Microphones and A-B comparisons
When you consider that nice listening chair, be aware that if it has 'wings' behind your head, sound reflected off those and into your ear will somewhat change your listening experience. For that reason, I cannot use those comfy gas-lift recliner chairs and have to use low-back office-type chairs to be sure that what I hear is not influenced by the environment around my head.
Did you notice, by the way, that although my long-standing A-B method for comparing loudspeakers (via my relay box, thread here) has been ridiculed by those who have never tried it, when professional sound engineers want to compare two microphones, they use that very same A-B method of side-by-side comparison with the music playing continuously? Do they listen to the whole track, go and make a cup of tea, switch the equipment around and then start again at the beginning? Of course not - that's bonkers.
Just to highlight this point, let's compare two different approaches to A-B testing of microphones .... and illustrate again the difficulties of separating sonic event A from event B - both approximate the instantaneous change over procedure, but method 1 is closer to the way I A-B speakers because it really highlights the difference between A and B without needing to rely on your memory ....
A-B method 1: continuous music, short burst listening (Alan's method) here
A-B method 2: longer listen, repeat performance here or here. This is the really difficult and error prone way to compare A with B. It heavily relies on audio memory, which we know is perilously short. Another example of this methodology here. In that last example, I cannot hear any differences but I'd bet that, if we could instantaneously compare the sound of those mics, we would hear differences as we did with the AKG C12 example.
An overview (featuring my friend Hugh, an ex-BBC trainer) of the complexity of picking the best microphone for the job here. I hope that it's clear that microphones are not picked for their neutrality - just the opposite. They are picked to flatter the performer. And no technical specifications are considered: the selection is 100% subjective. This is the reality of commercial recording; recordings are not made for the audiophile. The audiophile is invisible to the recording staff and artist. They most likely have never heard the word 'audiophile' and certainly will not change their recording process for him.
What the dedicated audiophile cannot grasp in his hostility to the A-B test concept is not that is conceals differences that long term listening reveal but the exact opposite: instantaneous A-B highlights differences between A and B and turns subtleties into the starkly obvious. Long-term exposure, in my experience, flattens differences as audio memory fades and replaces the objective experience with an emotional, romantic 'feeling'. Long term exposure has its place in revealing fatigue for sure, but not in the detection of immediate sonic differences.
Alan A. Shaw
Harbeth Audio UK