Acarian Alón IV loudspeaker Liar, Liar...
Most serious audiophiles know about LEDR, the Listening Environment Diagnostic Recording, but may not have heard of a test I've developed, called LIAR: Listening In Another Room. Here's what's involved: Put on a CD or LP, go into an adjoining room, and then do whatever you want to do that seems appropriate, given the room you're in—read, use the computer, play pool, have a bath, etc.
While you're engaged in one of these activities, ask yourself the following questions: Does it sound as if there could be people singing and playing musical instruments in the next room, or is it pretty obviously an electromechanical facsimile thereof? Does the music draw attention to itself, making it difficult to concentrate on any other activity? Do you want to go into the room where the music is playing?
For the test to be optimally useful, the best source material is a recording of something that could possibly take place in your listening room: Bruce Dunlap's guitar (on About Home, Chesky JD59) rather than the Montréal Symphony, Dick Hyman Plays Fats Waller rather than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. A measure of the speakers'—or, more precisely, the overall system's—believability is the amount of willing suspension of disbelief you have to go through in order to convince yourself that you're hearing a live performance.
All right, perhaps LIAR is what some people call "casual listening," or considering music to be the "background." My point, however, is not entirely facetious. By listening in another room, audiophile concerns like precision of imaging, and whether the speaker sounds best with the listener's ears at a height of 36" or 37", become irrelevant; what counts is the overall Gestalt of the sound. Let me also add that I would not make any decision about a speaker's quality without listening to it in the same room—a test I call LITSR.—Robert Deutsch