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RE: Has anyone else tried this experiment?

With that switching approach I'd expect you could identify gross differences between the amplifiers mostly. It simply will not expose much that is significant to musical enjoyment.

Critical listening and listening for enjoyment are not the same. Each has a different objective. Unsurprisingly, the brain operates differently for each. Our focus (on the sound) is different; our biases are different; our expectations are different; our physiological systems are different; the way we perceive, process and assess is different. How could it be the same?

My view (today) is that critical listening of the type you mention is most effective for identifying gross similarities and differences, but only over a small number of comparisons and dimensions; as the number of comparisons increases, the effectiveness of the test drops, rapidly.

Selecting paint colours for our house provides a decent, admittedly simplistic, analogy. I was considering two whites - one slightly "cool" and the other slightly "warm". On a calibrated monitor, with the two swatches side-by-side I could clearly identify and explain the differences. However, when switching back and forth between larger swatches of the same colours it was more difficult to perceive a difference. The difference in intensity was barely noticeable, but the hue, well, not that I could reliably tell. I added complementary colours and continued switching and quickly lost track of the relative appearance and preferences. The differences existed and I had clear preferences, but they were not well identified or characterised by switching. Switching did expose the gross differences between the complementary colours, but little more; certainly not enough to substantially inform a decision.

For audio, I have found the most reliable approach to be the one that most closely reflects how we use and listen in life. Chip and probably others have mentioned it already. Listen over an extended period of time to an amp, then change it and repeat. Invite friends of over. Just listen to the music - don't make it a left-brain exercise. Do you enjoy or dislike music more or less with one than the other? Sounds kind of obvious if your objective is to build a system you enjoy.

Now, if you are looking to verify facts, extrapolate to conclusions, validate theories etc. you are in a different realm that demands validated evidence. I have not seen anyone on these forums do that to my satisfaction either by narrative literature review, meta-analysis or their experiments. Not nearly.

Oh, and one last question: what problem are you trying to solve - what hypothesis are you testing - what question are you answering? Or put differently, what is your goal by performing this test?


"Confusion of goals and perfection of means seems to characterise our age." Albert Einstein

Edits: 07/10/17 07/10/17 07/10/17

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