What process do you use to compare components?

You've decided to add a new piece of equipment to your system. Now begins the process of figuring out which make and model you want. How do you test products to make sure you get the right stuff?

What process do you use to compare components?
My comparison process includes:
84% (68 votes)
I don't compare, but buy on instinct.
2% (2 votes)
I don't compare, but buy on recommendations.
14% (11 votes)
Total votes: 81

Alan Graham's picture

A/B/A-ing two at a time, picking the "winner," then A/B/A-ing that one with a third, and so on until my ears tell me which I will use.

Al Marcy's picture

Buy it and bring it home and hook it up and let it play for a week or so continuously. If I like it, I keep it.

Michael Stuart Donnelly's picture

1) Listening to the components vs. one another (and vs. the component they would be replacing) in my current system, and 2) Listening to the components on two additional systems at a stereo store, one that is a step above my current system, the other the best system they have available.

Andrew.'s picture

having a listen, and also what my wallet says.

David S.  Dodd, ddodd@aug.com's picture

Living in northeastern Florida for the past 4 years has made real comparisons very difficult—it's a wilderness for high-end admirers in terms of speciality stores. Now, whenever I wish to add a new component, I read all the reviews from people whose tastes have proved similar to my own over the years. Go to the head of the class, boys; most of these include the Stereophile clan (but also, dare I say it, one or two from the ranks of [T]hat [A]lso-ran [S]tereo magazine). Then I find a dealer (from anywhere) who will allow me to review said component in my own rig. The ears have it . . . but it has to be in my own room. As it happens, I have never returned any product dissatisfied. Good research in Stereophile and trust in their collective "golden ears" seems to have paid off for me.

Murat ARIKUT's picture

reading articles deciding on available components borrowing from friends and/or dealers min. 1 week trial with my reference recordings (people helping me with blind tests etc.) and friends xp50 keyboard deciding whether its worth the trouble and money

Jay Steinberg's picture

Bring both home, if possible. If not, bring them separately. Always do the comparison in your system at home!

Stephen Foline's picture

Wooow!!!! What a heavy question!!!! I guess I look #1 at price; no sense in researching something that is out of my league. Then I decide on manufacturer/s that I like, decide what features I'm interested in and which has the most of what I want for the price. Petty straightforward and simple, I'd say. I really couldn't think of anything simpler or more efficient. You can only get what you can afford, so find the best you can get, including features you want, by the desired maufacturer. What else can you do? It's all pretty logical and practical. (Sorry, too much Star Trek!!) Peace . . .

Lloyd's picture

1. Listening at local dealer. 2. Advice of local dealer. 3. Comparison with other dealer/net (I'll pay more for a premium service but I won't be taken to the cleaners - got to keep them honets).

Samir's picture

I listen to a new component for several days (when possible) and see if I can leave with it. Before I return the component to the dealer, I see if I miss something with my old stuff or not. If not, I keep what I have.

Brien Simmons's picture

Step one: Read the Sterophile review of one component. Step two: Go to a dealer and interact with this component. Step three: Bring the component home and try it out in my system. Step four: Repeat the process with all contenders. Step five: Decide which product to buy.

Eric van Dijk's picture

taking equipment home (at least 3 types), based on recommendations by a dealer, and make a choiceased

H.R.'s picture

Because I seldom upgrade, I do take my time. Recently, I decided to replace a 22-year-old amp (Quad 405) and preamp (AGI 518) with a new integrated amp. First, I decided how much I wanted to spend (up to $3000 to keep in line with the rest of my gear). Second, I read reviews of about 15 amps. Third, I took some of my music to four large audio dealers, told them about my listening habits (music, not too loud) and taste (small ensembles of jazz and classical music), and listened to what I read about and what they recommended. I narrowed the list down to four amps that I liked the most, and took each of them for home auditioning with my own equipment for a week. I chose the amp that sounded the most natural and least fatiguing with my music. I considered also the reputation and quality of the maker, as I am planning to live with it for quite some time. Looks were not important, as long as they were low-key. Golden knobs or huge logos would not be acceptable. I am very happy with my final choice (Naim, over Goldmund, YBA, and Bryston), but I must say that I enjoyed very much the whole process of selection. I had a very good experience with all the audio dealers I went to, which are in the Chicago area.

David E Nebeker's picture

Since Harley has left the link between ad revenue and your evaluations seems all to apparent. Wishy-washy gushing reports by Wes Phillips for example on the Levinson 33H's or the ARC CD2 Player may make your advertisers happy but are useless. To be honest you should evaluate components in a blind situation in which the listener doesn't know beyond a denotative name what he's listening to.

Mike Eschman's picture

Never change more than one component at a time. Never change components more than once every three to six months. In-home trial is essential.

David E Nebeker's picture

My apologies. After sending you a complaint about Wes Phillips, I see from your archives a very useful review by Brian Damkroger on the Thiel CS7.2's which I own and love.

Richard Kern's picture

A/B testing using matched levels, evaluated over several hours if not days in my home. I don't buy to make the salesman happy. If I don't like it, it goes back to the store.

Simon Ng, Melbourne, Australia's picture

I follow this structure when auditioning for a new component: 1) Read reviews. 2) Shortlist. 3) A/B comparisons of shortlisted components in shop (where possible) using equipment the component is going to be coupled with (also, where possible). 4) Home audition, usually over a weekend (when possible). During all auditions, I use four CDs (representing various genres and characteristics). I never compare more than three products in one sitting. If the short list has more than three, I whittle it down over several sittings, using each sitting to hone selection.

Robert's picture

Generally two phases: 1) Identification and extensive research of potential candidates in my price range. Any and all sources are used. This phase is by far the most difficult, it can and has lasted several years. :-( 2) Gradual elimination of candidates by aural comparison (similar to a knock-out competition) under semi-controlled conditions.

Stephen W.  Sweigart's picture

Listening at dealers and my past experience, plus audio reviews and manufactures web sites.

M.  Parenteau's picture

In-House Audition. The only true comparison you can make about a new component is how it sounds in your own room with your existing system. A good retailer will allow you to take a component home overnight or over the weekend to compare and listen in a familiar, relaxing environment over the course of several hours. A quick A/B comparison in the showroom, even with a familiar recording, will not allow you to accurately judge how the component will sound at home.

Chris S.'s picture

I used to compare equipment by going to retailers' listening rooms and giving the components a listen. But, different dealers have different-sounding environments, and none of them sounds like my own room. I have decided to use reviews/recommendations from publications such as Stereophile to make my decisions. Your reviewers get to listen to the equipment in "familiar audio surroundings."

Ken Kirkpatrick's picture

I am blindfolded. I sit for days without food or water in the sweet spot. I have friends, chosen at random, switch components, volume matched, with a ABX box. Following days of torture, I remove my blindfold and buy the component that looks cool.

Tim's picture

Put the new component in my system and listen for a couple of days. Put the old component back in to see if something is missing. Compare the winner to the next prospect. Quick A/B doesn't work for me, nor does comparing more than two components at one time.

Joe Hartmann's picture

In the past I have selected a group of source LPs and CDs and visited several shops. Once I have narrowed the selection to a couple of compontents, I request a home listen. This has become more difficult as I have moved up the cost chain. How will I review a new phono catridge? More from review than actual listening. My last cartridge cost $500 and I reviewed at least 5. I am now ready to spend over $2000 and have really spent time with only one. Part of this is the reality that I realize the impact of my arm and 'table have on the cartridge. The same is very true for other components as well, although the home test is at least possible. I am open to suggestions to this problem.

Dave's picture

Only Products that I can audition at home.

casey's picture

more recommendation than comparison. I use rolling stone "stripted" for comparisons with speakers.

Ray Garrison's picture

Take it home, listen to it, keep it or take it back.

Seth Gordon's picture

I pick products that would fill my needs. Then I start by comparing the ones that are the most pratical and realistically what i'll end up with. After finding the best, i move on to compare it to some that aren't in the same class and cost much more than i would ever spend. If i am still happy with the initial product i picked out in comparason to the much more expensive one then i know i will be happy with the product. if the origional product doesn't hold up i keep looking and saving. The market today has so much to offer that all that is required is to take the time to look and you will find a product that is all you could ever want and it also just happes to be one that you can afford.

JKH, Santa Clara, CA's picture

I use a half dozen discs that I know really well and whose content will "exercise" the component being evaluated. I audition first in the shop, and then at home. I find that taking notes really helps: the reference to what you were hearing before the change helps to stimulate the audio memory.