Measure well, sound bad

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Folks are often stumped when a unit that sounds great doesn’t measure great. Perhaps the THD is high, or the noise levels higher than expected. We chalk the mismatch between measurements and sound quality up to the unknown.

It is assumed by many in our industry that the one sure thing we can count on is if it measures great, then it must sound great. And that is completely wrong.

I am sure the old measurementist debate isn’t worth rehashing for the umpteenth time, but it is curious that we can accept the idea of a good sounding unit not measuring particularly well, but often reject the notion that a great measuring device can sound awful.

I was recently reminded of this puzzle when Darren Myers was working on the Stellar Phono Stage. He had that beauty measuring like there are no tomorrows, and yet unhappy with the sound. It certainly wasn’t dreadful, but it was closed and restricted when the THD and IM were at their lowest. As he lifted the feedback levels that offered such great measurements, the sound opened up and blossomed. It was truly a thing of beauty to witness.

This is just one more example of how critical it is that Hi-Fi products intended to sound good must be designed with one foot in the measurement lab, and the other firmly planted in the listening room.

Anyone that tells you it’s the best measuring product there is had better back that up with the second half of the equation if it’s going to be worth your time to audition it.

Measurements give us a clue.

Listening is what matters.