The Odd-Even Rule

An exact replica of Einstein’s grave marker.

Now here’s what may sound like an unusual theory… of which I have no doubt, no conventional thinker will believe. Even if they can claim tens of years of experience in audio. If you fit that bill and just react with amusement… then great. Call me the new “Cartoons on Saturday morning”, if that’s all you get out of it. But for serious researchers who latch on to it… it’s kind of a revelation.

I don’t know how many people are aware of the “odd-even rule”, since I only recall one other person in audio talking about it. And that was May Belt, of PWB Electronics. And before you go off and think she “autosuggested me”, uh, no. That’s not the way it went down, either. I noticed this phenomenon long before I saw her speak about it on the net. The difference is, she had a name for it (the “odd-even rule”, natch), I did not. This is something her husband Peter had to deal with constantly, obviously, in his audio research.

Personally, I have been observing this “odd-even rule” since the days I was doing tests with cassette decks. I would hit “PLAY” and it would give one kind of sound. The next “PLAY” would inverse the sound, while the next “PLAY” would return to the previous sound. And no, those predictable set of changes were not due to head misalignment or some “logical explanation” skeptics always run to, for comfort amid these scary “advanced concepts” that always induce such fearful reactions in them. Because this same phenom carried over later, to CDs and software-based mp3 players. Still later, almost everything.

The closest analogy I can use to describe the changes, is inverted phase. Induce a change in sound (or perception of sound), change nothing else, repeat that same procedure, and to careful ears, the sound does not remain the same. It’s only when you continue to repeat the process, that (again, provided you are a skilled listener), you notice a pattern. Your sound is (arguably) “correct” on one playback, “sort of” inverts itself on the next.

Inversion can seem like a change in dynamic contrasts… think of a photograph going from positive to negative. All elements of the picture remain unchanged, but the individual colours are opposite of what they were. On one listen, transients are stronger on the attack, on the next listen, they’re stronger on decay. On continued listens, this dual pattern repeats itself. (n.b. Continued plays also naturally degrade with each play, and then the sound kind of resets itself after a long pause. This of course, can make everything a little harder to make out.

As to the odd/even rule,  the (arguably) “correct” sound, occurs only on odd or even counts. May Belt reports that it’s both; sometimes odd, sometimes even. Most of the time, I observe it occurring on odd counts. I may have indeed observed the “correct sound” condition happening on even counts, in my experiences. But not enough, that I’m ready and willing to confirm that. I’m also not sure what “resets” the count.

e.g. Does the odd/even pattern “reset” after a test session, or does it continue between sessions? I’m not sure because I never tested that out. The only thing I am sure of, is the odd-even rule is a “thing”. It’s a thing that has occurred hundreds of times for me over many years, and others have observed it as well. It occurs when I do recordings on digital audio workstation software, just as it occurs when I install Belt-type treatments. Just as it occurs when I do listening tests via YouTube videos on the smart TV. Whatever I am testing, recording or listening to, I always have to do two tests to properly determine how a change I’ve implemented has taken effect… While everyone else in audio just has to do one! (Lucky them….).

The difference is, when I am able to confirm my sound has improved… it has actually improved. Too many audiophiles I fear, consider “improvements” to be whatever appeals to their prejudices for sound. Unless you are aware of and follow the odd-even rule pattern, you may not know whether changes you hear are due to that, or due to changes you’ve enacted.

· the advanced audiophile

The Odd-Even Rule

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