Room after room at the audio show featured A/B demonstrations of one thing or another: footers, cables, MQA, clamps, tweaks and whatnot. In most cases, attendees were wowed with obvious improvements. That said, there is a problem making judgements based on these comparisons.
The problem is one of baseline. You can only judge whether A is better than B or C, which gives you no reference to the absolute.
If I demonstrated a pair of speakers with a tweeter I could switch on or off, you’d likely decide that switch improved the speaker’s performance. And, indeed, that’s exactly right. But, so what? Going from compromised to better isn’t of value to the listener.
While I can’t think of one manufacturer at the show that made A/B comparisons without the best of intentions, we must pity the poor listener. Without a proper baseline reference, like your home system, of what true value does such an A/B test offer?
The late HP did his best to simplify the baseline beyond the familiar home system (itself flawed because not that many home systems are accurate references). HP’s baseline was simple: acoustic music performed live, which he called “the absolute sound”.
And this describes the ultimate challenge for each of us: learning to develop our personal baselines.
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