venerdì 1 gennaio 2010

Audio upgrades and memory working. (English)

May Belt

From: Regarding my 1998 talk.

This year, we have had a group of new customers who, I have begun to realise, will not have been following the whole Belt story from the beginning (around the mid 1980s).

Many of our existing customers have been with us throughout that length of time and have developed a level of awareness of the effect of our devices and techniques and a fairly good understanding of their effect on the sound !!

Let me try to explain.

People can have what they regard as a level of sound from their equipment which they would (and do) describe as "good". Yes, they would like to improve their sound further if they could, so they become interested in reports of various so called 'tweaking' techniques. They try a technique, hear an improvement - an improvement where they would probably now describe the sound as 'excellent'. But, when they remove the technique (or device) and listen again they find that they can no longer describe the sound as they had done previously i.e as 'good' - even though, previously (before the 'tweak') they had been describing that same sound as 'good'.

Many of our existing customers are, by now, used to this effect happening and are no longer surprised or perplexed as to why they cannot just, automatically, go back to describing their sound as 'good', exactly as they had done previously !!

By the time (in 1998) when I did my talk to a group of P.W.B. Customers, I was already aware of this peculiarity and so, even though I had intended to do my talk in chronological order of our various discoveries, I decided to start my talk with a particular experience.

To set the scene for you I will describe in writing the first few items in my talk. This will give you some idea of how I go about explaining things in my talk - how I attempt to get ideas over to people.

I begin by describing how one can use various methods to get information across.

1) Pen and paper.

2) Blackboard and chalk.

3) Stories - both true and hypothetical.

I explain that I will try to keep things in chronological order but it will sometimes be difficult to do so. That my first story is taken out of chronological order because I want to get certain important points over at the very beginning.

My first story is a true story about a visit to see the Chief Design Engineer of a manufacturer of audio equipment. He had heard of Peter's work and wanted more information.

I introduce the IDEA of a clock because I want to show how time was elapsing whilst we were there.

So, I start my (hypothetical) clock at 1 o'clock. The Chief Engineer usually did most of his listening tests in an area within his workplace where there were his computers and his measuring equipment down one side of the room, and a small area where he had his audio equipment, so we decided to also use that room for Peter to demonstrate his techniques as it was obviously the room which the Chief Engineer was most familiar with.

We listen to the chief engineer's audio system in order to know what standard he usually listened to before Peter did any treatments. We found the sound to be 'slow', 'boring', 'sat on', so we asked if the volume control could be turned up. The Engineer said that of course it could but we had to be aware that, with the volume control higher, when the music got to a 'busy bit', then the sound would go harsh and shouty - and sure enough it did. Usually, when this happens, different people blame different items of the equipment - some blame a 'bright' cartridge., some blame the amplifier., some blame the 'bright' tweeter. I don't remember what the chief engineer blamed on this occasion, but he blamed something !!

Peter did some of his treatments on the computers and measuring equipment, some treatments on the audio system and some treatments on other things in the room.

At 1.15 pm we sat down to listen again. We all now commented that the sound was 'much better'. Peter then did some more treatments on the test equipment, the audio system and things in the room and at 1.30 pm we sat down to listen again. We all now described the sound as 'excellent' and we found that we could now turn the volume control up without the sound going harsh and shouty when the music got to a 'busy bit'. Now, this happens to many of our customers. I know it happens because they write and tell me so. They say "It is amazing, I can now turn the volume control up without the music now going harsh and shouty".

What they do not do is to go back and re assess their old beliefs. They do not say "Wait one moment, wait one moment. For the past five years I have been blaming the cartridge for the sound going harsh and shouty." or "For the past ten years I have been thinking the amplifier was to blame, or, for the past fifteen years I have been blaming the tweeter - I am using the same tweeter, I have not touched the tweeter, I have not touched the cartridge, but the sound is no longer harsh and shouty." They don't challenge their earlier beliefs - they just say "Oh, its amazing".

Peter carried out some more treatments and at 1.45 we sat down to listen again.

"Wow, that is really superb sound" we all commented.

What Peter did next was to remove a few of the treatments from the test equipment, from the audio equipment and from some things in the room and at 2.0 o'clock we sat down to listen again. The sound was dreadful and we found that we had to now turn the volume control down as the music had gone harsh and shouty again.

What happened next shocked me then and still shocks me to remember it.

The Chief Engineer said "I do not understand that Peter. I do not like the sound now and yet all you have done is to take me back to the standard we had half an hour ago which I was describing as excellent. And yet I am now cringing at the sound".

Why I was shocked was that I realised that here was a Chief Engineer, designing and making audio products who had no understanding whatsoever of how the working memory works. The working memory is part of the survival mechanism and upgrades itself completely automatically to new standards and new information IF that new information is important. During that short period of time, our working memories had upgraded themselves automatically to the new standard of 1.45 pm and did not like being taken below that standard when we listened at 2.0 o'clock after Peter had removed a few of his treatments. The cringe (at 2.0 o'clock) is our working memory shouting, kicking and screaming because it had been taken below the standard (at 1.45 pm) it had just become accustomed to !!

The important points I had wished to raise with that story was

a) Different people blame different items of equipment for the sound not being as good as they wished i.e going harsh and shouty.

b) When they do something which removes this harsh, shouty effect whilst still listening to these same items of equipment, they do not go back and re assess their previous beliefs.

c) The working memory is part of the survival mechanism and upgrades itself automatically if the new standard or new information is important.

May Belt

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