The Oatmeal Syndrome

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How many times have I read someone’s lament that despite their best efforts they’ve never once heard differences in sample rates, file types, or cables? That no matter what they try, differences others hear are unavailable to them.

For the most part, that person concludes the differences aren’t real, that others are being fooled. And who can blame them? From their vantage point, they don’t hear differences, ergo…

I think it’s natural to somehow believe playing fields are always on level ground even when the facts tell a different story.

Not all systems can resolve all differences.

Some systems have what I like to call the Oatmeal Syndrome where no part of the whole can be distinguished from rest.

I see an increasing number of these oatmeal systems, especially in streaming products like those from Sonos, Apple, and Google (the jury is still out on B and W’s upcoming Foundation series and Devialet’s Phantoms). Differences in source materials, connection methods, and even speaker placement have little bearing on what comes into the room posing as music.

Actually, for these products, the Oatmeal Syndrome is probably a blessing. What most people are hoping for is true plug and play. Pull it out of the box, plug it in, get exactly the same sound as everyone else.

It’s how McDonald’s made their fortune.