Distortion is a net zero in the same way poison is. The less you have of it the better.
On the other side of the coin, there’s the net positive, like exercise. The more you do the better you feel and the stronger you get. Or thinking, absorbing knowledge, or helping others.
Some audio systems—the rare few—are net positive. They produce an experience better than the original.
Take for example a full range audio system in a great listening room playing an intimate violin performance. We’ll imagine that the recording was made by a pair of stereo microphones positioned above the performer. This is a net positive because you’d never have the chance to listen in the same spot as the microphones were located—dangling upside down from a microphone stand.
It’s one of the beauties of what we do in our field. A chance to beat life and get something unobtainable by any other means, including a live performance.
Yes, there are a few missing elements in this imaginary scenario: the smells, noises, audience, and temperament of the moment.
But I’ll take the best seat in the house in the comfort of my home as a great alternative anytime.