As we have seen in the main forum, despite encouraging members to comment on the two definitions I proposed, there has been almost total disinterest in the subject. Clearly, the 'proper evaluation of audio equipment' is not a subject that is of any interest to the wider HUG audience. That's surprising to me as a speaker designer because it suggest that the design standard I set myself of assuming that my designs will be put to the test by the most analytical critic, is perhaps needlessly high. It explains why there is so much mediocrity and worse, why the public are willing fodder for the marketing machine that is consumer electronics.
None of those more philosophical issues need concern us here. We've done our level best to highlight the way commerce works and of how marginal - or even regressive - features can be spun-up into added value. The removal of tone controls from home amplifiers is an example of denying the user the ability to tune the sound to his room, whilst presenting that as a sonic victory. It's utter bullshit of course as any recording engineer will confirm with a vast array of tone control facilities available at a touch of a button to him.
Perhaps - although I've been banging on about this for some years now - there will be a tipping point where common sense returns to 'audiophile' consumption. I remain astonished that even during these very challenging economic times for western society that there has not been a shake-out of high-end audio suppliers. That must say something about the profit margins. Nothing wrong with a healthy profit of course, but is the consumer truly getting best value? How can anyone know unless the equipment is properly scrutinised using a test methodology which takes advantage of human hearing, specifically, that human senses are optimised for a fight-or-flight response. That means that we are good at making snap comparative decisions (which tend to have a high factual content, low emotional content), and not optimised for arriving at long-range wishy-washy decisions about preferences.
Here I proposed two generic approaches to audio equipment analysis ....
Those of you who replied to the above question have now been invited to this forum. Clearly you understood the question being asked, and were willing to express an opinion. That's just the sort of robust dialogue we appreciate! Shame it only represents 0.34% of total membership. that's life I guess.I detect another potential misunderstanding here. As no one has actually admitted to having taken part in an instantaneous A-B listening test, it must indeed seem mysterious. Let me summarise the position as I see it thus far.
I propose some terminology to describe the two very different ways of listening to and evaluating audio.
1) Critical listening a.k.a. instantaneous A-B comparison
Definition: where a serious attempt is made to eliminate confounding variables. Conceptually, a test subject could be picked at random from the general population, literally off the street. The inexperience, health and motivation of the listener is not important. The absolute acuity of his hearing is not important. He/she will be presented with the juxtaposition of audio experience A switching over to B with only a fraction of a seconds delay (using a relay arrangement), and if there is a difference it should be audible. The listener can dwell on A or B as little or as long as he wishes, the important mental comparison is made at the point of switchover and not at any other time during the listening session. There is no requirement for audio memory at all. Prolonging the listening session does not accrue more useful relative information about A or B, because the listener will fatigue. Maximum suggested listening session perhaps 20-40 mins.
2) Holistic evaluation a.k.a casual listening, long-term listening, recreational listening
Definition: The listener's experience, health, hearing acuity, motivation and audio memory is of paramount importance. He/she will listen to A in isolation for perhaps several CDs. Then he will take as long as he needs (minutes?) to change over to B. There is no requirement to control replay levels or any other confounding variables. His impression of the sonic character of A or B accrues as he listens and his emotional response develops from what he hears, his prevailing mood, listening fatigue and innumerable internal mental processes. The listener argues that the longer he listens the more of an impression he develops of whatever he is listening to. At the end of the process (which could take days, weeks or months) the listener will pronounce judgement on A or B based solely on his audio recollection of how A or B has 'moved him' i.e. by recalling his audio memory of sonic events A and B separated over time.