Reference Equipment

January 17, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

10 comments on “Reference Equipment”

  1. Standards differ; home-audio is subjective.
    A ‘reference’ is a personal thing for different listeners.

    If I want to judge or grade a home-audio system, other than my own, then my
    ‘reference’ is what I listen to at home…I know how it sounds; it’s my reference.
    Some intelligent home-audio electronics (including loudspeakers) manufacturers
    will use the term ‘flagship’ to indicate that it is the top/best component that their
    company manufactures in their complete range of home-audio componentry.
    They recognise that the word ‘reference’ is to subjective.

    ‘Benchmark’ vs ‘Watermark’ is another great topic of distinction for discussion 😉

  2. First time responder…

    IF I’m playing my CD on a reference player through a non-reference system…HOW can anyone consider “what they hear” as the reference by which all else can/must be measured? I’m just sayin…

    1. Good point gmthompson (and welcome to the community)! This is where being a mostly subjective term, it’s difficult to wrap any logic around a definition for it. As Paul alluded, the ‘goodness’ level is fluid. In your example all you can do is compare what you hear with your ‘reference’ player with another player in the system without changing any other component or condition. If it sounds better then that’s your new reference. If not, then either the claims of ‘reference level’ are misleading or something else is going on, for example, the reference player does not work well with another component.

      As Fat Rat commented above, perhaps better terms could be ‘benchmark’, ‘watermark’, ‘raises the bar’ or ‘state of the art’. The point is that level of ‘goodness’ is fluid. Even Paul has previously mentioned that PS Audio’s new speaker, the Aspen FR30, has reset his definition of a ‘reference’ system, rising above the level of his beloved IRSV system which he’s used as the company’s reference for judging their own products over a number of years.

  3. At a deluxe tasting menu dinner organized by the top chef, I noticed the head reviewer for the Good Food Guide.
    “ why are you here?”
    “benchmarking.”

    Which is why I go to Audio Shows. Twice at Hong Kong.
    I had a satori moment with Dave Wilson and Eric Clapton unplugged. Eric was Exactly over there, back in space. I could point at him

  4. me, a Gemini,,, sees this abit more complicated… Assuming that I owned the Krell 300CD and this was their Reference. I then own also the McIntosh D150/450T combo as a DAC/transport. Is the combo better than the 300CD? Now, we add that the combo supports SACD. Yes it does. Is that a new reference? Now, back to combos… Krell KCT and Krell amp both via CAST cables. Is this a Reference… Bottom line can a single box/component be a Reference? Now, I don’t think so… Because assuming a tube amp/VTL MB 450 with a Krell KRC-HR sound different that the previous pre-2-amp pair. Which one is a Reference? Can both be? IMO, Yes, both are at a pinnacle of the humar hearing and both have a sound that you want to hear… Oh, both to Infinity IRS Betas… And to Senn HD650/660s. … Mitch

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