Yes boys and girls and kids of ages, welcome to The Great Debate between John Atkinson and
Arny Krueger. John, a mild mannered British gentleman who also edits Stereophile magazine, is going head to head with
Arny Krueger, the Internet's Rec.Audio.xxxxx newsgroup naysayer and DBT (double blind test) advocate. This long-awaited debate has been years in the making.
In the left chair wearing a blue striped Ralph Loren Polo shirt is John Atkinson who feels that subjective reviewing is a valid way to access the way a component reproduces music. In the
right chair is Arny Krueger wearing a black suit with white collared shirt who feels that subjective reviewing
may be improper and that measurements and DBT (double blind testing) reveals the way a component will reproduce music.
Arny is at a disposition as his Power Point presentation was not viewable as
they could not get the video system to operate. Arny proclaims to have a BA in engineering
earned in 1973 and has been an audiophile since 1958 and through today. Arny also says he designed the world's first ABX comparator. This device allows a 'blind' comparison of
components that helps to eliminate emotional and personal influences from skewing a
person's judgment. Basically, a more scientific approach to analyzing the different between
items versus Stereophile subjective listening assessments.
Arny claims each human being is different, and as such our senses are different. That our findings are, at best, provisional and perhaps dependent on knowledge that can change as our knowledge changes. Therefore not everyone will agree on everything. It
is with reason and science that we can minimize our notions. One of Arny's major complaints
is that Stereophile woefully ignores evidence where the conclusions drawn are wrong.
John counters with a story... A man is in his 20's thinks he knows everything
whereas a man in his 60's realizes he knows little. John, being in his 20's in 1978, agreed to join a Martin
ABX test of two different amplifiers. The test was between a tube and a solid-state amplifier. No one during this test heard any difference. Armed with this knowledge, John sold his then expensive amplifier and purchased
a lesser expensive one at the time because he could not hear any difference in
the ABX test.
After six months John could no longer listen to music through the new, lesser
expensive amplifier because it was not enjoyable as a music reproducer. Naturally John chose to purchase one that he felt was enjoyable. So John went from an objective opinion to one
of being more subjective. So in the end he feels that publishing reviews via
subjective listening is a better way than objective principles. After personally taking many blind tests over many years, John feels that blind tests form a null result, even when real differences do occur.
Arny counters, what is the standard which one becomes knowing when two amplifiers sound different? One of the interesting aspects of one of
Arny's websites is that there are tests for people to hear what may be differences between amplifiers. These are sound files available for people to download and listen to so they can make their own assessment. One of the things
Arny discovered is that good power amplifiers are hard to distinguish if you pass a signal through once, though if you pass a signal through a relatively small amount of times the difference are detectable.
Arny collected data on five amplifiers within an 8-hour day and claims to have achieved a positive result as to their differences.
John asked, so you agree there are differences in power amplifiers? So why is our way of testing wrong?
Arny says it is a matter of degree and quantification and he feels he knows the "breaking point" and where you may have a problem. High-end magazines always have problems. There needs to be set known conditions of when an amplifier shows that it has a sonic signature. There needs to be clarity of the testing conditions. There
also needs to be a traceable way to analyze the differences. Arny states that all magazines operate "single pass" tests, which are incorrect as multi-pass tests are required.
John says that most of the reviewing in magazines is done singly in a reviewer's system.
Arny argues that you have changed the consciousness of the listener as he is trying to evaluate
the device under test so an opinion can not be made without changing the metal state of the listener to the same it was before he changed the amplifier.
Arny says is that if someone can not reliably tell the differences between items, then there may be no difference. In the context of long term listening, the perception tends to focus on small listening passages on larger musical works. By using a disc with
excerpts of just these small passages it can assist in hearing differences in a rather fast manner.
During the question and answer session,
Stereophile writer and recording engineer John Marks asks, "In terms of a system to record and ply back music, it is important that the system maintains phase
Arny: No way Jose. Absolute polarity comes up negative in tests (so can not be detected).
JA: It is detectable.
Arny: what we found is that with some recordings that do make phase detectable. You need to use loudspeakers of even order distortion. You need to practice proper audio "hygiene" to eliminate problems that make phase detectable.
There were other questions, yet some were quite long-winded.
In the end it appears they both agreed there are differences, yet it is how Stereophile
magazine draws their conclusions (methodology) and quantifies them. My hopes are that i have properly captured the essence of the debate so that
readers can draw their own conclusion, if any.