Techniques for isolating and comparing a component upgrade or change

Recently, I've changed my turntable mat from a leather mat to an acrylic mat.  I was wondering what techniques members try to compare sound of one item vs. another?  My approach is to minimize as much change as possible other than the item upgraded which entails same, components, same room, same music selection.  

Ideally a dual set up with an A/B switch between the two identical set ups might be nice, but not very practical for most situations.  In my case I'm playing the same music track with one mat; then switching mats and playing the same single track.  I then progress to playing a full album side and switching mats again.  

With a change so subtle I struggle to find real difference between the two; I think I hear more clarity with one and then I'm not sure. Is there another way to measure small changes that an alternative mat may produce?  An approach that might work for comparing other small changes like new cables or other components?

My system is detailed in my profile.  And yes, I've considered that there is no difference or that I'm overthinking this one 😉



Right click on members name, click on open link in new tab.  Systems are first listing under users name.

Nice system and room.

My technique for evaluation is to do a couple quick comparisons, back and forth, just to see if anything sticks out.


Then to get serious. Put the on new thing in and leave it for a couple weeks… absolutely paying no attention. Let your subconscious experience the music. Then, swap back the old one… and go back to listening to music (not for changes). You will become aware during listening to the old.

I find swapping to the old is the most telling, unless there are huge differences. Write it down. Listen for a week or two… switch. You should be able to sense and describe really subtle differences this way.

Unless there are big differences… quick A - Bing is hard. Your minds eye has one specific focal point… you have to flit around perceiving stuff… but listening to music let’s your subconscious (~ 95% of your brain power) assess the sound in its entirety.




Is there another way to measure small changes that an alternative mat may produce? An approach that might work for comparing other small changes like new cables or other components?


Not as far as I know.

Quick a/b swapping is best as far as I can tell.


On the few occasions I’ve got friends to chime in with their impressions the results haven’t always been helpful.

Sometimes they’ll agree, and sometimes they won’t.


Even worse, after they tell you of their impressions you tend to start hearing them too.

Whereas with a quick a/b it’s difficult to not hear any clear differences, if they exist.


A similar analogy for example might be any comparison of 2 different things, eg Budweiser or Heineken, Coke or Pepsi, Marilyn Monroe or Jane Russell etc.


What your memory tells you that you think you prefer might well be at odds with what a direct comparison tells you.


Whether we like it or not our memory does fade and it can certainly play tricks on us.

This has been tested time and time again.

I’d love a photographic / eidetic memory but the best I can do is a passable recreation if a d when I’m in the correct mood.


So it’s probably best to rely on memory as little as possible and more on immediate impressions when making direct comparisons.


I can understand you wanting to know for sure, I used to too, but nowadays, unless the differences are fairly obvious, I don’t see the point.

I spent far too much time with nonsense such as turning the turntable mat upside down and turning the drive belt inside out (as advised by such parties as Linn etc) to bother with such stuff nowadays.


Did any of it make a difference?


Maybe it did theoretically, maybe it was one that could be distinguished by some advanced measuring device, but it certainly wasn’t one that I could hear.


A blind listening test is usually even more unsympathetic to whatever preconceived notions we may have regarding sonic performance.