Comparative Listening Tests

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Mike Lavigne

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Apr 25, 2010
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#41
It's been my experience that there rarely are any differences in SQ with one component change that one could call ...an epiphany moment! Small changes that can add up through time and multiple equipment changes do indeed make differences.
Contrary to what so many reviewers have written, the epiphany moment just isn't that common imho.
However, a change in cabling can certainly give one a boost in SQ. It can also be a step backwards, depending on numerous variables. The greater the ability of the system to resolve, the more one can notice differences, albeit the fact that they may be small.
Isn't that what this hobby is somewhat about, always sharpening.....always sharpening!
I think Jack's post above makes the most sense...and is generally how I determine how to keep gear too.
agree on gear changes, or even speaker changes to a degree. it's incremental with rare exceptions.

OTOH room tuning directions and their consequences can have profound 'Epiphany' moments for sure......and can be transformative. the big steps involve system synergy, not tweaks to the signal path.
 
Last edited:
Jun 17, 2010
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#42
Perhaps I'm the opposite of a 'real audiophile', then ;) About 15 years ago, I spent a few thousand dollars on custom interconnects that I absolutely thought made a huge difference (and a whole lot more on speaker cables by the same manufacturer, but that's another story). More recently, after doing a significant amount of blind A/B testing, I replaced these interconnects with a $60 pair of pro-audio interconnects and I couldn't tell the difference while blind. Since then, I have occasionally swapped the cheaper cables for the custom ones to see if a long-term evaluation would reveal something different. And I must say, I always preferred the cheaper cables, so that's what stayed in my system. Am I now banned from audiophile circles? :)
LOL ..... Paul, way too many 'audio fools' banned themselves from common sense long ago !
 
Jan 29, 2014
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#43
Room treatment and DIRAC were my epiphany's .. real audible changes of a profound nature. My speakers were the third revelation from what I had before .. Im upgrading tho , next week , to G1 spirits . I dont expect as much of an improvement as to when I got my G1's .. it will probably be more incremental but thats ok with me.
 

PeterA

Well-Known Member
Dec 7, 2011
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#44
It's been my experience that there rarely are any differences in SQ with one component change that one could call ...an epiphany moment! Small changes that can add up through time and multiple equipment changes do indeed make differences.
Contrary to what so many reviewers have written, the epiphany moment just isn't that common imho.
However, a change in cabling can certainly give one a boost in SQ. It can also be a step backwards, depending on numerous variables. The greater the ability of the system to resolve, the more one can notice differences, albeit the fact that they may be small.
Isn't that what this hobby is somewhat about, always sharpening.....always sharpening!
I think Jack's post above makes the most sense...and is generally how I determine how to keep gear too.
I tend to agree with this. I've made a few small changes over the past year or so. Individually, they seem minor and only incremental improvements. However, all together, they add up to something pretty dramatic. It is hard to assess small improvements over time, especially, because I tend to listen to the same group of LPs for reference. The other day I listened to a batch of LPs that I had not heard in a few years. Boy, did they sound different from the way I remember them sounding in my system. I'm sure my memory is somewhat faulty, but I think occasionally hearing a familiar record that one has not heard in a long time can indicate the level of cumulative improvement that he has made over time. It can be both surprising and a lot of fun.

This is also often the case when one visits an audio friend who has made a number of changes since the last time one visited. Familiar music helps.
 

DaveyF

Active Member
Aug 1, 2010
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#45
Here's an interesting thought... because most of us on this forum ( maybe all) are not new to the hobby, and we are coming from systems that are 'high end'; perhaps we have a certain level of exposure to good/great sound that precludes the 'epiphany' moment too frequently. However, I'm fairly certain that the newb or the guy ( or gal) who is coming from the typical entry level system ( Bose, etc) or even the mid-fi system would likely have an 'epiphany' moment when hearing the systems that most of us enjoy.
Mike, I do agree that room tuning is where most of the 'epiphany' moments have come from...which is why I was a little saddened ( not too much, LOL) when the audio fools at the other forum dismissed my findings regarding the Shakti's with nothing but closed minds and stupid comments. Not one had even listened to this piece of gear, and not one had any real experience with room tuning. Still, their loss, LOL. I think even though we are very easily persuaded by 'expectation bias' in this hobby, it is always best to keep an open mind and if something 'works' for us, then that is perhaps all we need. IMHO, trying to second guess the science ( or lack thereof) behind something is not that helpful....IOW, let you ears do the talking ( and hopefully the listening...:D ). It's all good.:cool:
 

RogerD

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May 23, 2010
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#46
Incremental improvements do add up and do move a listener literally closer to the music,but one must remember that all recorded music is captured by a microphone(s). Those microphones take the place of the listeners ears in the environment of the actual recording space. There is a distinct correlation between resolution and dimensionality that can be reproduced in a recording whether captured more naturally or engineered. This is where the real epiphany can take place,where space and time is close or perceived close to reality. I call this level thresholds,because it is far greater then a incremental advance. So as the level of space and time increases,so must the level of clarity increase with it. It is the most exciting part of this hobby to be sure. It always can get better...but there is a end,I just haven't reached it yet.
 
May 30, 2010
14,139
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Portugal
#47
Since this paper did not, for obvious reasons, examine all cables in all systems I would consider the findings to be true and valid for the experimental setup and the listeners involved.

In his paper about subjective listening tests Jon Risch said:

It must be kept in mind, that the test results, any
subjective test results, are only valid for those papticipants,
on that particular sound system in that particular room, with
the particular musical selections used. It takes a series
of tests, using different sound systems/rooms/music to
determine if a more universal outcome will result.


http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=5538

To answer your question: No, it would not change anything in my system. The best it could possibly do is trigger my interest so that I go and try cables myself, with the best possible controls I would be able to implement as a layman.

Klaus
The comment about excessive generalization, a common sin in audio forums, is spot on. IMHO hyperbole in a particular system can be easily accepted and understood, the real problem is people look at a specific enthusiastic comment it as being a transposable and universal conclusion.

To answer your question: No, it would not change anything in my system. The best it could possibly do is trigger my interest so that I go and try cables myself, with the best possible controls I would be able to implement as a layman.
I think your answer displays the same possible attitude that most audiophiles take on hyperbolic reports - it triggers their interest. Now the problem is that the "best possible controls I (we) would be able to implement as a layman" are IMHO usually more vicious than sighted listening due the limitations created by blind listening, particularly the short time allowed to such sessions and the pressure to find reliable differences.

Anyway, as there are no known accepted scientific studies on cables in high-end systems, audiophiles are influenced by empirical knowledge - for example we know that we can easily ruin the sound of a system using subjectively inadequate cables, that can be objectively perfect.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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#48
Ron, I sense that you are a bit skeptical about all of this listening evaluation stuff. You certainly seem to be questioning its reliability. You are a published reviewer and you traveled around the world auditioning, and then describing in great detail, the various super speaker systems you heard in your search for your next pair of speakers. What system of evaluation do you use and are you confident with your conclusions? How reliable is your memory and do you think it can be trusted?

I appreciate your frankness and introspection especially from the point of view of a reviewer. I don't think I have read such circumspection or skepticism about one's conclusions, especially from someone who reviews audio gear.
Dear Peter,

Thank you for your post.

In my opening post I had in mind small component changes and tweaks –– things like replacing AC receptacles or changing a single interconnect. The reviews I wrote were based on whole system listening impressions. I didn't report on, nor would I report on, a system both before and after a mere cable change or some tweak.

For example, after my visit to Gryphon Audio and my Pendragon review I never went back to Gryphon to report the sonic differences after Flemming made a cable change or added some acoustic treatment, comparing what I heard in my second visit to what I heard months earlier.

I think the questions raised in my opening post don't apply to one-time reports about impressions of whole systems.
 

asiufy

Member Sponsor
Jul 8, 2011
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almaaudio.com
#49
The comment about excessive generalization, a common sin in audio forums, is spot on. IMHO hyperbole in a particular system can be easily accepted and understood, the real problem is people look at a specific enthusiastic comment it as being a transposable and universal conclusion.
OMG this is spot-on!
Very common for folks to read one of those "Mr. X went from Brand Y to Brand Z and is now completely amazed!", and then immediately assume Brand Z must be the PANACEA, proceed to audition it and be left wondering what was Mr. X drinking when he came to that conclusion...
All too often people forget that a system is made of many components, and one little difference in there could affect the outcome big time.


cheers!
Alex
 

stehno

New Member
Jul 5, 2014
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Salem, OR
#50
OMG this is spot-on!
Very common for folks to read one of those "Mr. X went from Brand Y to Brand Z and is now completely amazed!", and then immediately assume Brand Z must be the PANACEA, proceed to audition it and be left wondering what was Mr. X drinking when he came to that conclusion...
All too often people forget that a system is made of many components, and one little difference in there could affect the outcome big time.


cheers!
Alex
That sounds a little too deep. Isn't Microstrip really just describing in a round-about way a "newer" listener i.e. one who lacks seasoning, training, composure, etc.?
 
Jul 18, 2014
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#51
OMG this is spot-on!
Very common for folks to read one of those "Mr. X went from Brand Y to Brand Z and is now completely amazed!", and then immediately assume Brand Z must be the PANACEA, proceed to audition it and be left wondering what was Mr. X drinking when he came to that conclusion...
All too often people forget that a system is made of many components, and one little difference in there could affect the outcome big time.


cheers!
Alex
+1 there is generally waaaay too much referencing to the subjective experiences of just one or two therefore being somehow universal justification to a component being absolutely best or better.

But subjective data can be very valuable when broader in range. When we have a building and more lasting pattern of more positive subjective data points then that is clearly much more credible in real terms.

An example could be those dac of the months that then go on to become more like dacs of the years... the shortlist of dacs that are then regularly cited as being among the handful of the best.
 
Apr 3, 2010
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Seattle, WA
#52
Simple exercise. Play a track on your system. Change nothing. Go and play it again and this time pay real attention. Does it sound the same? I bet it does not. I just tested myself and it absolutely sounds different alternate times. If you hear it the same every time you are not human!

I have been through countless double blind tests where I "heard" a difference solid as day is bright, only to have the program tell me the two files were identical. Yet observation of difference was 100% real in my mind.

Expectation bias is not the biggest enemy. The biggest enemy is that we don't perceive audio the same all the time when it comes to detail, air, small differences, etc. It is this factor that convinces us that everything changes sound. Everything does not change sound. It is us, who is so easily convinced that audio changes when it absolutely does not in countless scenarios.

At some point in one's audiophile life, you need to determine how reliable your listening is. Come up with some test, any test, where the answer is 100% known and see if you arrive at it. I don't know how folks spend money not knowing, or wanting to know the validity of their opinion.
 

cjfrbw

Active Member
Apr 20, 2010
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#53
Yup, Amir is right. Audio is a floating perception tied to a movable feast. It also has accommodation, meaning, your perceptions change as you listen due to the brain's processing, actually altered by what you are listening to. It means it is a bitch to get meaningful data corralled with audio perception.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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#54
Simple exercise. Play a track on your system. Change nothing. Go and play it again and this time pay real attention. Does it sound the same? I bet it does not. I just tested myself and it absolutely sounds different alternate times. If you hear it the same every time you are not human!

I have been through countless double blind tests where I "heard" a difference solid as day is bright, only to have the program tell me the two files were identical. Yet observation of difference was 100% real in my mind.

. . .
This is very interesting, Amir.
 
Jan 29, 2014
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Cape Town South Africa
#55
I can identify with Amir on this.. there have been a few times when I was tweaking a parametric to the nth degree till the sound was just right only to find I was in bypass mode
Yesterday I redid my DIRAC measurements after repositioning my speakers and eventually gave up tweaking the target curve as my brain was getting fried .. I lost my way .. this morning after a good schloff , it all snapped back into place.
As to comparative stuff , ideally I like to do instant level matched AB comparisons if possible , but alas its not possible all the time
I also believe that if a listener thinks they hear a difference , even if it does not exist , it is a truism for them .
I live in a country where folk actually die or get sick if they think they have been cursed by a witchdoctor .. the mind is a potent thing...
 

FrantzM

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
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#56
I can identify with Amir on this.. <snip>
As to comparative stuff , ideally I like to do instant level matched AB comparisons if possible , but alas its not possible all the time
I also believe that if a listener thinks they hear a difference , even if it does not exist , it is a truism for them .
I live in a country where folk actually die or get sick if they think they have been cursed by a witchdoctor .. the mind is a potent thing...
Entirely agree with this post, especially with the 2 last sentences, it bears repeating this :

if a listener thinks they hear a difference , even if it does not exist , it is a truism for them
I could add that from that point, the perception cannot be debated or questioned.
 

jkeny

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Feb 10, 2012
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#57
Simple exercise. Play a track on your system. Change nothing. Go and play it again and this time pay real attention. Does it sound the same? I bet it does not. I just tested myself and it absolutely sounds different alternate times. If you hear it the same every time you are not human!

I have been through countless double blind tests where I "heard" a difference solid as day is bright, only to have the program tell me the two files were identical. Yet observation of difference was 100% real in my mind.

Expectation bias is not the biggest enemy. The biggest enemy is that we don't perceive audio the same all the time when it comes to detail, air, small differences, etc. It is this factor that convinces us that everything changes sound. Everything does not change sound. It is us, who is so easily convinced that audio changes when it absolutely does not in countless scenarios.

At some point in one's audiophile life, you need to determine how reliable your listening is. Come up with some test, any test, where the answer is 100% known and see if you arrive at it. I don't know how folks spend money not knowing, or wanting to know the validity of their opinion.
It's called perceptual blindness, Amir - when we focus it changes what we perceive. The other side of the coin is inattentional blindness or the inability to perceive something that is there because we are not aware of it's existence (we can't focus on it as we are unaware of it) - once we are aware of it, it becomes obvious & we wonder how we missed it. Training, anyone?

And before you get carried away with how you are much better trained than anyone here - this is more likely to blind you to what you are not trained to hear.

Auditory Perception is the end result of an analysis engine's (the brain) processing. We don't perceive everything that impinges on the ear - we use attention to direct focus to what's of interest to us. Just the same way as we don't perceive everything that is impinging on our eyes - in fact we have a very narrow point of focus (the fovea) & we don't perceive anything during saccades (the movement of the eye from one focal point to another)
 

Al M.

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Sep 10, 2013
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#58
Al, I agree, it is very difficult to asses if and how another listener is biased. Knowing how little either one of us wants to spend to upgrade our systems, I might even think we are both automatically biased against the new component on principle of cost alone.
Yes, we are. I had already thought of that as an extra argument against my being biased towards the new cable, after I posted my list of those arguments. You made my point.

Yes, you told us that you confirmed that the volume levels were identical. But I remember being quite surprised that one cable clearly sounded louder than the other. In fact, it was the very first difference I noticed almost instantly. The other listener said he noticed the same thing. I usually attribute it to increased clarity and sense of dynamics, but in this case, I think we disagreed about how each cable sounded in those two areas. What do you think accounts for the different perceived volume levels?
An increase in clarity may cause this, but I am not sure. I didn't have that sensation as much.

Also, did you confirm SPL levels by using test tones before we arrived or by using musical tracks and your SPL meter? I have always found it difficult to assure levels are matched when listening to regular music because of the unsteady quiet and loud passages. Steady tones are easier for me at least because the SPL meter indicates a steady number.
Musical tracks. I set the SPL meter on its 'max' reading, which becomes a steady number at some point. I agree, you can't go reliably by constantly varying numbers.
 

Al M.

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Sep 10, 2013
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#59
Simple exercise. Play a track on your system. Change nothing. Go and play it again and this time pay real attention. Does it sound the same? I bet it does not. I just tested myself and it absolutely sounds different alternate times. If you hear it the same every time you are not human!

I have been through countless double blind tests where I "heard" a difference solid as day is bright, only to have the program tell me the two files were identical. Yet observation of difference was 100% real in my mind.

Expectation bias is not the biggest enemy. The biggest enemy is that we don't perceive audio the same all the time when it comes to detail, air, small differences, etc. It is this factor that convinces us that everything changes sound. Everything does not change sound. It is us, who is so easily convinced that audio changes when it absolutely does not in countless scenarios.

At some point in one's audiophile life, you need to determine how reliable your listening is. Come up with some test, any test, where the answer is 100% known and see if you arrive at it. I don't know how folks spend money not knowing, or wanting to know the validity of their opinion.
Yes, you are completely right. That may be another reason why blind tests with just short tracks may fail. You don't know what to pay attention to, and your attention invariably shifts.

I think listening over longer time periods allows you to 'lock into' certain aspects of sound that indeed change. Switching back and forth, also at a leisurely pace, will eventually confirm or dis-confirm the findings.
 

audioguy

WBF Founding Member
Apr 21, 2010
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#60
Room treatment and DIRAC were my epiphany's .. real audible changes of a profound nature. My speakers were the third revelation from what I had before .. Im upgrading tho , next week , to G1 spirits . I dont expect as much of an improvement as to when I got my G1's .. it will probably be more incremental but thats ok with me.
Totally agree. The bad news is that there are no less than a bazillion combinations of things you can do in Dirac that can affect what we hear. So for an OCD person, the process never seems to end.

In my well over 40 years in this audio [strike]addiction[/strike] hobby, absolutely nothing has come close to impacting what I hear more so than those two "components": passive and active room treatment - Dirac being the best of the active room treatment products I have used.
 
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