LP - why is it so good ?

johnny p. -- Sat, 03/12/2011 - 23:12

I am a "digital" audiophile - and have been for a long time. But recently, I spent time with the new Origin Live reference deck and was stunned. With recordings of jazz and classic rock from the 60s and 70s, the ease and natural decay of the music was something digital can't do, in my experience. Top-deck CD systems reportedly have closed the gap - but they are way beyond my price range.
 
My question - to those who understand the process - is why ? Why should LP be this good - if there's a big reduction in (audio) quality with LP production, then problems galore on playback ? How much do we lose in LP production ? And isn't true that LPs are cut at one vector (angle) but played-back at another ? Has it overcome this ?
 
Thanks !

TD160 -- Sun, 03/13/2011 - 01:51

Read this link why should LP is this good: http://www.soundfountain.com/amb/ttadjust.html

gmgraves -- Fri, 03/18/2011 - 18:09

The CD format can be marvelous. In fact CDs can sound much better than LP. The paradox here is that while the average LP playback benefits from better turntables, better arms, and better cartridges (the mechanical parts of the playback process), all CD players sound pretty much alike. You buy a decently made one and I will DEFY you (or anyone) to tell the difference between the same CD played back on it and the most expensive, high-end CD player money can buy in a correctly set-up double-blind test. Therefore, with CD, even to a greater extent than with LP, the quality of the actual disc production itself determines playback quality. I do a lot of recording as an avocation allied to my audiophile hobby. When I take my masters (all recorded at either DSD (SACD) resolution or 24-bit/192 KHz LPCM) and output them to CD for my "customers", the quality is mind-blowing. When I buy CDs, I find that most of them disappoint and disappoint badly.
OTOH, LP today is tiny, niche market catering to audiophiles. The companies doing these re-masters are using the finest virgin vinyl, are taking their time pressing each disc, and cut the masters very carefully using the least intrusive mastering procedures that they can find. Very few CD producers take the care that the LP producers like "Classic: records do on their releases. Today, the CD business is about volume. The CD producers are well aware that their market is NOT the audiophile, but rather the average Joe, who listens to CDs in his car, and who has a boom-box player in his family room. Since these systems aren't very good, and since cars are a noisy listening environment, by nature, the CD producers compress most CDs horribly. Yes, CD is capable of 96 dB of dynamic range, but if you measure most commercial releases, they have about the same dynamic range as an LP, or,  about 56-60 dB. IOW, you aren't getting what you THINK you paid for. Now, there are a few CD labels that will show you what CD can do. JVC's XRCD format comes to mind. These are usually re-releases of older analog recordings from the likes of RCA Victor Red Seal, British Decca (London Records) etc and old analog jazz labels like Bluesville and Riverside, and they are so carefully produced and so magnificently mastered that even 55-year old recordings will make you wonder what the recording world has been doing all these years. Most modern CDs aren't anywhere near this good.  So, while CD SHOULD and CAN beat even the best LP playback, it doesn't, and if you want the very best state-of-the-art sound, you'd better learn to record your own, or buy only audiophile-grade CDs like JVC's XRCD or Mobile Fidelity's catalog or 24-bit/192 KHz sampling rate audio-only Blu-Ray discs, Because the commercial CD market doesn't really care about you or me or anyone else likely to be posting on this forum.  

rossop -- Fri, 03/18/2011 - 19:23

Hi gmgraves

all CD players sound pretty much alike. You buy a decently made one and I will DEFY you (or anyone) to tell the difference between the same CD played back on it and the most expensive, high-end CD player money can buy in a correctly set-up double-blind test"

I suppose it depends on what you would call a decently made cd player. I have owned some cd players over the years that sounded just awful. If I could not tell the difference between them and my current digital set up I would give the game away.

TheArt (not verified) -- Thu, 04/07/2011 - 14:37

This is an interesting post, but about half of it is nonsense.

1) CD Players do NOT all sound alike, not even all 'decently made' ones. I've owned an umber of high-end players. EACH ONE SOUNDS DIFFERENT from the others, and the differences are by no means subtle

2) Careful recording, mastering, and production affects LPs every bit as much as CDs. There were tons of awful commercially produced LPs out there before CDs took over the commercial music market. Classical and jazz recordings have always (in general) been produced with more care than popular music.

Here's what I DO agree with...

DSD recordings - even converted to Redbook PCM - can be mind-blowing. Sony experimented with this many years ago ('Super Bit-Mapping'). Telarc, and some European & Japanese labels have done it more recently.

The best CDs (and SACDs) demonstrate just how good digital media can be. XRCDs are a great example. And it's not just that they start with excellent recordings. Akira Taguchi, Alan Yoshida, and others do a BRILLIANT job of remastering these recordings. And JVC's physical production of these XRCDs is far more precise than most plants can do, resulting in less jitter and fewer read errors. But JVC is not alone. You can find many excellent sounding CDs produced in Europe and Japan, and by 'audiophile' labels in the US.

Yes, CDs (and SACDs) can sound BETTER than LPs... especially on a GOOD SOUNDING player!

Happy Listening! Art

blackfly -- Fri, 03/18/2011 - 20:38

Interestingly,  I have a new Bryston BDA 1 DAC and a 1990 TOTL Denon DCD 3560 CD player, which uses 4 dac chips in a class A configuration (one for the + and - waveform, for each channel) and suprisingly, the differences between the sound out of the Denon and the Bryston is VERY HARD TO DISCERN, except with extended listening.  It is NOT black and white easy to tell.  And you would think that time would of easily given the Bryston the "hands down" edge.  I guess not.
I am not slagging Bryston so much as accolading the Denon for making a product that at the time, was really in the infancy of digital music yet still stands up today.
Yes, I have heard a $27K turntable, and although the mids might of been a tad more "smoothe" the bass was not even close on equal recordings from the same master.  I think vinyl interesting but vinyl at its best takes far too much money compared to digital at the same level and sounds equally exciting, to me. 
 

rossop -- Fri, 03/18/2011 - 23:00

I dont know? When I first decided to get back into vinyl I got a Rega P5 with a Benz Glider cartridge. My phono stage was the 47kHz one that came in my Musical Fidelity A308 preamp. Nothing special at all. When I heard the Cisco Music LP of Jennifer Warnes The Well it really did it for me. The SACD is great too but the vinyl, even allowing for the sibilance on it, sent me diving head first back into analog.

You are right though, you can spend up big on vinyl. Expensive phono stages, $10k cartridges and $100k 'tables are all available if you have the dough. You can also spend big bucks on digital as well. However, if you look around, you can get some bargins on the second hand market and even eBay. Recently a new van den Hul Colibri XGP went for about $2,400 on eBay. Thats less than a quarter the retail price!

Both formats have their pros and cons. Me, I like to have both but I also like to get a good deal.

gmgraves -- Sat, 03/19/2011 - 02:37

 Interesting comments, both. However, the watchword with modern electronics is "transparency". Good, modern solid-state electronics; amplifiers, pre-amps, phono stages and the analog sections of CD players and DACs are all transparent. That is to say that they neither add nor take away anything from the signal passing through them. While they might all have a slight "sonic signature" under some listening conditions, it's tiny and what's more, it's irrelevant. Ten minutes with one or the other of any of them and all differences become moot. You won't remember them, and they ultimately don't make any real difference to one's listening enjoyment. Also, most DACs, both stand-alone and as part of a CD player, are commodity item chips made by Texas Instruments (under the Burr-Brown name), Analog Devices, ESS, etc. They all do the same thing is pretty much the same way. All CD front ends (except maybe the very top-tier ones from DCS or MSB) use the same basic front -end chip sets as well. This stuff is all pretty much the same. Sure, designers can play with power supplies, cases milled out of solid billet aluminum and fancy discrete component analog stages to justify their stratospheric prices, but the end result at some point is "transparency". I will agree that this wasn't always the case. Until about 2000, CD players did sound quite different from one another and that was due to quantization error in the D to As. But that problem has been solved and those differences eliminated. The only way, of course, for any audiophile to come to this knowledge is to actually be a part of the experiment by participating in a properly set-up bias-controlled double-blind test. All the differences that seemed so important in just casual listening tests either completely disappear or fade into insignificance when these machines are directly compared in such a way that sighted and expectational bias is eliminated
As for LP playback, Here there are differences and big ones. The sound of a record player IS the sum of its parts. Turntables sound different, arms sound different, cartridges, especially, all sound different and - this is the big one - they all interact with one another. Some ensembles have better bass than others, some have smoother treble, some image better, than others, some sound cleaner because they suppress airborne feedback better. Some cartridges work perfectly in one arm and no at all in another. Some cartridge/arm combos cause warp and eccentric record wow. Some systems mistrack badly and cause distortion. When a record player system works synergistically, the results can be jaw-droppingly good (with a good record) and other can sound mediocre beyond belief, even downright bad. Digital is much easier, but a lot of music will never be on digital, and therefore we can't afford to dismiss any music source if we're really in the game for the music and not JUST to play with the gear. 

johnny p. -- Sat, 03/19/2011 - 11:47

Then I guess all those audiophiles are wrong. The majority of which prefer LP.
 
And I disagree with the assertion that "all CD players sound the same". They don't in my experience - the latest ones sound far superior to ones made in the 80s and 90s. But I certainly respect all your opinions.....

gmgraves -- Sat, 03/19/2011 - 13:27

"Then I guess all those audiophiles are wrong. The majority of which prefer LP."
Somebody's not paying attention.  I clearly asserted that LP can, indeed, sound better than CD, but that it's not because the CD format isn't superior to LP. It just is. It's because most CDs are poorly or at least indifferently produced. 
" They (CD players) don't in my experience - the latest ones sound far superior to ones made in the 80s and 90s."
It seems to me that I said that. I even explained why it was so.
The vast majority of audiophiles who voice opinions about how things sound have never taken part in double-blind tests. When they do, even experienced listeners, those who have trained themselves to hear subtle differences in sound reproduction, find that they cannot tell one CD player from another - even in prolonged listening and lots of tests using all kinds of music. 

johnny p. -- Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:37

I was responding to everyone above.

Double-blind listening tests are extremely rare. I don't know of any that compared a $100 CD player to one costing $20,000. Can you cite a study ?

Expensive CD players sound *vastly* better than mass-market ones. Audiophiles are not that stupid.

And can you cite the music that is "not on digital" ?

Sam -- Sat, 03/19/2011 - 17:46

I would be surprised at the listeners who can hear no difference between a ex. $100 player by Sony and a $6k esoteric or the ultra dcs players. If they think the $100 player is better or the same then they r lucky and deserve to live with the $100 player.

gmgraves -- Sun, 03/20/2011 - 00:30

Double blind tests confirm that when they can't see which player they're listening to, listeners do indeed find that a $100 Sony and a $6K Esoteric or DCS player, do sound exactly alike. I dare-say that you would find the same result were you to participate in such a test.

Sam -- Sun, 03/20/2011 - 13:02

I highly doubt that! I would be able to tell the difference. In fact, the CDs I had been listening to for 20 years... I recently tried on the newer cd players and wow it was jaw dropping. I thought I was hearing them 1st time in my life. So much detail gets left out by cheap players. Only non attentive, non audiophile, who could care less about sound will not be able to tell a difference. It's like how women can tell difference in jewelry and shoes very well men can't. And men can spot differences or when driving great cars but women wonder why the hell is he so excited. U have to have some interest and knowledge to differentiate. And u my friend can't which make u lucky! Save that extra money off of high end audio and spend it on something usefull that u can appreciate. Why are u even here on this site? I know magazines and audio companies also at times misguide people and trick people for Buisness but what u r saying about cd players and power cords is absolute nonsense.

gmgraves -- Sat, 03/19/2011 - 19:15

"And can you cite the music that is "not on digital" ?"

Sure, there are thousands of performances that have never been released on CD. Very little of Furtwangler's vast discography has ever made it to digital (or is likely to). Ditto for Sir Thomas Beecham. In lighter genres, try and find a digital copy of Les Baxter's "Ritual of the Savage" or even Joan Baez' "Ballad Book". None of this stuff and lots more have simply never been released on digital media. Of all recordings made since the advent of audio tape and the LP, I'd say that probably no more than about 10% of it has ever made it to CD.

"Expensive CD players sound *vastly* better than mass-market ones. Audiophiles are not that stupid."

It turns out that when the listeners don't know that they are listening to an "expensive CD player" , they find that not only does it NOT sound any better than a mass-market player, It doesn't sound any DIFFERENT from one, either! And it's not stupidity at work here, it's a well-documented human phenomenon known as either expectational or sighted bias ("This CD player costs 10X what that one does, it must sound vastly better").

gmgraves -- Sat, 03/19/2011 - 19:01

 I can't cite a formal "study" between two CD players, but I can point you to a rather extensive study whereby SACDS and DVD-As were processed through an outboard A-to-D-to-A loop and nobody could tell the difference between the actual SACD or high-resolution DVD-A playback and the A-to-D-to-A loop playback! This basically debunks two classic Audiophile " myths". One that SACD and high-resolution PCM audio sounds better than Red Book CD resolution, and two, that the insertion of either extra analog stages into the process or that two more digital encode/decode "round trip" digital conversions will alter the sound in any discernible way. Which is basically a left-handed way of confirming that digital conversion is essentially transparent.
http://tinyurl.com/464as5j
However, I have been privy to a number of DBTs that have tested CD decks, stand-alone DACs as well as amplifiers, and, of course, the most popular of audio snake oils, speaker cables and interconnects. Actually, DBTs aren't all that hard to set up. For CD players, what you need is a preamp (or integrated) with at least two high-level inputs and remote controllable input selection. Then you need a test CD with tones on it and an AC voltmeter (or a Radio Shack SPL meter can be used too). You use a 400 or 1000 Hz tone playing from each CD player in turn to make sure that the two CD players are at exactly the same volume (it helps if the preamp or integrated that you're using has built-in input trim level control - or you can build a couple of in-line attenuators very cheaply).  Then, you get an uninterested party (girlfriends and wives work well for this -if they'll sit still for it) to switch (or not) between the two units under test at pre-determined intervals (decided by a clock that every one can easily see) using the remote. Just make sure that the switcher sits behind the listening panel so that they cannot see what she's doing. If the amp has lights or other display means to indicate which input is selected, you will, of course, have to cover those up. Then just put the same music CDs in in both players and have the assembled listening panel mark on a piece of paper whether they heard a "change" in the sound or not at the switch interval (the wall clock is used for this). The "switcher" marks whether he/she changed or not at each interval and then afterward you tally up each listener's responses and compare them to the switcher's log. Every time it's been tried, the results have been the same as blind chance. IOW, nobody could tell the difference between two CD players, regardless of price differential with any better accuracy that they would have if they'd stayed home, marked their response sheet by randomly guessing and then mailing it in! 

johnny p. -- Sat, 03/19/2011 - 20:36

Most magnetic tape recordings (since the 1950s) were converted to digital. I'm not concerned about low-fi recordings made before that.

As far as differences are concerned, I'm not talking about audio formats - I'm talking playback. Being that there are no studies on cheap vs. expensive CD players, let's just assume that expensive ones sound a lot better. "Assume" because that's what the vast majority of listeners say.

I suppose you're also the type that thinks "all power cords sound the same". If so, you'd be very wrong here too.

It's makes me wonder what a person like you is doing on an audiophile webpage......

gmgraves -- Sun, 03/20/2011 - 00:25

"Most magnetic tape recordings (since the 1950s) were converted to digital. I'm not concerned about low-fi recordings made before that."

Most magnetic recordings were made since 1950, so that's what we are all talking about. And you are just wrong, my friend. Only a very small percentage of these recordings have been digitized and even fewer have been released on CD or are likely to be so released.

As far as modern expensive players sounding better than modern cheap players, there have been studies made and lots of DBT tests. The electronics theory behind digital to analog conversion, says that in the absence of significant quantization error, all CD playback will be essentially the same, and DBT tests bear that out. You can choose not to believe it, after all, it's your money 8^) But it is fact.

All power cords ARE the same. Anyone who thinks that after traveling hundreds of miles through power lines, picking up all kinds of crud from RF to induced spikes from lightening along the way and traveling all through your house on a circuit that powers computers, refrigerators, air conditioners, furnace ignitors and pumps and fans, that your AC power's "cleanliness" is going to be affected one iota by the last six feet it travels between the wall outlet and the IEC connectors on the back of your audio gear simply doesn't understand power distribution and electrical noise at all. And again, this is not an opinion, this is scientific fact backed up by double-blind tests. But as before, you're certainly entitled to believe that power cords affect sound. It is, after all. still a free country.

blackfly -- Sat, 03/19/2011 - 20:27

gmgraves:  you DBT was performed by me with the DAC output and Denon output in the exact manner you suggest with a preamp I have and the only difference was the DAC output or the DAC output of the Denon CDP.  I was able to hear only the smallest difference between the two.  However, the difference was there, and however small, the difference is IN THE FAVOUR of the Bryston DAC.  At this level, the smallest differences are huge, since they stand out more.  Kind of like high end mountain bikes, of which I am very fluent in.  The smallest differences make the biggest differences, since you are so in tune with the subtlety (and you are looking for it).
In terms of vinyl, I personally think digital is for me.  I own no LP's and LP is like SACD.  I have none therefore no interest in going down that path.  But I have heard good LP and although it does interest me and I think each has its merits, I prefer CD for me.  That is not to say someone else would think differently, but it is clear to me that too many write off CD on theory or "early experience" and have a view of CD that is a bit unfair.  I find RECORDINGS cold and unmusical, not MEDIUMS.
 

rossop -- Sat, 03/19/2011 - 21:20

Everybody is entilted to their own opinion. To me great vinyl is a little better than great digital. I think you need both but thats just me.

gmgraves -- Sun, 03/20/2011 - 00:41

 Well, both can be very good. BUT very few people ever get to hear digital at it's best. That's why vinyl, though technically obsolete, can still compete and compete successfully with commercial CD. 

I wish to go on record here that I REALLY like LP, and in fact have been listening to vinyl all evening. I have a good vinyl rig (Michelle GyroDeck, Jelco SA-750D arm, Grado Statement Master1, Sumiko BlackBird, Dynavector 17D3 cartridges) and almost 2000 LPs.

johnny p. -- Sun, 03/20/2011 - 13:06

98% of major works in classical music are on digital. Same goes for jazz. I am not concerned about unknown classical artists.

On components, there isn't a (serious) music listener in the *world* who says that CD players (and power cords) sound the same.. . You stand alone. You and a few other nuts in the objectivist arena.

There are no published studies indicating such things and audiophiles everywhere know better.

Do coding formats sound the same ? Possibly. But not cheap vs. very-pricy components.

You are not listening - just talking and possibly toying with technology - without knowing the results of your work.........

rossop -- Sun, 03/20/2011 - 14:42

My digital is PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC (with bridge) and Transport. It sounds just great and is not that dear. I have not heard a dcs stack but would be supprised if it was a whole lot better. At the price the PSA gear is really good value plus with the Bridge you can do computer audio which seems to be the way things are going.

gmgraves -- Sun, 03/20/2011 - 15:18

 "98% of major works in classical music are on digital. Same goes for jazz. I am not concerned about unknown classical artists."
Absolutely, not true. According the latest figures I've seen, the estimates are at just about 10%. I can go through my record collection and pull out literally HUNDREDS of performances on  LPs that have no digital versions. Whether you're concerned with "unknown classical artists" or not is irrelevant. That's not the topic. The topic is:
YOU: "And can you cite the music that is "not on digital" ?"
ME: "Sure, there are thousands of performances that have never been released on CD"
I see nothing in either your question or my response that narrows the field down to your concern about unknown classical artists. It's a simple, unqualified statement. Most pre-digital recordings have never been released on CD and most likely, never will be. Some are unknown by the current generation of music buyers, but others are timeless classics, the best ever recorded. But that's marketing: produce what sells. 
 
"On components, there isn't a (serious) music listener in the *world* who says that CD players (and power cords) sound the same.. . You stand alone. You and a few other nuts in the objectivist arena."
I see no reason for personal rancor in this discussion, and I'll ask you once to refrain from it.
I'm a very serious listener and I say that when sighted and expectational bias are removed from the equation, all modern CD players DO sound the same, and power cables are revealed as the snake oil that they are. 
"There are no published studies indicating such things and audiophiles everywhere know better."
There are plenty of serious studies, I don't know where you got that from. I did say, in an earlier post, that I couldn't point you to one, because very few AES papers are available for free download. If you are an AES member you can search their archives for things like "audible differences in amplifiers", or "audible differences in CD players", and come up with dozens of such studies (I pointed you to one such study that was available from another source other than the AES). Unfortunately, if one is not an AES member, this service costs money, and it's not cheap. 
 "Do coding formats sound the same ? Possibly. 
By coding formats, do you mean things like MP3 vs ATRAC, or ALC vs FLAC? If so, I'll say a qualified NO. Lossy compression algorithms sound different with ATRAC and Ogg Vorbis sounding much better than MP3 at the same data rate. Lossless compression algorithms by definition are merely data compression schemes like ZIP for PC files. You de-compress it and everything is there. Lossy compression schemes, by definition, throw some of the program material away (I mean, it's GONE, forever) and relies on psychoacoustic effects such as temporal masking to make the process undetectable by ear. Different algorithms use different models for this type of compression and have different levels of success at masking the discarded parts of the music, or the process behind it (called compression artifacts) MP3 is the most popular of these and is also the least transparent to the listener.  
"You are not listening - just talking and possibly toying with technology - without knowing the results of your work........."
Now, you can't possibly know that "I'm not listening" and you are just trying to be insulting. I have participated in, and set-up more DBT and ABX tests than most people have likely ever even heard of, much less participated in (have you ever even participated in a bias-controlled listening test? I don't know of course, but from your statements here, I'd guess no.). The statistical results of such listening tests are unambiguous and very pointed. Much of the minutia that audiophiles claim to hear simply doesn't exist and when clues to looks, price, and manufacturer's claims are removed from the equation, these minute differences disappear. 
I listen to music, both live and recorded more than 25 hours every week. There is hardly a week that goes by where I don't record a live event using state-of-the-art equipment and true-stereo methodologies. If I.m not "listening" then what the heck is it that you think I'm doing?

rossop -- Sun, 03/20/2011 - 16:31

I must agree with gmgraves on the "rancour" issue. I dont see why allisio (and others) should get upset just because someone has a different opinion than theirs. I dont agree with gmgraves on the cd player issue but, judging by his articulate posts, I would not call him a 'nut'. Far from it.
 
As for the power cord issue I think it was allisio who brought it up right out of the blue. I think ac cords are important but not as important as just about everything else.
 
Why does LP sound so good? Maybe its the midrange warmth, the big soundstage and the treble purity. Its hard for me to put it in words. I do think its a lot more fun and isnt that what its all about?

gmgraves -- Sun, 03/20/2011 - 19:32

Near as I can figure, LPs sound so good for several reasons. In the old days when most of these LPs were mastered, the electronics that existed between the microphone and the cutting head were a lot simpler. A short signal path usually leads to better sound. Secondly, LP mastering and playback is the source for a number of different colorations that give the sound a warm, almost liquid quality. These euphonic colorations blend with the music to make the recorded ensemble sound more cohesive and relaxed in their playing. These things all contribute to a feeling of relaxed well-being within the listener, heightening his/her involvement with the music. Modern LPs, because the market is mostly audiophiles, are very carefully mastered and manufactured. The vinyls available today are much better and much quieter than those of the past, and all of this results in a high-quality product not dumbed-down to the lowest common listening denominator the way modern CDs are these days. Again, this imparts a feeling of well being in the listener allowing him/her to "see" deeper into the music than do CDs which are often cold and clinical sounding, imparting an edginess in the listener which quickly turns to listening fatigue. Just my opinion, you understand. It's backed by many years of listening to both CD and vinyl, but nothing else.

johnny p. -- Sun, 03/20/2011 - 17:01

All the major symphonies and/or concertos are on digital. Mozart, Brahms, Bach and *every* noted work in jazz since 1950 is on digital..... 
 
You are the only "serious listener" in the world who says that all CD players (and power cords) sound the same. That's why I called you a "nut".
 
Have you compared a stock power cord with one costing $2,000 ? Until you do, I would refrain from calling after-market brands "snake oil". They are far from it.
 
Science is either experiment or observation - nothing else. So even if you *did* indicate a few ABX studies, 99% of serious listeners (observers) insist there are differences - sometimes great - in equipment. This means component-quality has the upper hand.
 
I'm sorry I wasted my time with you.........

gmgraves -- Sun, 03/20/2011 - 19:14

 "All the major symphonies and/or concertos are on digital. Mozart, Brahms, Bach and *every* noted work in jazz since 1950 is on digital..... "

While true, it's not the point. The point is that nowhere NEAR every recorded performance has been digitized. That was the point and the only point. And different performances of these classical pieces are different due to interpretation. There might be a dozen well known performances of Beethoven's  9th available, but if your or my favorite is not among them, then what? 

"You are the only "serious listener" in the world who says that all CD players (and power cords) sound the same. That's why I called you a "nut"."

So now you assert that you personally KNOW all the serious listeners in the world (otherwise how could you know their opinions)? That doesn't seem reasonable. 

"Have you compared a stock power cord with one costing $2,000 ? Until you do, I would refrain from calling after-market brands "snake oil". They are far from it."

Yes, as a matter of fact, I have. in a DBT test of about a dozen high-end power cords, no one could tell the difference between any of them and the one that came with the amplifier. The results were the same as blind chance. Scientifically, that is called a null result. What it means is that there is no statistically discernible difference in power cords. Those selling expensive power cords are cheating those who buy them expecting an improvement in their audio system's performance. The same is true of Myrtlewood blocks, speaker cable elevators, green CD pens, etc., etc., etc. 

"Science is either experiment or observation - nothing else. So even if you *did* indicate a few ABX studies, 99% of serious listeners (observers) insist there are differences - sometimes great - in equipment. This means component-quality has the upper hand."

That's right, it is either experiment or observation. Uncontrolled listening to a component which, because of cost or looks, or dealer/manufacturer hype, "promises" improved performance is the most UN-SCIENTIFIC form of either experiment or observation. Human beings are extremely suggestible. While our senses can make good decisions, those decisions MUST be performed in a bias-neutral way. If not, the results are useless in determining the truth.  When scientific observation, free of bias, shows that their is no statistically discernible difference between components, whether they be amplifiers, CD players, interconnects, speaker cables or AC cords, then you can pretty much take it to the bank that there are no differences and any differences heard in non-controlled listening tests are figments of the listener's imagination and therefore scientifically useless. This is just fact. 

Let me ask you this: If DBT results are considered the "gold standard" in science and are good enough to test the efficacy of the pharmaceuticals we take, the food we eat, the cars we drive, the aircraft we fly in and a thousand other products that we take for granted, why would these same types of tests  be deemed invalid for making determinations about the actual scientific differences between how things sound? 

"I'm sorry I wasted my time with you........."

You respond like someone who's mind is made up, and is therefore unable and/or unwilling to entertain any other ideas on the subject, whether fact or opinion. That's sad, really. Perhaps you shouldn't be discussing this stuff on a forum where you are likely to encounter people with more knowledge and/or differing opinions from yours. 

paskinn -- Mon, 03/21/2011 - 01:54

Mr Graves and colleagues need to be a little less confident that their 'dbts' prove their assertions. A simple example: Supposing a child fails to solve maths puzzles in a formal test..but then solves similar problems easily, in a normal classroom environment. Does the formal test 'prove' that the child doesn't understand the maths...or only that such cognitive ability is impaired when the child is stressed?Numerous careful scientific tests have shown that stress and tiredness can cause major fall-off in cognitive abilities. Thus while dbts may shown that much 'difference'claimed by audiophiles is a figment of their imagination, it might equally show that stressful conditions lead to poor performance. Given the existence of such , very 'human'  factors, dbts need to be approached with caution. They certainly do not 'prove' what Mr Graves thinks they prove. This of course is not evidence that audiophiles really do have 'golden ears', only that dbts would have to be very very carefully constructed to minimise stress and other degradation of cognitive abilities.I see no evidence that they have been..  

gmgraves -- Mon, 03/21/2011 - 13:25

While what you say can be true, the fact is that that these kinds of tests have been performed so many times, under such scrupulous conditions, that it's hard to make a case that stress or tiredness has been a factor in the null result of all of them. A case in point is the Meyer/Moran A/D/A loop test referenced in another post:

http://tinyurl.com/464as5j

This test was conducted over the course of a year with dozens (not just one) of ABX sessions involving well over a hundred people in different venues, using different mixes of equipment on different systems. Surely, one cannot, in good faith, make an argument that stress caused a null result in ALL of these cases!

I think that Moran and Meyer's conclusions, as reproduced below is the only rational and reasonable way to look at the results of this exhaustive study:

"Now, it is very difficult to use negative results to prove
the inaudibility of any given phenomenon or process.
There is always the remote possibility that a different system
or more finely attuned pair of ears would reveal a
difference. But we have gathered enough data, using sufficiently
varied and capable systems and listeners, to state
that the burden of proof has now shifted. Further claims
that careful 16/44.1 encoding audibly degrades high resolution
signals must be supported by properly controlled
double-blind tests."

Moran/Meyer are, of course speaking about one particular kind of test. A test that shows fairly conclusively that high-resolution audio has no audible benefit in and of itself, and further, that insertion of an extraneous A/D/A loop in an audio path is not audible. But the their conclusion, above, I think, is applicable to all these studies. I.E. there is room to doubt, but not much and the onus is on the side of the doubters to prove that DBT doesn't work for audio.

johnny p. -- Mon, 03/21/2011 - 08:46

Thank you, paskinn. Those tests (rarely done) don't prove anything. Since we have thousands of times more un-controlled vs controlled listening, I would side with those who have the numbers. And the experience...
 
Comparisons are done by audiophiles all the time. And they level-match - DBXer's are not the only ones who can do this.
 
And the serious listeners - not quick-test folks - hear differences. All over the world - Japan, Europe, North America. I know they're there because of their investments, subscriptions to high-end press, trade show attendance and chat-rooms like these.
 
Actually, it's hard to find someone who says "components sound the same". Calling gmgraves a "nut" was generous - I should have said delirious !!

gmgraves -- Mon, 03/21/2011 - 13:37

Again with the personal rancor. I have shown you nothing but courtesy in this debate, and you continue with the ad hominum attacks. Why is it that every discussion board has to have at least one of your type on it? Someone who, finding that they have no real counter-arguments, no actual facts to back up their assertions, always get angry at those on the other side of a debate, and start name calling. These types of discussions would be so much more pleasant and informative to all involved if this type of person just abstained from getting into personalities and avoid debates where they can't remain objective. Were this a moderated forum, Mr. Allisio would have been censured for his personal attacks, but here, I guess we have to do it ourselves.

johnny p. -- Mon, 03/21/2011 - 19:13

You should refrain from discussion boards if you:
A. Say that cheap components "sound the same" as expensive. You won't make too many friends by doing this.
B. Can't handle mild insults. Chat rooms attract all ages of folk - it's the wild west of discussion.

Lighten up a little....and ignore any remarks that bother you.
Just stick to the points of the debate and you'll be fine.....

gmgraves -- Mon, 03/21/2011 - 22:04

"You should refrain from discussion boards if you:
A. Say that cheap components "sound the same" as expensive. You won't make too many friends by doing this."

First of all, I said nothing about cheap vs expensive (but you seem to have a price = quality fixation) But certain things are are made-up of commodity components (like DAC chips) irrespective of price, and by definition, perform the same.

"B. Can't handle mild insults. Chat rooms attract all ages of folk - it's the wild west of discussion."

You seem to be saying that certain age groups simply cannot be courteous. I say, "why not?" Being a certain age is no excuse for having no manners.

johnny p. -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 07:10

You said that all CD players sound the same. Indicating cheap vs expensive.

"Rancor" must not bother you that much - if you keep going back to discussion boards that frequently use it.........

And it's also strange that a (clear) objectivist bothers with *audiophile* web pages !! I've been on these forums for 10 years - and I've never seen anyone like you. I suggest Audio Asylum - where a few more of your type exist.

Even if they're still in the minority......

gmgraves -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 21:13

"You said that all CD players sound the same. Indicating cheap vs expensive."

Let me ask you a question. Why would they sound different?

"And it's also strange that a (clear) objectivist bothers with *audiophile* web pages !!"

Because being an "objectivist" and being audiophile are not mutually exclusive concepts as you seem to suggest. I just don't buy the hype, misconceptions, and ignorance that seem to increasingly plague this hobby.

As for Rancor. It is indicative of poor manners and poor manners are another milestone in that road that marks the decline of Western Civilization. You want to be seen as being a part of that? I don't.

blackfly -- Mon, 03/21/2011 - 11:29

There are differences for sure.  I have the option of using either 2 preamps or 3 power amps for my main speakers, and I can tell the differences between all of them (somewhat unfair given the fact one of my preamps an one poweramp is Class A).  But to say they all sound the same is ridiculous. 
I would like to pose this question:  If the LP fans are correct in the LP being better I think we can all agree that Dire Straits "Brothers In Arms" is a definitive classic disc, not just musically but sonically.  It is a pure digital recording.  If the artifacts of digital were true, would it not of been passed down to the LP since both the CD and LP came from the same master?  How does one say the digital sound has an "artifact or sound" to it and yet then accept digital music so long as it is on a LP?  I am sure I could name many recordings that are digital to being with that are then made into LP but my point still stands.  It seems acceptable to find digital okay so long as the end result is analogue but the reverse is total butchery of the music?

gmgraves -- Mon, 03/21/2011 - 14:07

You're confusing the "capture" medium with the "playback" medium. Digital, even 16-bit/44.1 KHz digital is superb. If you would hear one of my early masters when I was recording to 16/44.1, your jaw would drop. I mean YOU ARE THERE. Now, were these commercial recording masters, at some point in the process, they would be transfered to analog, in fact they would be cut directly to disc using a cutting lathe and the gear that goes with it. Here is the beginning of the "vinyl sound". Suddenly this digital recording has been turned into an LP, with all of the euphonic colorations that make LP sound different (whether or not that difference is perceived as being superior sound to a CD made from the same master, of course, depends upon one's personal taste). That process is finished on the playback side, where turntable characteristics, arm and cartridge interactions, and cartridge performance as well as phono preamp performance (accuracy to the RIAA curve) finish the "LP sound".

" have the option of using either 2 preamps or 3 power amps for my main speakers, and I can tell the differences between all of them (somewhat unfair given the fact one of my preamps an one poweramp is Class A). But to say they all sound the same is ridiculous."

Of course it's ridiculous. Tube amps are going to have a "sound". Single-ended class A amps also have a "sound" (they are also usually tube), I wouldn't rule out that some solid-state class-A amps might also have a sound, and no one here has ever said that they wouldn't. But what has been asserted (and carefully so) is that all decently designed modern solid-state amps and preamps are TRANSPARENT, and therefore have little or no sound of their own. This wasn't true 10-15 years ago, but it is now. In my listening room right now, for instance, I have both a Krell KAV-300iL and a Harman Kardon HK990 integrated amps. Both are rated at 150 Watts/channel. Under normal listening conditions, I defy anyone to tell them apart. But the HK990 has a better power supply than the Krell, sporting huge twin toroid transformers (for dual-mono operation) to the Krell's smaller single toroid power transformer. At loud playback levels, you can definitely hear the normally superb Krell start to compress crescendos. This isn't the amplifier circuitry giving-up the ghost, it's the power supply. The Harman Kardon, OTOH, just keeps sounding the same, no matter how loud the music gets. It ought to; H-K says the amp will source +/-200 amperes through both channels simultaneously. But to reiterate, at normal listening levels, both amps are so transparent that I defy anyone to tell them apart.

johnny p. -- Mon, 03/21/2011 - 12:19

The problem was playback - not the coding scheme. Even Red Book digital is fantastic - if decoded properly. But "properly" means the latest ways to decode inc. minimum-phase filtering, re-clocking, etc. We didn't have these things before - hence the historic complaints about digital.

Ded Frag -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 02:11

Yes, Red Book digital can be fantastic but often isn't and it's not just the playback gear that's guilty. I run a Meridian 808.2 player and even though it's somehow manages to make a number of previously unlistenable CD's listenable, crap recordings are still crap recordings. I can't say I know what the cause of that is, deaf recording engineers, nasty recording gear - such as inferior A/D converters, bad mastering or any combination of those three. I must confess though I was wrong blaming some of the recordings themselves for the nasty noises I heard on other players, especially in the upper treble. Sooner or later the technology in players like the Meridian, and the equivalent from companies like Ayre, will trickle all the way down to budget gear. If that happens soon enough higher resolution recordings will have much less market appeal.
The lesson here I believe is don't throw those CD's away just yet.

gmgraves -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 14:02

I certainly agree with all you say about Red Book CDs. The only conclusion that I can come to is that "crap recordings" are "crap" on purpose. It certainly isn't the equipment. The gear needed to make literally state-of-the-art recordings is surprisingly cheap, easy to get and plentiful. While it hasn't always been cheap, the ability to make great sounding recordings is more than 50 years old as witnessed by the fantastic sound that people like Lewis Leyton of RCA, C. R. Fine of Mercury, and independent jazz recordist, Rudy Van Gelder were getting on tape back then. People are STILL remastering this stuff and audio enthusiasts are still buying it. The equipment was simple (primitive, actually) but the results have rarely been equaled or surpassed.

If you want to hear how good Red Book digital can really be, spend $35.99 and buy one of the JVC XRCDs. Try the Zubin Metha/L.A. Philharmonic Decca recording of Holst's "The Planets" or Artur Rubinstien playing the Rachmaninof "Piano Concerto #2" with Reiner and the Chicago Symphony. This recording was made in early January of 1956 by Lewis Leyton at RCA, and once you hear the JVC XRCD of it, you'll wonder (1) what the recording industry has been doing for the last 55 years, because it sure doesn't sound like they've progressed that much, and (2) if Red Book CD can sound THIS GOOD, then what is the record industry doing to the rest of the CDs produced year in and year out to make them sound THIS BAD!

yellowsubmarine -- Mon, 03/21/2011 - 22:48

I didn't realize this discussion was so exhaustive/exhausting when I began reading it!
I will say that all my CD players have sounded different to me. All of them have been relatively inexpensive. Interestingly, the 1994 Harman Kardon (about $400) I bought after a recommendation in Stereophile sounded almost exactly as described in the review-- it provided much punchier bass than my original Sony player (circa 1986).
When I was intrigued enough by SACD to buy Sony's least expensive SACD player, I was pretty let down by its sound on CD and SACD. Even though it was a much newer model (this was 2008), that punchy bass was absent and the sound quality seemed to lack warmth, though there may have been greater detail. After living with the Sony for over a year, I put it in the closet and replaced it with a $300 Oppo Blu-Ray player that has a much warmer (by that I mean a more pronounced lower midrange) character. All this is with the same H/K amplifier, same CDs and Koss electrostatic headphones (I've had them since 1993). So, yes, I can hear differences.

paskinn -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 04:40

  Mr Graves does produce quite a lot of evidence to make his case. However I would suggest that the sort of tests he alludes to are of the type I doubt...by which I mean they appear to involve people listening to unfamiliar material in unfamiliar environments using unfamiliar equipment.  Of course listeners get confused, and even  gross differences can be confused in these stressful and highly unreal situations. Remember the tests at Swedish radio that 'proved' that experimental compressed material was inaudible. Unfortunately when the tests discs were made more generally available large numbers of people heard a high pitch tone. When this was pointed-out, the blind-test panel (of experts) was reconvened. This time the same people could hear the very tone that was supposedly inaudible. Or we could reference the symphony players who failed to hear any difference between two (objectively very different) recordings of the same piece of music...one of which had been played by them! These tests are not like using placebos in drug tests. However, I do agree that us audiophiles have failed to demonstrate our claims ...simply insisting we can hear things is generally fine, as long as occasionally some listeners are able to identify differences blind. But this will only work in conditions that are sympathetic...such as listening at home, using familiar equipment and music, with the samples controlled by the listener. Difficult to do properly...but if done well the results will show that difference can be heard.    

gmgraves -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 14:43

Of course, differences exist. Differences between speakers exist, differences between record playing decks exist, differences in phono cartridges exist. Differences between tube equipment and solid state equipment exist, differences between various tube amps and tube stages (like the outputs of CD players and DACs that use tubes) definitely exist. Differences between older SS equipment were quite extensive. But today, well designed equipment, even well designed tube equipment (like Audio Research) sound more alike than different. And where glaring differences do exist, it's generally in power amps, and usually under a very specific set of circumstances (such as operating near the amplifiers' power supply limits). But at "normal" listening levels, most amplifiers, pretty damn near all modern preamps simply sound so close to one another as to make and differences inconsequential. This is called being signal transparent.
I believe that this slavish devotion to differentiating the miniscule differences in amplifiers is a hold-over from the early days of the High-End, when the Delta between mass market Japanese "mid-fi" equipment and high-end audio equipment as well as the differences between state-of-the art solid-state amplification and good tube amplification were profound. The late Gordon Holt, quit his job at "High-Fidelity" magazine and started "Stereophile" because he realized that the party line that 'everything sounds the same' was fostered by the magazine's desire to serve the advertisers by not criticizing their products, rather than serving the readership by giving them an honest evaluation of the products available. Holt KNEW that this stuff all sounded different, and at the time he was correct. Early solid-state amps were TERRIBLE. Designers found themselves thrown into transistor design when little was known about it and when they were used to designing with tubes. It was damn near impossible to get any power out of the first generation of silicon power transistors. They had to be specially sorted and tested at the factory, and they still failed catastrophically. Some early transistor amplifiers were so load-sensitive that some speakers would drive them into ultrasonic oscillation and clipping. Many early transistor amps were biased so hard into class 'B' that they had a notch where one output transistor stopped conducting and the other took over! You could see this "crossover notch" on an oscilloscope and you could certainly hear it. The folks at Macintosh were so unsure how to proceed with solid-state design that they used transformers between transistor stages. They sounded lousy. 
Tube amps in this era simply sounded better than transistors. After all, they were a "mature technology" as the industry had been building them for 40 years. Even though tubes amps sounded much better than early solid-state stuff, they too varied wildly from design to design. Some had distortion at their rated outputs of more than 5%!
Add to that the fact that much of what people heard wasn't reflected in the traditional amplifier measurements of the era, and the practice of "subjective evaluation" was born. If we can't separate the wheat from the chaff with measurements, by God, we can do it by listening! And we could and we did, and the "high-end" was born. 
But today, even relatively cheap mass-market (so-called "mid-fi) amplifiers are very transparent and difficult to pick-out even in a DBT. The differences between a modern Sony amp and say a pair of Mark Levinson #33 monoblocks, at normal listening levels, is negligible.  While differences in sound do exist between these (and get greater as one plays louder), it's difficult to distinguish them, even in a DBT. And when one does note these differences, one finds that 5 minutes of listening to one or the other will make those differences disappear. They just aren't important and would be worth the delta between the price of the Sony and the M-Ls only to an obsessive compulsive. If you ask any of today's reviewers, I'm sure that they will tell you that it's getting harder and harder to find anything negative to say about today's amplifiers and preamps, and their reviews, in magazines like Stereophile, TAS, Hi-Fi News and Record Review, etc. reflect this. 
As far as DBTs are concerned. Yes, a case can be made that unfamiliarity with the stereo system, the venue, and the program material can affect a DBT. But, those who conduct this kind of test KNOW that and compensate for it. For instance, the ad hoc group with whom I'm associated are a bunch of audiophile buddies who get together regularly to listen to music. We know each other's stereo systems almost as well as we know our own, and we always perform our double-blind tests in the same venue.  We are allowed to familiarize ourselves with the music selected and we try to use the same sources every time. We use CD, SACD, DVD-A, Hi-Res downloads, vinyl, and reel-to-reel tape. WE know all the recordings well, and we are allowed to listen as long as we like to both components under test before the formal DBT begins. I think that we have adequately addressed these concerns, and our statistical outcomes tally with similar tests found in university and AES DBTs.    

Ded Frag -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 17:26

" Of course, differences exist. . . . . . . . . . " Thanks for a beautifully written and almost convincing essay. However, having spent some time recently comparing a Devialet D- Premier amplifier with an Icon Audio MB845 ( at low/mid & high volumes!) I think you're wrong. I chose the Icon because, to my ears, on my speakers it gave me more goose bumps. The Devialet impressed but sure didn't entertain. Very subjective I know but that's how I heard it. Am I going deaf?

gmgraves -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 18:28

"Am I going deaf?"

Probably not. You are just subject to suggestion and expectational bias, just like every other human being that ever lived. IOW, I'm sure you heard a difference and I'm sure you believe it was the sound of the Icon that swayed you. But, without a DBT, you'll probably never know for sure whether it was the Icon's actual sound or some other aspect of the amp that swayed you. That's why, when evaluating two components as you have done, it is necessary to evaluate the SOUND disassociated from all other aspects of the two contenders. That included their looks, their brand, their features, etc. That is done by you never knowing which of the two you're listening to at any given moment, and the person doing the switching not knowing either. It's called eliminating sighted and expectational bias. If you strongly prefer one over the other at the end of such a test, then you will know for sure that you have chosen on sonic grounds ALONE. Without that degree of separation, you can't know for sure. However, I will be willing to bet that if you did do a proper DBT between the Devialet and the Icon, you would find the sonic differences to be tiny (if you could detect them at all) and inconsequential over the long haul.

Todays amp designers have tools that the last generation of amp designers never even thought of. These consist of easily obtainable computer-based waveform analysis programs that will allow the modern amp designer to draw a very close bead on absolute transparency.

BTW, thanks for the kind words about my essay. I appreciate that, I really do.

Ded Frag -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 20:00

Again on the surface what you say appears to make sense. There's one real world problem though that's never mentioned in the context of double blind testing. How many audio retailers are willing to provide potential customers with such an experience? I've yet to find one and I've been around this game now for 40 years. I have however had the joy of detecting subtle differences in component exchange within amplifiers as a long term friend is an audio technician. He's seldom managed to fool me when pretending he's changed something like a capacitor in a power amp's output stage when in fact all he was doing was making smoke with his soldering iron. So, I suspect I'm not deaf yet.
By the way, the differences in the performance of the two amps I recently auditioned are measurable, and oddly, the one I prefer, according to audiophool orthodoxy, measures worse. Go figure. What this boils down to though is that I make subjective decisions about what I buy and even if I'm deluding myself I'm sure enjoying the results without the aid of double blind testing. In fact the Icon amps in my system are giving me more goose bumps than others I've run costing ten times as much. Call me a sucker for second harmonic distortion or whatever it is, I'm blissfully happy with the Icons. Mind you, I've cut off my main speakers at 55Hz and handed everything below over to two Velodyne DD15's as the Icons bottom end, although better than most thermionic toys, don't appear to damp the woofers in my main speakers sufficiently. (Usher BE10's with the berylium mid & tweeter - not the lastest with the amorphous diamond tweeter - what ever that is)
I wish double blind testing was something ALL audio magazine reviews involved. That sadly ain't gunna happen. I'd also like to see the results of reviewers clinical hearing tests published along with their reviews. That also ain't gunna happen.

gmgraves -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 20:59

"How many audio retailers are willing to provide potential customers with such an experience?'
Very few to none. And can you blame them? Can you imagine what would happen to the sales of their most expensive amps and preamps if all their DBTs did was convince a bunch a potential customers that the delta between the cost of their most expensive amps and their more modest offereings was not warranted by the difference in performance revealed (or perhaps NOT revealed) by such a test?

And if you're happy with your Icon, far be it from me to tell you that you shouldn't be, even if it's not really based on anything (remember, I said even IF) real. Our perceptions as humans are based on so many variables of taste and other perceptual factors that picking something like speakers, amplifiers, anything really, becomes a not entirely logical exercise.

"I wish double blind testing was something ALL audio magazine reviews involved."

I do too. It would strip-away all the snake-oil from this hobby and send the charlatans packing, because they would no longer be able to hide their chicanery and unsupportable high prices behind a combination of expectational bias and hype.

Ded Frag -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 22:01

"Can you imagine what would happen to the sales of their most expensive amps and preamps if all their DBTs did was convince a bunch a potential customers that the delta between the cost of their most expensive amps and their more modest offereings was not warranted by the difference in performance revealed (or perhaps NOT revealed) by such a test?"
Not only that but I'm sure if audio retailers did to offer DBT's to their customers they'd rig them. Why am I so cynical?
When the Pioneer A400 first hit the market I bought one as I simply could not believe it could be as good as the reviews were saying. I got it home and was so astonished at how good it was I phoned an audio shop I'd dealt with for years and told them of my reaction. "We'll bring it in and well put it up against one of our budget integrateds and see what you think" I did and the A400 sounded like crap compared to their amp. (can't remember the brand) . To cut a long story short the retailer didn't know I was a long term friend of one of their newest repair technicians who upon being told this story went into fits of laughter. "What so funny about that" I asked. " Well, whenever anyone makes a claim like yours they offer to compare the component with one of theirs and hook yours up with a specially doctored interconnect that appears identical to their others but sounds crap."
So, if any retailer did offer DBT's I'd want to have someone I trusted as an observer watching very closely behind the scenes.

gmgraves -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 00:24

"Not only that but I'm sure if audio retailers did to offer DBT's to their customers they'd rig them. Why am I so cynical?"

Your cynicism is NOT unwarranted. The retail points on very expensive Hi-fi gear is much greater than on less expensive stuff. Would rather make $2500 on the sale of a $5000 amplifier, or $250 on the sale of a $500 amplifier? Silly question, I know.

I can't really blame these people too much. Their living depends upon selling as much high-end gear as they can. If their ploy had worked, they could have had you so disgusted with your Pioneer A400, that you would have sold it and bought "their amplifier".

Zach -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 15:42

 I once took an NAD M55 ($1799) Universal player and did a comparison with Sony SACD/Player that cost $150. It was an uninspiring experience which eventually lead me to LP. LP makes CD sound thin and without soul/weight (to me at least). I'm a fan now.

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