Of course there's no absolute reference. One could accurately suggest live music must be it, as I often do, but truth be told unamplified music sounds different in every venue it is played. Thus, judging our reproduction systems on a mythical absolute like live music must be a flawed statement. Or is it? We can say for certain an instrument we are familiar with doesn't sound like that when played back on certain systems. And we're often comfortable remarking that sounds just like the real deal. And so these broad generalities based on real life experiences do work when broad brush strokes are applied. It has often been said that reality is in the eye of the beholder. I might replace it with ear of the beholder.
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