Think twice before concluding some thing sounds better

Often anything good that is merely different seems better.    So many aspects of sound, things to listen for. Takes time to really know what parts are better and what might actually be worse in a complementary sense 
Hi Mapman.  I have had similar experiences. Initially, changes may sound like an improvement, but sometimes, especially with gain in high frequency extension, the presentation is more forward and overly bright.  Similarly, with greater emphasis in the bottom end, extended listening may expose a heavier, looser bass, which can also affect the mids.  This is why I often have issue with a/b comparisons.  Living with a new component for awhile, not ignoring break-in and synergy, is likely necessary for fair assessment. 

I think there is a limit to what anyone can hear in total and at any instant we focus on or hear certain things more than others. Then our focus changes over time and we hear what’s there differently with a different focus. Even when nothing at all has changed really in what is being played. It’s like looking at a picture. You can take the whole thing in initially then you tend to focus on different content at different times.

mapman wrote,

"I think there is a limit to what anyone can hear in total and at any instant we focus on or hear certain things more than others. Then our focus changes over time and we hear what’s there differently with a different focus. Even when nothing at all has changed really in what is being played. It’s like looking at a picture. You can take the whole thing in initially then you tend to focus on different content at different times."

I think it’s actually NOT like looking at a picture. No offense. Audio is neither like looking at a still picture or a moving picture. Either the sound is more complicated than pictures and video or we trust our vision much more than our hearing. That’s why, when we go shopping for TVs, we waltz into the TV store, look at a bunch of TVs that fit our budget and pick the one with the best picture. No hassle, no angst, no hand wringing. Quite unlike going shopping for audio stuff.

The problem is - and this is only my opinion - most of us don’t know where our system stacks up in the overall continuum of sound quality and are more or less LOST AT SEA when it comes to assessing the sound we have, the sound we’re striving for, and how to get there. Everything is relative. The only way we have to judge the quality of something is to compare it to something else, something better or worse. Obviously I’m using the word we editorially. 😛

I always take several months to evaluate a piece of equipment. I have also found that AB tests lead you no where. I have very firm ideas what I want my gear to sound like and thats what I strive for. Buy the way your description of buying a tv is no different from how a lot of people buy stereos
Hi, guys....I throw my vote and HO with geoff, esp. the last paragraph.  It's a moving target; your space vs. the showroom, your equipment and peripherals vs. theirs, and 'broken in' and familiar music selections vs. the unknown age and use of whatever, speakers in particular.  I'll give a nod to cables and connectors and the like....those who've spent major money on such may be able to discern differences between x and y.  I haven't spent as much time with their stuff, so I really wouldn't notice any differences...

And then we edge into taste and preference, Pandora's box in any discussion of improvements.  What floats my boat might make you smile and be diplomatic about it, all the while thinking I'm insane and have ears between my lower cheeks.  On the other hand, the majority of 'high end' offerings are relatively equal in What they can provide.  It's the nuances of their 'presentation' of any given sound is what we end up arguing about.  And that, as we've noticed, can go on seemingly forever.

I'd rather not argue with you.  It's time consuming, ultimately a little rude IMHO, and it's better to agree to disagree.  I'll adjust my ears, shut off my preferences, and Listen to what you enjoy running.  I've always found something that I enjoy in other's gear in the place they've set it up.  But I've got to Be There to do so.  Not being independently wealthy and of a means to inflict myself on anyone's 'audio hospitality' kinda makes that a moot issue.

If you like what you've got, Great.  If you think it needs tinkering, have at it.  You're the judge and jury.  Me too, but only for mine and here.  If anyone's in the Asheville area, my door's open.  I've love to have a pair of 'educated ears' give my DIY omni's a critique.  So far nobody's brave enough to take the invite, even though I promise not to take umbrage if they think they stink.  So, in the meanwhile, I'll carry on doing the improbable with next to nothing and be happy in my delusions. ;)

Oh, BTW...Happy New Year, y'all. *S*

Mapman, I bet you are thinking of an upgrade.
I always focus on an entire sound picture, though certain aspects can be obvious right away. Fine tuning is another matter. And different is, well, different.
I always take several months to evaluate a piece of equipment. I have also found that AB tests lead you no where. I have very firm ideas what I want my gear to sound like and thats what I strive for. Buy the way your description of buying a tv is no different from how a lot of people buy stereos

I thought people bought stereos based on reviews and what they read on audio forums? The reason I mentioned TVs is to show that people trust their vision much more than their hearing. That’s why they can make a decision when buying TVs rapidly but are UNABLE to make decisions quickly for stereos due to a number of factors, including not knowing what to expect or what to listen for. Maybe we need an engineering matrix of audio parameters, weighted for personal preference. For example, some people value soundstage very high, others value it rather low. Ditto air, frequency response, etc. Then you could ascribe NUMBERS to what you're listening to.

IMHO, it can be a double edged sword. Sometimes the initial response is correct and it’s possible to over analyze as you listen and convince yourself it’s better when it’s not or just sideways. Rather than trying too hard to analyze the difference, I rely more on the emotional connection. Did I have a quicker and more intense desire to play the "air instruments" and play them like no one was watching? For classical, conducting the orchestra? Did my toe start tapping before I realized it happened?

Another vote for geoff’s last paragraph in his first post.

Jitter wrote,

"Wow, you actually read Geoff's last paragraph. You are the man."

Shouldn't you be standing out on a ledge somewhere?

Don’t know about others but I spend a lot of time analyzing TV. I have had big disappointments with TVs when I got them home. I don’t trust at all what I see in a well lit store playing demo material suited to the TVs capability. LCD flat screens are frankly pathetic and I have never found one that I liked. I have enjoyed Panasonic Plasma and more recently the LG OLED.

I trust my eyes but not what I see in half an hour wandering through an electronics outlet. It takes countless hours and a multitude of material to discover a TVs strengths and weaknesses.

Oh in case anyone is looking at a TV - the LG OLED current top of the line 2016 model is the best picture you can achieve currently and it finally tops the plasma from several generations ago!

+1 Shadorne, I have 3 plasma's and 2 LCD's and hate the latter.  My main TV is a pioneer elite Kuro that I have had for years - I dread the day it craps out!

All good points above, if you have been at this a long time you finally settle on what makes you smile, what makes you want to listen, and what you enjoy living with long term.  I know for me, I enjoy tinkering with the system.  I have tons of cables laying around and 2 complete systems available.  I cannot imagine my rig sounding any better but sometimes I make a change just get something different.  But I always end up back where I start eventually.

People chose their tvs wrong as lcd pushed out plasma. Shows you can't trust any sense 😄  
Thanks for the lead, shadorne. 
I also agree with Mapman's  original post and Geoff's last paragraph.

Having a realization of what one wishes to achieve is paramount to achieving same. However, our wishes often change and differences from them often are appreciated. Wishes need be prioritized as to how fixed vs. malleable one might be about them. This is what is required to get the most from system expenditures. As Geoff referred to, likely few of us are completely 'in the know' regarding our priorities. 

I also agree that longer term listening, over that of A/B testing, is best for determining which of a set of components provides greatest satisfaction within a system.  
It absolutely takes time to assess the sound of a component. That’s why I’m uninterested in dealers and promoters who organize "shoot-out" style listening sessions. Those types of demos prove nothing.
Agree, that I personally, need to live with a change before really knowing if I like it long term. I also watch my wife to see how she responds. Foot tapping is good, being asked to turn it down is bad😍.

Also, thanks to Shadorne regarding LG Oled. I moved a while back and could use a bigger screen in the new place. Still love my Panisonic Plasma, and couldn't stand what I was seeing at stores. Too hyper real. Almost looks animated to me.

I'm as guilty as the next guy when it comes to snap judgements, only to discover I was wrong. What motivated me last time was the urge/need to recapture some of the airiness and extension of the treble I lost when I sold my old speakers. The new ones don't do it as well so off I went through my cables and I found one that got me part of the way to what I wanted and I rationalized the rest of my assessment.

It only took a day for me to realize that I was wrong and that if I want those highs back, I'll need a different speaker. The cables can't make up for something with that big of a difference.

As for TVs, I'd like to second the recommendation for OLED. They have all the pluses of plasma (viewing angle, real, if not better blackness levels, lack of most motion blur, etc.) and they are capable of higher brightness levels and are more accurate in color range, hue, tone and shading.

I just saw an online demo of LGs newest offering that's as thin as a common house key (3.5mm) and you can lay it directly on the wall and it will stay there. Simply neat.

All the best,

When the recording engineer tries out several different microphones to find out which is best suited to a vocalist, do you think he spends weeks getting familiar with the resulting vocal sound?  How many laps does it take for a formula one driver to know whether the tire formulation works or doesn't work?  Did you think Jeff Beck needs months to figure out whether a new guitar is better or worst than the last guitar?

In each of the above examples the decision maker has a vast level of experience to draw upon, so could it be that the more experience you have the quicker you can make decisions?
I have found my attention goes to a different spot with a new piece of gear and objective thinking out the window, expectations and justifications obscure truth so install new piece and try to forget about it, you will know...
Gentlemen, this is an amazing occurrence.  We're in general agreement on the subject in discussion. *G*
Once upon a time in the distant galaxy known as CA, I used to haunt Pacific Stereo outlets and other retailers to the point that other customers thought I worked there.  But from it I learned what I liked and what I didn't, and made my selections of what I wanted to live with from those.  In home demos didn't really exist then, and I wanted to get the best bang for my bucks and my ears that I could reasonably afford....
Very little got returned, and I became educated on the hows' and whys' of setting those items up to become what worked for me wherever I was calling home at the time.  As the market aged with us, and the esoteric telescoped out of my reach financially, I opted to 'detune' my tastes.  Rather than reach for the untouchable, I moved towards active eq and simpler 'tricks' to make what I had create the performance I could live with and enjoy the music it could recreate.   Which is what I thought then and still do now was the whole point of it....ultimately the music, and not the pursuit of the equipment that recreated it.  If it sounded good to me, it worked and was 'good enough'.
The analogy that I draw upon is this:
V. van Gogh created painted with what he could afford, as did many of the Impressionists'.  Jackson Pollock used ordinary house paint for many of his works.  Some of the blues musicians that are now legends began with guitars from pawn shops or other 'affordable' outlets.
We all listen within our means.  Some means are broader than others.  No less valid, no less satisfying.  If it makes you smile, taps your foot, or drums your fingers, or moves your soul, It Works. *S*  And life is beautiful for awhile. ;)
I'm still chasing an impression, a desire for 'something different' in what I've  listened to.  I'm just involved in a different approach, a pursuit of something I heard long ago that I'm attempting to recreate for myself for my own amusement and desires.  These devices do exist but are beyond my means to merely buy.  A Quixotic pursuit perhaps...but, as it stands now, they work decently enough to make me smile.  And I'm curious and engaged enough to pursue making them Better, to see how far I can push my personal envelope of skills and abilities....
If, one day, I can make you drop your jaw and widen your eyes upon hearing them, I'll know I'm getting there....
If I can make you drop the drink in your hand, I'm There. ;)
(Concrete floor, no concern about the mess....*G*)
We all have our goals.  My 'bucket list' is just a little Different...
Onhwy61,  I wish to God that recording engineers spent more time trying to get better sound.  So much of what they produce sounds like crap that no amount of money spent at home can fix.  The improvements that could be made in the recording studio dwarf what we can do at home, at least within the budget constraints most of us have.
Truer words have not been spoken. The crap we get from the major record labels leave a lot to be desired. I mentioned on a different thread of listening to a well recorded 16 bit CD of a jazz band, done by Tony Manasian and it laid to rest any dreams of going high rez, for the foreseeable future. I believe he only uses two mikes (partially his design) and no equalization and the end product even bettered any Mapleshade CDs that I have. Talk about a purist. The performers literally left the speakers: a first in my living room.

The end result is literally in reach for all of us if the recording was done right in the first place. One of the biggest frauds perpetrated on us is the notion that we can get more out of a recording if only.....

All the best,
Onhwy61--Luv the comparisons--so right--hell getting any so called dealer to loan a piece for "months so I can see if I REALLY like it!"
is akin to pulling teeth!

No matter what, just enjoy what you have in spite of the fact that we get used to what thrilled us in the beginning became business as usual.. Keep a few pieces around just to change up the sound and to keep things more interesting. Don't underestimate what you have, you could do a lot worse. More importantly play all your CDs regardless because its about the music and nothing else.
Totally agree on the OLED TV's. I go "visit" my 65 inch at Magnolia from time to time. When it breaks $2K ($4K now) it will be mine, which should be in the next two years. My Panasonic 58" plasma works great still. 

I found the OLED doing the same walk I've done since I saw my first Pioneer Elite.  I saw the 65" Elite and knew it was perfection within 5 seconds.  But it was $7K.  Bought the Panny on sale at $1,250. Haven't seen anything else close to the Elite until OLED showed up and WOW!

More on topic with this site and thread, I qualify my statements with the admission I am not an audiophile in the typical definition.  I don't listen to classical and female vocal records to try to hear every nuance, to analyze whether the instruments are in their exact place on the stage and the extreme subtleties of the timbre of the instruments.  I do have a good enough ear to hear all of those things, unlike most of the people I've known.  But I'm not driven by the quest to reproduce a live performance and don't feel it can be done.  I just want my system to get me close enough that I can remember the live performance and let the emotion of the music take over. 

I previously used Infinity Kappa 8's.  Not high brow at all, but good speakers.  Purchased them and a Carver TFM-35 from a friend many years ago.  I typically know the strengths and weaknesses of my gear and my sonic preferences (typically like soft domes and laid back presentation) which the Infinitys were not.  But they could play very loud and dynamically when I wanted them to.  At that time of my life, that's why I played the music, often at club level volume, and it was awesome.

Now I live in a condo.  Kappa 8's are completely ridiculous in a sub 900 sq. ft. total space.  I started looking at small bookshelf speakers that could play the types of music I like and came across Ascend Acoustics. They were the right price and Ascend is local to me so I could go and audition the different models.  I knew I liked the Dynaudio sound and Dave said the Sierra 1's had that type of sound.  I listened to the standard Sierra 1's for 30 min., the Sierras with the NrT tweeters for 10 min. and the Sierra 2's for 20 min.  Then went back to the Sierra 1's for another 20 min.  Chose the Sierra 1's he recommended initially and am thrilled with them. They do everything I need them to do.

And that's the point I'm trying to make in this admittedly long winded post.  
1.  Get gear that has the basic sound signature you like.  Read reviews and posts before buying anything, and listen to as much gear as you can WITHOUT BUYING IT FIRST to get an idea of what you like and if your ears agree with the reviewers and more experienced forum members.  If so, then you have a good guide to start with.
2.  Get recommendations from those who have heard a lot of gear and understand the sonic signatures of different brands/models.  Then purchase what you can comfortably afford on the used market. 
3.  Do your very best to set up your system to suit your ears and room acoustics
4.  Find the music that makes you happy, that gets you emotionally involved
5.  Play said music instead of reading never ending reviews/posts/ads about what piece of gear will get you to perfection and making trips to the UPS/FedEx store cycling through equipment in an endless quest to get to somewhere that may not exist in your budget or your hearing ability. 

Upgrades are fine if you know a component is truly in another class and you find a bargain.  Endless tweaking and the justificaton that what you hear is better, then you want the old one back is madness to me.  I do understand those in the hobby that like to compare and experiment with gear, but for you guys, it seems like the journey is the satisfaction, not the end product. It's about experiences and knowledge over the outright sound quality.

For you guys and gals that are after sonic perfection, do you actually do the same in any other part of your life?  Do you drive your car and think about every suspension movement, gear change and partial throttle response and go on a quest to make it better, no matter the cost and effort?  I mention this because I suffer from this type of car/motorcycle OCD at times.  I only fix it if it really bothers me.  Otherwise, it becomes the "character" of the vehicle and something that makes it interesting to drive.

And we have the same character in each of our systems.  Those characteristics should be tailored to your ear and the music you love.  I listen to a lot of different types of music, all demanding different sonic qualities .  Would I want to trade for a system costing 10 times more that is set up for chamber music and is sonically "flat" and completely accurate?  Probably not.

And isn't this whole audio thing just a way escape to a happy place after a hectic day????  Not a burden that borders on neurosis that makes people question and doubt their ability to even know what happy is????

I use to attribute my hearing a brand new lp in one way at first listen and in another way upon second listen to my "anticipation of what I hoped I'd hear.

Sometimes I get in a rut of listening to modern recordings (lp) and suddenly think to myself, "something just isn't right". I then put on a D2D recording or one of my 6 eye Miles get the picture. I need a reset every once in a while to get back my focus. If I don't realize this or at least, every once in a while, listen to a different system, I find I don't "grow" in my audio pursuits.
Great thread topic by the way.


I found a lot of wisdom in your post and agree with you on most of your points. I found your automobile analogy interesting. From my own perspective, while I enjoy all of the points you so well described there, I rank the importance of my home listening experience on a much higher level, therefore it demands much more attention.

Glad you enjoy your listening and yes, it can be something important in your life, without getting out of hand.  We all have things that make going to work worthwhile. 

I wrote my post mostly for those that are questioning whether they have the ability to hear the differences in the "better/different" equipment that others have recommended or they have read about and also for those who seem to take one or two steps back when they upgrade.  And from their posts, they don't seem to be enjoying the experience or what they already have.


Thanks for your response. I think your response exemplified what I was trying to convey on a certain level.

I am in a lower social-economic status than some here. Having said this, my spending on audio equipment has punched way out of my status.

But, this has caused me to look more into a value for dollar listening experience. So, I understand your meaning.

I mostly focus on software/IE: lps. Music, after all is the reason I'm into this hobby. This aspect to me, is where some go "off the trail".

I am thoroughly enjoying my experience and want to enhance it.

I really do not read much in the way of reviews anymore because for me, with my status, I've found the main components I can happily live with.

The fact that I don't feel the need to read reviews makes me very happy!

so right Mapman.....   one needs time to hear if the new sound is right for the listener....also if attention is given to the new sound which masks the warts that may be lurking.
Mapman said: " I think there is a limit to what anyone can hear in total and at any instant we focus on or hear certain things more than others. Then our focus changes over time and we hear what’s there differently with a different focus. Even when nothing at all has changed really in what is being played. It’s like looking at a picture. You can take the whole thing in initially then you tend to focus on different content at different times. "

I am experiencing that now trying to determine if I really hear a difference some new ICs do or do not make.
Listen to A, concentrate on everything at once, wait! No I can't. OK try Base guitar, vocals and cymbals.
Listen to B. The bass extension seems better, the cymbals really shimmer; but the vocal seems more recessed.
Back to A. The vocal is about the same! why didn't it sound that way the first time? The cymbals really shimmer here, too. I do think the bass is more tubby, but let me hear B again.

I'm afraid I'll break down the input connections from changing so much.

The tomorrow the differences may be clear and indisputable...for about 30 minutes.
Several months back, I was reminded of the importance of adequate warm up of each component when critically comparing amp/component A to amp/component B.
When I moved to an area with a somewhat unstable power grid that my Krell did not agree with, I put into service my standby Adcom that did better manage the power quirks. After moving to a new location with a stable power grid and into a bit larger home with a larger and better listening space, I decided it was time for some upgrades. My first new addition was a pair of Maggie 1.7s to help satisfy my old love for electrostats and ribbons. After doing some room treatments and, you know the drill - move speakers in, move them out, toe them in toe them out, until, suddenly, everything just comes together and sounds right. I later had the opportunity to use a friends Ayre, Evolution V-5xe power amp for a few wonderful weeks. During this time I decided to do an A/B between my Adcom and the Ayre. The first listen was a slaughter. The Ayre sounded wonderful - deep, wide, detailed and smooth. The Adcom, by comparison, sounded awful - a bit harsh, forward and edgy on female vocals. I thought - "Wow I don't remember the Adcom ever sounding that bad, maybe it's only that the Ayre sounds that much better". When I came back many hours later that evening (everything left on and warming) and gave another listen, the magic of the Adcom was back. Don't get me wrong, it still wasn't quit on par with that beautiful Ayre, but reasonably close. My conclusion was: The Ayre had been either in standby or full on for the past couple of weeks and the Adcom had been off and unplugged during that same period of time and then warmed up for only a couple of hours when put to the test. While a two hour warm up was substantial for my tubed pre-amp and cd player, it wasn't nearly enough for the Adcom. My point in all of this is that we sometimes ignore the importance of adequately warming of all equipment before critically comparing one to another and seldom, because of risk and cost factors, can a audio studio/shop leave rooms of equipment running, or even in standby, 24/7. How long a particular piece of equipment over another has been warming in a audio studio is sometimes arbitrary. Always best, when you can, to audition in your own environment and under your own control. If that is not an option, discuss your concerns with a trusted dealer and set an audition time when he/she and you can be sure criteria is met.
Happy listening,
bharralson7740, I like your post dated 1/13/17 it is refreshing, apparently you must be fairly new to audiogon to make this much sense. Anyway you are correct, music is like a time machine taking one back to a time and place. On the other side of the coin coming home to a good sounding system is like finding the proverbial oasis in a vast desert.
tomcy6, I think you said a lot in regards to wanting recording engineers to try and get better sound. The difference in playing a high quality recording compared to that of poor quality is like day and night, at least on my system.  But also look at how this generation is listening to music, would not give recording engineers any incentive to improve sound quality and audiophiles represent a small segment of society.
phd, I am new to Audiogon with regard to posting, but I get the weekly review and read many threads and I finally needed to hopefully provide some perspective.

I do agree with you about a good sounding system, just don't obsess about making it perfect. Stay within a reasonable budget for your means. And whatever you do, don't feel bad when you listen.

tomcy6, when I was able to listen at very high volume, I would often have to RUN to my volume control when a song that I downloaded would pop up to make sure no damage came to my speakers because I could hear the distortion.  And there are some albums (or sometimes just single tracks on an album) that no matter what you are listening to them on, they sound bad.  Not sure why the artist or the record company let that happen, but it's just the way it is.  Poor engineering for sure.  And then there are other albums that are the exact opposite and sound perfect on everything. I guess it goes to professionalism. 
I have had instances where something new is immediately evident, but I also have grounding cables that if moved take time to get back to their best. I don't think any conclusion holds for everything.

I also know that being at the edge of realism is very fragile. I moved Star Sound AP2s once on my crossovers and thought the sound realism was lost. Then I noticed the location was different.

I now also know that higher sampling rates that move the filter to much higher frequencies mean that there is much music that is not evident on cds. I also know that vinyl doesn't have it all either but that may be screwed up RIAA adjustments.

I wish we were still in the '60s and '70s when dealers could do demonstration, but alas, the internet has killed that. And shows usually have awful sound given the rooms, lack of breakin on components, etc. I'm glad that I have audio friends throughout the country and even in Europe or HK. But I know some of them cannot hear. Life is tough now days.
We all fuss over our systems and listen for the finest detail that may add to the overall presentation. Auditioning cables, swapping out speakers like old girlfriends. On the quest for the best sound we can afford. 

But I am amazed at how i can go to a friend's house, or the salon, or a show, and hear different systems. And at first listen you notice that this stereo sounds nothing like yours. The balance is all different, the way the air moves in the room is completely different! One has horn loaded speakers with a tiny tube amp. The other has Goliath speakers with monster SS amps. But! If you settle in and listen to a few songs, you will soon get acclimated and it sounds great! Every one of them sounds great! How could they all sound so different and still all sound so good? Isn't sounding like live music the holy grail? How can this be?

 I used to sweat over tiny details, worry about rubber feet and room treatments, but no more. Concentrate on the big things and get the overal sound right, tiny differences may add up over time, but if they are that hard to notice, perhaps they aren't as important as previously thought? Thinking about it too hard was interfering with my enjoyment of the music. I do have tweaks and fancy cables, but I choose what sounded nice at the time and I stick with it, once I have sat there for many ours, it all blends in. If my buddy's stereo can sound so different, and still be fantastic! Makes me wonder. 

To those disparaging LCD in favor of Plasma and OLED, I have a Samsung UN65KS9800 pro calibrated by Kevin Miller. Result.. absolute best picture I've ever seen.  
Great thread. The pursuit of achieving that "perfect" sound system can be both frustrating and rewarding. The audio forums can be both confusing and enlightening. Too much information, opinions and reviews boggle my over active brain!  I can't tell you how many times I've thought I've obtained my audio nirvana only to have my focus change and I'm off chasing new components. What I've recently discovered, and many here have alluded to, is that I'm enjoying my music/ sound system so much more when I actually relax and enjoy what I'm hearing instead of overthinking every aspect of my system. I am going to sit pat and enjoy what I have for a while rather than chasing my audio tail. 

Another vote for plasma and OLED. I had a Pioneer Elite Pro700 rear projector that I loved back in the day and switched to a Panasonic plasma 6 years ago and love it. A bigger OLED will be next.