When we attend a live concert we don’t require a reality check. We know with our eyes and ears it’s real. We see the musicians performing on the stage. The sound is what the sound is. We don’t have to compare mental notes of our reference library to know how real the sound is.
Evaluating a high-end audio system or new piece of gear within that system requires a reality check. Does the sound come close to what we would hear at a live concert? Does the blat of that horn sound real? How fresh the rosin of the violin bow?
We’re much more demanding of our systems to sound live than we might be of a live concert.
Part of the problem comes from the inadequacies of our two-channel systems themselves. Compared to an actual live event, our home audio systems are far removed from duplicating live. What they’re good at is replicating the source material fed them. Sadly, the majority of recordings fail to capture the essence of live.
I am guessing this is why we have a favorite list of go-to recordings for our reality checks. We know what to expect.
I don’t see any way around cumbersome reality checks when it comes to evaluating gear. They are just part of the high-end landscape.
What’s thrilling are those rare moments where you don’t have to go through the ritual. You instantly know it’s right. No time is needed.
When a piece of gear or an entire system gets it right, there’s magic. No reality check needed.
Just for a moment, it’s as if you were there.