Preferences?

I commented on an article about psychoacoustics the other day, and found myself making an argument that, while it seems perfectly logical to me, I don’t think I have seen anyone else make before. Basically I said that if I have a system that is as ‘correct’ as I can make it, and I don’t like the sound, then changing the system to something that I know is ‘less correct’ is not going to help. While I am, in fact, confident that I will like the sound of a ‘correct’ system, it highlighted an issue that I had not thought through fully before: the idea that it is everyone’s duty to keep tweaking a system until it meets their own personal “preferences”.

Is this not where most audiophile woes stem from? Whether or not a person’s preferences are ascertained ‘scientifically’ using the sanctified method of double blind testing, is it not a road to misery and impoverishment? In this scenario there is no ‘stake in the ground’; everything is fluid and shifting and the afflicted audiophile can never be sure whether his hearing is at fault or if it is his personal choice of ‘musical’ components, quirks of the recordings, the weather, or a lack of coffee.

While many people could conceive of applying the “they all sound the same” argument to a DAC or a solid state amplifier, they would not believe that it was possible to apply it to the whole system. The reason why it might seem so strange is that they’ve never heard anything resembling a ‘correct’ system in the first place (I suggest active crossover, phase correction, sealed woofers, unrestricted bass) but they have been led to believe that the systems they have heard were ‘high end’ – yet they all sounded different from each other.

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