Friday night topic: Valuing the subjective

— 6:54 PM on June 21, 2002

Since we published our sound card review this week, we've been hearing a range of whines, moans, and complaints. That happens with almost any big review, and we're used to it by now. (We still love you guys!) In fact, I don't even want to talk about the sound card review. There's already a well-worn place for comments on it.

But one common thread that I noticed amongst the complaints was some very, very serious upset over the inclusion of our subjective impressions of the various cards' audio quality. The interesting complaints were about the very fact that subjective impressions were presented at all.

As if it were somehow sacrilege.

I'm all over empirical, quantifiable testing of PC hardware and many other such inventions. But these objections raise some very interesting larger questions about human reality and perception. In our narrow sphere, one would ask: But human perception isn't so varied as to mean nothing, is it? In some ways, isn't it the ultimate judge of a sound card or a display? Or even a hard drive, for that matter?

And in a larger sense, don't we—no matter what we profess to believe—functionally rely on our own subjective impressions, more than anything else, in order to negotiate our lives? Human perception is limited and faulty, but is it so faulty as to be completely useless?

Discuss. (And take specific sound card review stuff here, please.)

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