The placebo effect, when your brain rules your ears

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WillMorgan
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The placebo effect, when your brain rules your ears

Post by WillMorgan » Wed Apr 16, 2014 2:24 pm

So I'm tweaking the EQ this way and that, doing A/B comparisons carefully and really dial it in so nice then...

DOH! I realize that...

the audio track for the video I'm "working on" is disabled, and I'm actually listening to another track all along, and quite actively imagining all the good my tweaking is doing.

This ain't the first time either.

I have just started trying to pay attention to what I'm hearing, working up some mixing chops... I think part of the reason I'm so easily fooled is when I A/B there is a time delay between A and B, it takes a well functioning sonic memory to compare subtle changes to a clip.

I would be comforted if someone else could relate to this... does it get better? Any testimonials?

The placebo effect works for health, I'm thinking it sells a ton of unnecessarily spendy gear.
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Post by KennyLusk » Wed Apr 16, 2014 5:09 pm

I've heard of this before but honestly can't sympathize. If you turn a knob and you don't hear a difference something's wrong.

Did it just the other day in fact, I was trying to EQ a track and couldn't hear my tweaks/changes, then realized the plugin I was using was actually in bypass mode. But not for a moment did I fool myself into believing I heard changes.

The only thing I can recommend is slow down and be a little more methodical. I have yet to [personally] believe in the placebo effect when listening to audio.
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JWL
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Post by JWL » Wed Apr 16, 2014 6:47 pm

It happens, it's a common enough phenomenon, particularly when listening to an element of a dense mix.

I find that listening in a well treated room reduces this effect, simply because it's easier to hear details in the mix.

When that happens to me, as it does once in a while, I take it as a sign that I need to go get some fresh air and rest my ears for a bit.

I DEFINITELY agree that the placebo effect (or other psychoacoustic phenomena) sells a ton of, as you put it, unnecessarily spendy gear.

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Post by mrpicholas » Wed Apr 16, 2014 8:55 pm

I wish I could say it's never happened to me...

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Snarl 12/8
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Post by Snarl 12/8 » Wed Apr 16, 2014 9:40 pm

I used to do this all the time before I treated my room. Then I could actually catch it auditorially if the eq was bypassed or whatever. Now I'm back in an untreated room working on the wrong channel occasionally again. Having a new mixer doesn't help either.
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vvv
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Post by vvv » Thu Apr 17, 2014 4:23 am

I sometimes find myself doing tweaks and wondering why I can't hear the effect, only to realize I'm working on the wrong channel.
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Post by bluesman » Thu Apr 17, 2014 5:52 am

I have never admitted to doing this : )
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RoyMatthews
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Post by RoyMatthews » Thu Apr 17, 2014 6:30 am

bluesman wrote:I have never admitted to doing this : )
It happens to everyone at one time or another whether they admit it or not.

What also is interesting is when a musician asks me to do x,y,z and before I can do it they're like "that's better". Sometimes I tell them I didn't do it yet sometimes I keep my mouth shut depending on what they asked.
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vxboogie
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Post by vxboogie » Thu Apr 17, 2014 7:03 am

bluesman wrote:I have never admitted to doing this : )
This ^^^ :wink:
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Post by Jim Williams » Thu Apr 17, 2014 8:25 am

Back in the day of large format Los Angeles recording studios I did 'service' for several rooms.

A couple I installed an extra pot on the master module. It wasn't connected to anything. It was called "The producer's pot".

All the AE's were wise to it and used it. Anytime a track or mix needed a "something extra" the producers pot was always used, with success.
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rhythm ranch
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Post by rhythm ranch » Thu Apr 17, 2014 9:13 am

^^^ LOL

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vvv
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Post by vvv » Thu Apr 17, 2014 9:18 am

I have to wonder if "the producer's pot" was located next to the (apocryphal?) console mirror ... :twisted:
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ChrisNW
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Post by ChrisNW » Thu Apr 17, 2014 9:53 am

And not to mention the importance of level matching options A and B.
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Post by Jim Williams » Thu Apr 17, 2014 10:25 am

vvv wrote:I have to wonder if "the producer's pot" was located next to the (apocryphal?) console mirror ... :twisted:
The producers brought their own. There was an "auto suck" installed underneath a large SSL console in a famous Hollywood studio...
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GlowSounds
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Post by GlowSounds » Thu Apr 17, 2014 11:07 am

KennyLusk wrote:If you turn a knob and you don't hear a difference something's wrong.
But you're not just turning a knob. You are turning a specific knob that you know will alter the audio in some very specific way. It's only natural for our brain/ears to have preconceptions about what the aural effect will be. So even if nothing changes, it's a very real phenomenon for us to feel like something did.

I guess that's part of the irony of being an experienced engineer & knowing what to expect from an knob tweak: it's too easy to hear what you expect to happen and not what really happened.

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