Do you perform blind listening tests when evaluating audio equipment?

Ethan Winer's picture
In our forums, reader Ethan Winer brings up the concept of "listening blind when assessing audio quality." Do you perform blind listening tests when evaluating audio equipment?
Do you perform blind listening tests when evaluating audio equipment?
Yes always
10% (16 votes)
Yes, as often as possible
23% (38 votes)
Yes, sometimes
22% (36 votes)
Rarely
15% (25 votes)
No, never at all
30% (49 votes)
Total votes: 164
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Comments
Johann Sebastian's picture

I trust my ears and my senses. I listen to music and attend concerts with my eyes open, so why should I close them to make Ethan happy?

atom's picture

For me, appreciating gear is about more than just what it sounds like, though that is obviously number one.

David L.  Wyatt jr.'s picture

I suppose if I found a dealer which had the components I wanted to hear together, and my budget was high enough, they might help me do that. But whatever the validity gained in such tests (and having been trained in research blind tests are better) they really aren't practical for anyone besides the press, who has the access and taste to set them up.

Brankin's picture

Worthless without the proper set-up and process. Even if you should actually stumble upon getting the process correct, I'm doubtful as to its actual value. But go ahead and give it a try! No skin off anybody's nose and it may be fun.

rvance's picture

If an objectivist fell down in a forest, would anyone care? Not to be confused with Fudd's First Law of Opposition: "If you push something hard enough, it will fall over." Or even Teslacle's Deviant to Fudd's Law: "It goes in, it must come out." DBT's are comin' and there's no place to hide!

Toussaint's picture

Occasionally blind in the sense of closing my eyes. Never blind in the sense of not know the component(s) I am listening to.

RGH's picture

Sometimes with eyes open, you can get a sense of the musical space and where certain instruments are coming from within the space.

John P.'s picture

Seeing what I'm hearing and seeing my surroundings does not keep me from listening well, either in front of a stereo or at a live performance. When evaluating audio gear, the crucial tactic is not blind comparison, but listening to the same piece of music on the same system several or many times over, with short breaks to rest one's ears every two or three spins. Then change musical selections and repeat the process. Over time, as you hear favored but very different recordings on many different audio rigs, you might develop a short list of up to a dozen recordings you use as the acid test for any given system and its room setup. Sure, you can do A-B comparisons, too, or whatever else floats your auditory boat. But the main thing is to listen as many times as it takes to be sure of your own perceptions.

craig's picture

For better or worse I like to "see" what is reproducing the music I listen to. Those black curtain tests Bose does in its traveling road shows does not impress me at all. I honestly believe that knowing what I am listening to does not alter my opinion of the sound that comes out.

J.R.'s picture

Sometimes, but if my eyes are closed it usually means that music is extremely good or very powerful.

Zee's picture

Our ears are just too unreliable when assisted by the eyes. Just give them a chance to perform on their own and tell you the thruth about the audio quality of a piece of equipment in stead of the visual appearance!

John's picture

I am blind.

Nodaker's picture

Initially I thought no, but a few times when comparing sources I've switched between them with my eyes closed and tried to tell which one was playing. It wasn't that difficult if you're familiar with one. Also, back when I used to drink, I auditioned a few components blind...drunk.

Ed, Boston's picture

I like to guess which piece I'm listening to. It helps confirm my initial reaction.

Anonymous's picture

It is sort of hard by yourself, but I like to A/B a source and go back and forth.

agnes monica bogel's picture

I only trust measurements both on- and off-axis, and also stored energy (linear distortion) when possible. Nonlinear distortion can also be measured, but there is a point where "good enough" is enough.

Charles Sprinkle's picture

Hearing is believing. If you believe something sounds good or bad,you will hear it—whether it's true or not. Blind listening is the only way to get to the truth of how it really sounds.

Dan Petri's picture

First of all, I think people's evaluations are largely subjective and based on their individual preferences. The most important factor when evaluating sound is to listen intently to as many components as you can keeping in mind what live music sounds like. No audio company will probably ever reach what is termed as the absolute sound.

Dave in Dallas's picture

If you can't tell component A from component B without looking at them, how do you really know that one is better than the other? I've met a lot of audiophiles that have fallen in love a product prior to purchase and wound up experiencing buyers remorse after living with it. Blind tests can do a lot to avoid those sorts of circumstances.

Johannes Turunen, Sweden's picture

Well, sometimes I close my eyes.

Willis Blackburn's picture

I think that if you really want to determine which component sounds the best—as opposed to validate an already-formed preference—then there's no reason not to conduct a blind test.

Andy from Burlington's picture

Blind drunk count?

Marsanz's picture

Absolutely, it's amazing how your vision steers you to believe that one piece of equipment sounds better because of brand status quo or money spent.

Ted Clamstruck's picture

Doing a properly controlled blind test is more difficult than it sounds. Often there is no simple way to do such things as level matching, which is necessary for a valid test. Engineering skill is needed to implement most blind tests properly. I have done an ABX of absolute polarity using the foobar2000 ABX comparator plug-in though.

William G.'s picture

i try to focus most of my senses into the audio detail.

Steve Rogers's picture

This is the only way to know you are not fooling yourself. It is suprising how often you can't tell the difference between equipment you think you can hear a difference in a sighted test.

Dimitris Gogas's picture

In fact, I think that my hearing is better when I'm wearing my glasses.

MJS's picture

No. I trust my ears and I'm not influenced by what "should" sound better. Example: Recently I bought a new tube complement for my amp. It wasn't cheap but I clearly preferered the sound of the stock tubes, so back in they went. If it's a really close call, I'll do A/B testing if I can.

Elvis Ripley's picture

I rarely get the opportunity to actually have the stuff together, but I try to do whatever I can.

Eric Shook/30/Raleigh NC's picture

I don't think I could alone?

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