How do you judge audio components and speakers?

I would say - listening to music you're familiar with, and comparing. We can talk about tight/bloomy bass, midrange clarity, treble extension and things of that nature. We can also be very specific with regards to how a particular track is supposed to sound; based on high-performance gear that we were able to experience - but only if it purports to be accurate without sonic colorations. Therefore, I guess you could say we have a reference point. This part is what I would consider "objective performance." 

Along with this, measurements go hand-in-hand.

On the other side of the coin - subjective performance is how we "want our systems to sound." If the vocals are too bright or sharp, if snares or unpleasant sounding instrumentals ruin an otherwise good song, it's usually because the system is too accurate. So high-end audio is about chasing an ideal that doesn't exist in reality - but in the minds of audiophiles who are seeking a very particular kind of sonic presentation that bodes well with their music library as a you just enough detail to keep you interested, while at the same time having a sense of realism, presence, and imaging that makes the speakers dissapear. We are seeking the illusion of a live performance.


The above are just my points. Feel free to share what you think. If you think I'm wrong, I don't mind. 







I will limit my observations to loudspeakers for this response...

Indeed, as Andrew Jones said recently, almost all recordings have manufactured information, they are not the replicas of the exact music space. So, listening for accuracy is a very elusive quest at best. Thus, the No1 prerequisite to establish for yourself whether the speakers are "higher fidelity" than the ones you already use, is 1. be very familiar with recordings, and 2. be even more familiar with acoustic live events. (I mean symphonic concerts, with proper instruments and acoustics - a live event at a bar is although still live but can have a terrible sound nonetheless, as room acoustics is very far from optimal.)

All in all though, we seem to corner ourselves into a dead end when singling out a single parameter and trying to elevate it at the expense of others. (Resolution, frequency range, precise imaging...) A balanced loudspeaker needs to handle all aspects, not one falling suspiciously short. It’s a much happier combination than overdoing one and falling short on another. For example having resolution but not at the expense of tonality, and having frequency range but not at the expense of dynamic range.

When all is balanced, then I can find a loudspeaker that I can live with on the long run.


So what does all that have to do with listening to new speakers? Well, watch out for the balance in the sound. Listen to what is the strength that stands out! That’s also a warning sign that you need to inspect that it’s not at the cost of another parameter. For example, if textural resolution is razor-sharp, make sure that it was not done at the expense of tonality and timbre.

First, just let the speakers break in properly. I just play them without expectations for a month, and listen to random things, including streaming movies...

Often, playing non-audiophile records and material will tell more about the character of the speakers - as special audiophile recordings were made to sound special, and they will so on any loudspeaker. Yet, for me it is vital that I can play any recording. Sure, they will not sound stellar, but they all should sound better than I ever heard them before. And that’s all I ask for.

I’m interested in the musical heritage of all mankind. Playing the most diverse material on a loudspeaker for a few months will establish precisely and accurately whether I want to live with those speakers or not.

More precisely: I never met a pair of speakers that did all or failed all. All of them have a special place in my heart, and I know which to pull for a specific experience. They are singers, and each singer has her favorite song that nobody can follow just the same way.


If the vocals are too bright or sharp, if snares or unpleasant sounding instrumentals ruin an otherwise good song, it’s usually because the system is too accurate.

I call BS on that. This is the a problem with listeners that are measurement driven. An accurate system neither adds nor detracts from the recording. A system can be a lot of things but never too accurate.

Go to the music store and rent a snare drum, bring it to your listening space and tap it. Accurate is the reproduction of that sound. If your "so called accurate" system snare doesn’t sound exactly like the snare you rented then it’s not really accurate is it?

A system should be musical, it should be intimate. Those vocals, solo, harmonies should draw you in, embrace you, make you actually feel the sadness or joy or despair the musician is trying to impart on you.

How do you get there? Just simply listen. That’s all it takes, listening. When you change something it’s either more or less. It isn’t a percentage better, how could it be? It can be better at one thing at the cost of something else but music is as music does.

So high-end audio is about chasing an ideal that doesn’t exist in reality - but in the minds of audiophiles

You said you don’t mind being called wrong but that is absolutely, unequivocally wrong



Is my foot tapping?

Has my mouth quit jabbering?

Can I faithfully repeat the lyrics?

Is there space between this and that?

Have I quit thinking? (Tricky to measure)

Is my body leaning in or flinching?

Does an egoless "Yes" rise from my heart?

I agree with the "weighs more, sounds better" school of thought. Typically the first tweak I preform on new equipment, is taping $20 worth of pennies to the top, and fill any voids with special 'audio sand". 🙄

Coherence. It has to sound good from top to bottom, and it has to be in my listening room where my ears might be...and my listening room is not treated by anything other than normal room items so it sounds like a cool room, not anechoic, dsp synthesized, or bass trapped...just excellent.