Do you perform blind listening tests when evaluating audio equipment?

In our <A HREF="">foru..., 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)
15% (25 votes)
No, never at all
30% (49 votes)
Total votes: 164

Caruso Smith's picture

Sighted evaulations, always have influences, where you wanna think you are immune from the influence or not, AES proved sighted tests are unreliable to try and chose a winner. You see one brand you think is better, of course from advertizing influences, you are swayed, anyone who thinks they ain't is indeed foolish. If ads didn't work, how come people hear the sounds of a wire over another wire? Come on, wake up.

DG's picture

I always know exactly what I'm listening to when evaluating a potential component purchase whether I'm trying to decide between two or just evaluating one. A critical indicator is whether its performance persuades me to close my eyes and just listen. That's my prefered blind listening test.

NeoN's picture

In Romania, we have very few real dealers, who understand the concept of hi-fi comerce. Here, if you want something which insn't on the shelves, you order it from the dealer, and from that moment it belongs to you 100%. You don't really know what you buying before. And the listening rooms are nonexistent here. You are limited on what you "see" or "hear" in the store.

Zach's picture

Any tests that aren't blind are subjective.

Douglas Bowker's picture

No—and I've chosen against the better looking and more expensive gear as many times as not. The notion that I get swayed by looks or price tag is silly, insulting, and just stupid. Who cares what it costs, or who made it if it doesn't sound as good as X, Y, or Z? Not me; never have. DBT is a big trope for the deaf.

pjay's picture

I've tried double blind, but can never find the second blindfold once the first one is on. :)

Rocky 042's picture

Before surgery I couldn’t see anything clearly without glasses. Lasik laser Even worse, all outdoor activities were a strain. Needless to say I couldn’t score many points playing basketball. At work I wasn’t able to use a computer for more than an hour before I started getting head aches. This not only affected my performance but also my attitude. Now that I’ve had the surgery I finally have a full field of vision during every waking hour. Being able to walk outside with no glasses or contacts and seeing everything is amazing. I highly recommend a surgery.

Al Veeh's picture

If I'm totally wasted to the point where I can't see a thing, well then yes I do perform "blind" listening tests.

fabio's picture

It is not very practical.

Dismord's picture

How many retailers are going to set up such a test for potential customers? I've never encountered one and I'm not going to pay a group of qualified ABX testers to run anything like this in my home. Besides, how many retailers are going to lend, say, four amplifiers to compare? The whole thing is a red herring that audio forum and newsgroup posters can argue about until the cows come home but it has little or no relevance to real world selection of audio components.

Woody Battle's picture

Blind tests are too hard to set up and rarely give accurate results. Give me 2-3 days with a component in my system with my music and I can tell you everything about it's sound quality. Give me 30 minutes of randomly switching components and I can only tell you if the component has any glaring problems. In either case: I can't tell anything unless I pick the music/recordings.

Jazzer's picture

I highly recommend blind testing, even though certain individuals continue to argue that this is not "scientific" and shouldn't be done. Interesting, since it is used in the wine industry all the time to choose award winning wines. Do yourself a big favor and compare components in the "low end" (which these days we're supposed to believe is in the $5k range) to those in the medium end (high-end being the sole domain of those 1-2% with very deep pockets anyway). Only in this way will you come to realize how very little improvement your hard earned cash is getting you once you hit a certain price point—the $1-2k mark for amps and sources, and the $2k mark for speakers. Bottom line, spending anymore than that on a system gets you very little improvement. Too bad the mags that support this industry aren't honest enough to tell it like it is. I recently auditioned a "medium-end" system that consisted of about $15k in components/speakers, a further $3k in the stand, not to mention about $3k in wires and cables for a total investment of $21k—the verdict, very average sound that did little more than match the sound of my current system, using speakers I bought at a big box store 15 years ago, a newer $1200 amp, newer $700 CD player, and $100 speaker cables (total investment: $2600).

Chuckie Girmann, San Diego, CA's picture

I do blind testing occasionally.

Stephen Scharf's picture

Ethan is right, if a component really sounds better, then it will sound better as well in a blind listening test.'s picture

Listen blind—what does that mean? Of course, I try to listen to every component that comes my way (or that could potentially come my way), but it is not always possible. Sometimes I need to go on reputation or reviews. If this is the case I only buy used so the hit is not too hard if I have to resell quickly. But for new, I insist on listening.

G.C.  Van Winkle's picture

Years ago an audio tech friend and I would conduct single blind testing on all sorts of equipment. We easily heard differences in phono cartridges and CD players, speaker wire and interconnects were much more subtle, as were amps and preamps. I carried this practice over into my job as an audio trainer for several large A/V retailers. Again, in single blind testing many observers could hear differences—but for some it took several listening sessions and for others you could see that they were simply not hearing a difference, no matter what they said. When double blind testing became popular with some magazines, concluding that there were no audible differences when I knew the opposite to be true, I came to the conclusion that they had created an effective method for confusing the human sense mechanism. Single blind testing is widely done in the multi-billion dollar wine and perfume industries—but not double blind. I believe that is for a very good reason.

JoakimL's picture

I do it occasionally only to show how futile it is. Belief in BT is fundamentalism and that's not my cup of tea.

Phil's picture

An objective necessity.

tom collins's picture

i haven't evaluated any audio equipment in too long a time.

S.  Chapman's picture

The question should have been, "Should Stereophile perform blind listening tests when evaluating audio equipment?" I don't perform them myself, because I don't have access to the equipment or facilities, but Stereophile reviewers do. To me, it seems like you don't perform blind listening tests because you're afraid of the results. I suppose they'll never happen under current management, but blind testing could certainly play an important role in helping your readers make decisions about audio equipment.

Mike Agee's picture

If blind means turning the lights out, yes. Though now that I think about it, dark listening is as much a reliably positive tweak as it is a test to uncover problems.

Bill Nguyen's picture

I can't truly evaluate it otherwise.

Brendan's picture

Blind tests don't change the sound of the music. Guess it is up to the person, can they put their preconceived notions of what sounds better behind them?'s picture

Just know what you're listening for.

daryl's picture

I do it as often as feasible. I will have my wife swap in and out the particular products being evaluated, and I will listen for a couple days. This is easily done with cvabling. It's easy to be swayed by advertizing. Research bears this fact out. So to reduce this factor as much as possible I try to listen to a product without being aware which one is in the system. I feel more confident in my choices that way.

Derick's picture

This practice has saved me thousands. Eg, Arcam's flagship CD player sounded no better than my Marantz universal player fed digitally to my Anthem Statement D1 preamp-processor's fine DAC. And adding an NAD power amp to an NAD receiver similarly made zero difference for me, long ago.

Jim M's picture

No need for blind tests. You either hear the difference or you don't.

Tim K's picture

It always depends on what is available to compare the piece to and having the help to do it.

Serpieri's picture

Thank you, no. I've been told I'm already deaf and near dumb. Not much else to hold onto at this point.

Erik Blomberg's picture

Blind listening, in my experience, tend to favor known equipment. In my case, the stuff I already own, which has saved me some money and made my audiophile life a bit more dull.