How long does it take you to get an idea of a component's true musical character?

How long does it take you to get an idea of a component's true musical character?
No time---I can tell instantly
4% (8 votes)
10 minutes/1 song
13% (27 votes)
1 hour/1 CD
16% (33 votes)
1 day
15% (32 votes)
1 week
22% (46 votes)
A lot longer than that . . .
29% (61 votes)
Total votes: 207

Some people think that an audio component, like a good wine, reveals its full bouquet only when enjoyed and evaluated at length. Others think they can immediately tell whether or not a component is to their liking. Reader Federico Cribiore wants to know: How long does it takes you?

KCSO's picture

I took me 3 months to decide on my speakers and 2 months to notice how good my speaker wire really was. I'm still listening to different amplifiers to decide on an upgrade. At first listen, almost everything sounds quite good. It's only after extended listening periods that I notice small nuances that might make me suddenly like or dislike a certain component.

Michael Montgomery's picture

You tend to know the pieces of music that are well engineered and how they sound in your current reference. A change does not take too long to understand


I think a week will do, as then the component will have been burned-in properly and a person could judge the actual character of the product

Ed Scheingold's picture

It has been my experience that some components need at least several weeks to break in and settle in to your system. This varies with components, of course, but a week would seem to be a minimum for most any addition. Then the "real" listening begins. Also, the listener's mood has much to do with how his/her system sounds on a given day.

Atsuo's picture

To make a right judgment, I need at least a night to cool off.

Thomas's picture

It's like courting a new lover!!!!!

Patrick Callery's picture

If you can't tell after 6 or 7 hours, using recordings you're familiar with, the differences are so small the effort isn't worth any additional time. Of course, if you like the sound, keep listening.

R DeCarufel's picture

When I purchased my first "good " system I had 3 different amplifiers at home to try. I knew in 20 minutes which one to pick

Chris Henderson's picture

It does seem to take at the very least, several hours of serious listening to determine if a new component is going to fit the bill. It helps if one can do this using comparison componentry with which a person is familiar.'s picture

After a minute, a day, or sometimes a week, I have a glimpse. After about 2 months, I think I have a handle on the difference.

Kevin Hines's picture

Bad sound can be recognized almost immediately! However, when I like a particular component, be it a tube amplifier or a CD transport or a good set of electrostatic speakers, it generally takes me a couple of hours to formulate some theories as to why I like what I'm hearing; and then, several more days to prove (or disprove) them.

Peter van Gessel's picture

Normally quality shows itself immidiately. However, the gear should been burned-in properly, otherwise it can take weeks.

Doug Twynham's picture

Much longer than a week. There are many variables that come in to play, such as my mood, the weather, temperature, and humidity, the quality of Detroit Edison's juice, and others. After all, how well did you get to know your spouse on your first date?

Adam L.'s picture

it takes a little while to hear all of subtleties. obviously one can hear big differences right away. i.e. comparing wilson X-1's and a shelf system.

Eoin Redmond's picture

Many speakers and amps need at least 100 hours of use before they perform to their best. The Hales Revelation 3 is a good example: very good out of the box, but awesome after 100 hours of use.

Jeff Loney's picture

The music I treasure most usually has taken the longest time (at least three weeks and three listening sessions) to fully appreciate/enjoy. The opposite is true for equipment, where I will develop an "instant" like (e.g., Naim) or dislike that time does not change.

Roger Lonsberry's picture

While it's possible to get an *idea* of what it will sound like, it's only after many hours of breaking-in that the true sound is revealed.

Curtis D.  Jorgensen's picture

I am hard of hearing!!!!

Samir's picture

Before I bought my components, I spent hours with the dealers and/or friends listening to gear under various circumstances. I remember, 3 years ago, that after 5 minutes listening to an Arcam CD player, I was sure I wanted to buy it. After a week, neither I nor my wife could stand it anymore!

hifigi's picture

A component should not have to "grow on you." If you need time to try and evaluate it, it appears that you are trying to find its good points and that they aren't obvious immediately.

Ron Meyer's picture

It depends. spks? amp? spks tend to get better with age. spks are nay or ya right now.

Jerry Swartout's picture

I have to have the component in the room, connected to the system in that room, to make a meaningful judgment about the sound of that component. This is especially important when evaluating loudspeakers, since the room and their placement in it are the two most important factors affecting the sound of any system.

YC's picture

If you give me an hour, I'll be able to tell you whether I can live with the piece of equipment. Give me a week, and I can tell you whether I love it.

Curt Simon's picture

I am sympathetic to the notion that one should be less concerned with reviews and more concerned about how a component sounds to oneself. However, I have twice bought components that I thought were wonderful at the time, only to to identify significant shortcomings a year or two later. Stereophile was valuable to this reader by describing what I was likely to hear down the line.

Chuck Music's picture

I use the same material on every piece of equipment, and go on first impressions. If I listen for an extended amount of time, my hearing would start to compensate for the irregularities in the sound.

Chris James (ODVH)'s picture

Many things need to be evaluated. Only after long term use am I able to determine whether or not a componant is good enough for me.

Allan Folkersen's picture

Junk you can decide on quickly, but high-end stuff usually has its own set of compromises unique to itself. It may take you a while to get used to those particular compromises and eventually come to appreciate them.

Joe Hartmann's picture

Instantly I can tell if a component is worth the effort. Over a period of time I can tell if the differences are improvements I want to live with over time. Equipment for me is not a flavor of the month; it's a long-term investment to be refined with room placement and accessory improvements over the years I will enjoy the music. Can I live with the Beethoven Quartets (I am listening to Op.59 No.1) and the Bruckner 3 purchased today?

Martin's picture

Gives a good first impression. Full understanding takes me about a month.

Ben Taub's picture

I bought my Apogee Stages on hearing the lead-in groove of one of my favorite records. Didn't have to wait for the tune. It took three months before I was sure I made the right decision with my Bryston 4B ST amp. Its qualities are far more subtle.