Audio Engineering Society

Chicago Section

Meeting Review, September 16, 2008

other meeting reports

9/16/08 Meeting Highlights
by Nick Kettman

Tom Nousaine spoke on the topic of audio myths at the Chicago section’s first meeting of the 2008-2009 season. Mr. Nousaine has written for various audio publications over the years, including Stereo Review, Sound and Image, Mobile Entertainment, Audio/Video International, and Car Stereo Review. He is a self-described devotee of bias-controlled listening tests. Using such tests, he aims to disprove many of the myths which persist in the field of audio reproduction. Approximately 50 area professionals were in attendance.


One reason for the persistence of audio myths is the “magical” quality of reproduced sound. For example, two speakers can produce a phantom center image, even though no sound source is present at the apparent location of the image. Audio myths develop and are perpetuated through common bias mechanisms. These include: 1) sensory mechanisms, which can lead to confusion in perceived audio qualities (a tendency to prefer the louder of two otherwise identical systems, for example); 2) psychological mechanisms, which can affect decision-making tendencies (attempting to validate a purchasing decision after the fact, for example); and 3) social bias, which includes expectations and coaching. Some myths persist because they serve a merchandising function. An example of this is the proliferation of specialized, “high-quality” (and over-priced) audio cables which are point-of-sale margin enhancers for many retailers.


Several common myths were discussed, including the audibility of “high-resolution” digital audio, the audio quality differences of various capacitor types, the need for a break-in period on new loudspeakers, and the risk of damaging a tweeter with an under-powered amplifier.