I am reminded by several of our readers that one of the best means of evaluating equipment is fatigue. Yeah, I know that sounds ominous but I am guessing we've all experienced our system's sounding so good that we could listen for hours. And we do.
But the opposite is very telling. Say you try something new or perhaps just evaluate what you have currently. It sounds open, dynamic and stirring - but for how long? Does listening to it over time encourage you to turn the volume up perhaps just a little? Want to hear more rather than less? Then you've got something worthy of keeping. But if you get listener fatigue, then something's amiss.
Remember my Dirty Dozen reference recordings I use to evaluate products and changes in our designs? One of the criteria I use is whether the music is pulling me into it or driving me away. Over twelve cuts I can usually know pretty quickly which direction it's driving me.
One of the reasons we developed the Power Plants in the first place was because we needed a way to make sure that when we evaluated something it wasn't affected by the time of day. I had figured out quite a while ago that my system sounded everywhere from wonderful to uninteresting depending on the time of day and narrowed the culprit down to the AC power quality. Regenerating new power solved that problem and brought a freedom to the listening experience I hadn't enjoyed up until the Power Plants were released.
Sometimes it's best just to relax when you're evaluating a new cable, CD or just enjoying your setup and pay attention to your interest level, fatigue level and general enjoyment.
You're either going towards or away from the music and that, my friends, is a great indicator of success or failure.