that sell well for decades have evolved through market tests or focus groups. In other words, via science.

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