Why Are We Breaking Our Brains?

A master sommelier takes a sip of red wine, swishes it around a bit, pauses, ponders, and then announces: “…. It’s from a mountainous region … probably Argentina … Catena Zapata Argentina Malbec 2020.” Another sommelier at a fine eating establishment in a major city is asked: “What would you pair with shrimp?” The sommelier hesitates for a moment then asks the diners: “What shrimp dish are you ordering?” The sommelier knows the pairing depends on whether the shrimp is briny, crisp, sweet, or meaty. Or some other “house specialty” not mentioned here. The sommelier can probably give good examples of $10 wines and bad examples of $100 wines. And why a good $100 wine is worth … one hundred dollars.

Sommeliers do not have a master’s degree in biochemistry. And no one from the scientific world is attempting to humiliate them in public forums for “claiming to know more than a little bit about wines” with no scientific basis to back them up. No one is shouting “confirmation bias” when the “somm” claims that high end wines are better than cheap wines, and well worth the money.

Yet, guys and gals with decades of involvement in high performance audio who claim to “hear differences” in various elements introduced into audio chain are pulled thru a gauntlet of scientific scrutiny, often with a great deal of fanfare and personal invalidation. Why is there not a process for “musical discovery” for seasoned audiophiles, and a certification process? Evaluator: “Okay, I’m going to change something in the system. Tell me what you hear. The options are interconnect upgrade, anti-skate calibration, removal of acoustical materials, or change in bitrate. Choose one.”

How can those with pretty “sensitive antennas” and years of hands (and, ears) on good gear convince the technical world that they are actually qualified to hear what they are hearing?

Why is it viewed as an inferior process for seasoned professionals to just listen, "swish" it around in their brains for a bit, and comment?


I really like the wine expert analogy, but... these guys study lots of stuff and they do have objective tasting/testing to validate their knowledge. That said, it’s true that their knowledge and experience are the only basis for evaluating their opinions... and they are allowed to have their opinions (unlike the experience of dealing with audio skeptics.) Too bad the perpetual skeptics can’t be happy just to shake their head, rolls their eyes and go their merry way, enjoying their own audio systems.


WAYYYYY off topic but...

You stated "Its I’m coming Elizabeth.  Fred G Sanford. The G..."

Just for the record, it's "Elizabeth! I'm coming to join you, honey..." followed by "I'll be the one with..."

There were variations on the first part but I seem to remember Fred always using the word Honey with the phrase. 😀

I love this thread. As someone who’s just getting started I’d love it if we had a standard set of terminology we could start to communicate but to do that we really need reference systems. 

Mum trying get started and I get told, oh that’s a little bright and warm but if you pair it with these other components you’ll be fine. (Not helpful). 

mid love a level 1 course on different sounds form different equipment like amps, speakers, etc - and for fun throw in some room acoustics training. That would be great for us. 

im buying speakers and I’m curious about the British sound, the modern stand mount, floor standers, Klipsch la scales etc but there’s no way I can get all those to compare them - and sadly most dealers are forced to focus on select brands. 

thankfully some of the hifi shops have wxperts and can talk to you but everyone is different: