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xrandom
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Cannot not say it: no audio component evaluation can be correct without a direct A-B comparison

Well, it's 45 years that I orbit around this HiFi universe.

Listening, playing music professionally, designing loudspeakers, changing my system's components.

Oh... all done quite lazily. So I did not usually even put my nose in the diatribes among various listening-and-reviewing ways fans. I liked to listen to my loved music with my system, and that was enough.

But yesterday I was struck by lightning (not new to what happened, to say the truth: these A-B comparisons had been a daily activity in my "HiFi life" in the 80s, but I had simply forgotten it)

I own, and I always liked it, a rear projection TV, a Sony KDS-55A2000 for maybe 5 years.

Yesterday I was installing a new TV for another room, LG 55LE8800 (local dimming, 200 Hz here in Europe, in US 240 Hz model 55LE8500 I think), and they were both in the same room.

Well, suddenly I decided to see what came out from a comparison. So I took an HDMI splitter and started the work.

Well, I could realize in a moment a full universe of things that I had never seen before from these two TVs when previously used individually.

And I would tell you: before saying the opposite, please TRY the same with audio products.

Loudspeakers ? Well, connect them to a switching unit and listen to them this way. And so on.

Of course there are many things to do before, like levels tuning and more. But I can say only this: T R Y.

And then lets meet again here and talk, with a good glass of something close to the keyboard :-)

jdmccall56
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yes, but...

Human hearing is so subjective!  Sound is so subjective!  Put two pairs of speakers in one room, speakers A sound best; put the same two pairs in the adjoining room and speakers B sound best.  And of course, the source material will make a huge difference.  Maybe one speaker likes to rock while the other likes to waltz! (ha)  But still, I agree that a/b comparisons may be the best method for choosing.  It's just that it's a flawed and imperfect system.  I just know of no more practical one.

xrandom
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I agree. And I would add....

It's absolutely true: the subjectivity reigns in this domain !

So: our senses get easily tricked. If I put one hand in cold water and the other in hot water the first will "sense" warmth and the second cold when immersed in the same tepid water. The same for the sight (ex.: the color temperature of the light).

Then: why not for the hearing ?

The A-B comparison helps us to reduce the subjectivity in this field of ours: when we listen to "A" the listening to "B" works like a kind of litmus paper: we can much more easily understand what we can find in A or in B and what not.  Oh, we could (maybe not in all the cases...) also listening separately, but surely not so clearly.

There is already enough subjectivity in this our audio world to let us afford not to take advantage of this chance.

Of course the A-B comparison suffers, and takes advantage of, the same room's features; we can also carry our systems in the adjoining room and repeat the try: we will continue to be able to realize which differences are from A to B more easily than with single listenings, in the new situation.

I remember when a new trend took place in the 80s: your listening room had not to host other speakers but the ones under examination: because their loudspeakers would vibrate for the sound in the room and "sully" the listening impressions.

Oh, maybe in a shop with 30 pairs in the same room perhaps something would happen, but I challenge anyone to sense anything with 2 or 3 pairs. So also this is not, IMHO, an obstacle to a much widely use of the A-B method.

Shall we expect this will happen to the reviews we read on the magazines or to the audio shows listening rooms ? Who knows...

jdmccall56
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a fly in the ointment...

I've compared speakers and thought speaker A was definitely superior to speaker B, only to decide the opposite was true after more extensive listening.  I still agree the initial A/B comparison is very valuable, but it must be a very thoughtful and not a hurried audition if it is to be meaningful and if we are not to make a mistake in judgement.

xrandom
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I could not have written it better

I could not have written it better: I fully agree with you.

The A-B comparison must be a help for our ability to choice, not the grave of our chanches to get  from our listening session the most proper impressions.

In my memories there are two loudspeaker systems I had greatly liked to compare A-B  with others (not between themselves: too much difference), but it was impossible because I listened to them in private houses:

Klipshorn and Magneplanar Tympani IIIB: the absolutely most fascinating sounds I ever heard.  But what if compared "direct" to something else ? I'll never know...

dlb
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Overthink!

Listen to various systems as one can and go with your instincts.....if you dig the sound, buy the gear and don't look back.  As long as YOUR HAPPY, that IS all that matters!  Certainly do not start comparing yours to your fellow audiophiles....you may find you come up short!

WillWeber
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Awareness! Emotion!

It is true that subjective impressions play a part. The best antidote to mediate this is knowledge and experience, to aid in the interpretation of what is heard in the comparison. Often, something new will have an allure, at first. But if we know what to listen for, it will make more sense. For example, a lifted upper midrange may sound more present, which can impress on first listen, but if this effect is understood (like many other effects) one can adapt. As previously said, don't rush. Understand and listen for the parameters that explain the differences in A/B comparison. And then don't "listen"; immerse in for the overall effect, the musicality, the emotional impact.

Measurements can assist in the knowledge department. After some experience (a lot perhaps) our brain can correlate certain heard sound effects with measured parameters.

xrandom
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I think what you say, "dlb", is great. In fact...

In fact if you read my first post you'll find that its my own way of listening: "I liked to listen to my loved music with my system, and that was enough."

This is interesting too: "... do not start comparing yours to your fellow audiophiles".

As we use to say here in Italy (maybe at you too ?) "The neighbor's lawn is always more green". My opinion about this is that we can anyway take a look at this lawn, but only to see if there is any major improvement we could take advantage from in our system too, for example: a subwoofer.

But then... let's listen in peace !

xrandom
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What you say, Will, reminds to me...

... certain reviews here by John Atkinson, where after the measurements he explains with the "key" of what he found the previously expressed listening impressions by someone else. Maybe you are a pro in this field ?

Surely it's true what you say. I still remember the first time I listened at the Proac Tablette, maybe 25 years ago....

The shop owner made me listen at them with two different turntables with different cartridges. When the second played he said something like: "As you can see in this case the soprano took a couple of steps forward". Well... if we had been able to see the frequency response we had found "there" these two "steps"...

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Oh, "dlb", I forgot...

I said a subwoofer could be a major improvemet one could think to add to his own system but I forgot a case that happened to me exactly in a situation you wrote about: listening at a friend's system.

This is the protagonist:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamaha_DSP-1

http://www.yamaha.co.jp/english/product/av/topics/20th_rediscover/page2.html

A  friend had bought one of these expensive devices, maybe first here in Italy, and in his system it worked terribly. But I was not convinced: Yamaha could not have made a flatiron ! So when he decided to sell it I bought... and I still am a happy owner of it.

This is one of the very few devices that can really change something in your system. You must simply tune it to get a VERY subtle effect: The "ambience".

Here this (famous ?) A-B comparision is precious, I would say irreplaceable, unique: when you switch you must "sense" the vastity or other features of the place where your system "takes" you. If you can "hear" the effect, you must decrease it: it has to be only a "sensation".

Did you ever experience this ? Did you find it useful for a better listening ?

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