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Hypothetical situation: measure good/sounds bad vs. sounds good/measures bad (1 Viewer)

Saurav

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You're auditioning two components - let's say, preamplifiers. They cost the same, or close enough that it doesn't matter, and it's within your budget. The looks and ergonomics of both are the same, or again, close enough that you could easily live with either one. They're both made by manufacturers with equal "snob-appeal" to you and anyone you think might visit you, so that's not a factor either. (And since this is a hypothetical situation, any other external factors that might apply are also the same between the two).
One of the components has better specs on paper. Either it has better numbers for all the parameters (and they're measured the same way and reported the same way for both components), or, (and this is more likely) the two components have identical numbers for most of the specs, (or again, close enough that it doesn't matter), and one of them has better numbers than the other on the few remaining parameters.
But, you like the sound of the other one more. You've brought them both home and auditioned them on your system, with your own music, on your own time. It doesn't matter if you've performed a blind or a sighted comparision. If you're a blind test kind of a guy, you've performed a blind test; if you're not, you haven't. In other words, you've done whatever is needed to convince yourself that you prefer the sound of one over the other, and it turns out that you prefer the sound of the one with the poorer specs.
Question: Which one would you pick?
This is a very simple question, with an A/B answer. If you post to this thread, please tell us your "A or B" answer. Feel free to put down any additional explanation/disclaimer/information/anything that you feel like. However, please do not post a long response without answering the question :)
 

Saurav

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I should have put down my own response - I'd take the one which sounds better too.
 

Angelo_Petralba

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of course the one that sounds best!
UNTIL you find out that when the OTHER ONE Breaks In, it will sound MUCH better!:D
Sucks to be you then!:D
 

Saurav

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OK, let's assume that both are adequately broken in too (only for those who believe in break-in, of course :)). Like I said, all other conditions are equal.
 

John Tompkins

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Best sound for two channel no doubt..For HT I may consider resale value when evaluating as this gear wont last to long in my setup anyhow.;)
 

Joe Casey

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Obviously the one that looks the best, has better snob appeal, and has one or more blue lights. I mean, come on, we are audiophiles, right?
 

Saurav

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Ooh, blue lights. How could I have forgotten blue lights!
Edit: P.S. - I just noticed that you didn't answer the question :)
 

Mal P

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What if you don't know what sounds "good"? What if you have been accustomed to the excessive sharpness of mini-systems all your life, and don't like the imaging or soundstaging that comes from decent equipment? Which is better then?

Cheers,
Mal
 

Saurav

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What if you have been accustomed to the excessive sharpness of mini-systems all your life, and don't like the imaging or soundstaging that comes from decent equipment?
A couple of responses here:

First: there's a difference between "become accustomed to" and "like". You might be accustomed to a particular sound, then the first day you hear something different, you go "wow, I like this so much better than what I'm used to". Or, you might be accustomed to a particular sound, and you might spend weeks trying out something else, and decide that you still like the old sound better.

Second: So what? It still doesn't change my question. Assuming you meant "like" when you said "accustomed to", my question still stands - would you pick the one which gave you the sound you liked, or the one that performed better on paper (and presumably was supposed to sound good according to everything you'd read, or whatever)?

P.S. I don't give much importance to soundstage or imaging any more, those are pretty far down on my list of 'things I want my stereo to do', but that's tangential to my question.
 

Kevin C Brown

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The one that sounds better, most probably.

*But*, I would want to try to do as much research as possible to understand *why* that is.

In other words, it is much more likely that a unit that measures good, should sound good too, and that a unit that measures bad, sounds bad.

Do I have it set up correctly? Anything change in other parts of my system?

Or, am I mistaking "good sound" for some other defficiancy in my system. (Let's say I have a dead room. A "forward" or bright sounding component might sound better than a neutral one. If that's the case, I'd probably want to try and fix my room 1st.)
 

Saurav

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You raise some good points there. Since this is a hypothetical situation, :) let's say that after having performed all of that analysis, you still find that you prefer the sound of the unit with worse performance numbers. I guess your first line answers the question of what you'd do in that situation?
 

Joe Casey

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The only spec I pay attention to are power ratings, simply because of the fact that I mainly use planars (Maggies) which can't be run with low output single-ended amps. Beyond that, my ears make the decision. In fact, you may be surprised at some of the distortion specs of my current and past preamps!
 

Larry B

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Saurav:

The one that sounds better. (As if you had any doubt as to what my answer would be).

BTW, I heard something quite interesting at the HE show regarding amps and THD. Specifically, a well-known designer said (and I hope I get this right) that distortion is measured with sine waves, whereas music is all about transients. He went so far as to say that the units with the lowest (sine wave) distortion often sound worse that those with higher distortion.

Larry

P.S. Now that the Lamm preamp is getting broken-in, I'm putting the Levinson up for sale (though I will miss certain features, such as remote control and extremely fine volume control).
 

Larry B

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Saurav:

I don't give much importance to soundstage or imaging any more, those are pretty far down on my list of 'things I want my stereo to do'
While they're obviously not the only parameters, I can't imagine high-fidelity sound without soundstaging and imaging.

Larry
 

Aslam Imran

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I don't give much importance to soundstage or imaging any more, those are pretty far down on my list of 'things I want my stereo to do', but that's tangential to my question
I believe soundstaging and imaging are a vital part of the system souding right. If the sound is sweet but with a collapsed soundstage then its no good for me or if its sweet but the imaging is shaky and diffuse then its no good to me either. Having said that I would choose the best sounding one and pay no regard to THD and other specs.
 

Larry B

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Aslam:
I believe soundstaging and imaging are a vital part of the system souding right. If the sound is sweet but with a collapsed soundstage then its no good for me or if
its sweet but the imaging is shaky and diffuse then its no good to me either. Having said that I would choose the best sounding one and pay no regard to THD and other specs.
I couldn't have said it better myself. Good job. :)
Larry
 

Saurav

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If the sound is sweet but with a collapsed soundstage then its no good for me
Sure, but when push comes to shove :) would you prefer the extra couple of inches of soundstage width outside your speakers, or a smoother treble and midrange, for instance? I'm not talking about a system which makes all recordings sound like mono, obviously. There's certainly a minimum performance level I won't go below. What I'm trying to say is, these aren't parameters that I strive to maximize any more.
 

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