Originally Posted by hdkhang
I'd remind you that the discussion is on amplification, which is well understood. When you add processing and other signal altering factors into play, you are no longer maintaining a level playing field.
e.g. I pit one AVR against another (same model), the first one I leave at default, the second one I set equalisation such that the midrange is pulled down by 10dB. Well of course you will hear differences. Just like you will notice differences between the quality of the digital to analogue conversion of say an old PC's onboard audio vs. a decent sound card. Or the difference between a processor that has corrected a null/peak in the room response. These things are not being discussed and you need to take all of that out of the equation and focus only on the job of amplification.
The original PlayStation with analogue RCA outputs at the back of the unit is highly regarded in some circles as being able to best megabuck CD players... when measured it showed ridiculously high levels of distortion. The people that liked the sound from that unit was equating the lack of detail and the distortion as being warmth or vinyl like sound. This is all fine and dandy, people can like what they like no problem with that, sound quality is subjective of course. Amplification is not though. You want a different sound, change your source, your speakers, your DAC, your processing, your settings, your seating position etc. These are the things that will impact the audio. I'm sure if we ran a double blind test where the same amp was used and the same pair of speakers were used and the only difference was that the balance was set to left or right, that you would be able to pick which was which (duh). Or something less extreme, if the same amp and pair of speakers was used and the only thing switched between sessions was a rug vs. hard flooring. In these instances the ability to reliably identify which is which is well agreed upon as proof of being able to "hear" the difference. Yet when we talk about amplification, somehow there is some additional magic that makes one amp sound so superior to another but inability to pick which is which in a double blind test is not proof since the test (a hearing test) doesn't take into consideration other things that science can't explain. Nobody is being asked to explain why it is that two amps sound different, they are simply being asked to show that they can.
Imagine you are at the optometrist (fictional one) and you ask to have your eyes checked. For those that have never been, they will test your vision by displaying the same image twice under different lenses and asking you which is clearer. Your choices are: "first", "second" or "they are the same". Now imagine the two images are different and there is an attractive guy in the first image and an attractive woman in the second. Instead of answering which is clearer, you decide to answer which you prefer (say because you don't want to admit that you see the attractive guy more clearly for fear of being labelled a homosexual)... so while you might have been super lucky and the woman was actually clearer in all instances, it is more than likely that you will end up with a bad prescription, but at least you aren't gay. This ridiculous scenario was put forth to draw parallels to this discussion. The reason for a double blind, level matched, no faulty and comfort zoned amplifier listening test is similar to the reason they show the same image instead of two different ones. i.e. to remove any bias, preconceived preferences and any other variable not linked to the actual "hearing" that you are doing. As opposed to a improper listening test where the levels are not matched, where people are aware of which amp is driving the speaker and for fear of being labelled a wax ear (opposite of golden ear is what I am aiming for), you always choose the amp that you paid more for (or you pick the amp that sounded better in the carefully treated audition room, or the one that all your friends are recommending etc. etc.)
You make an excellent point.
With some humor too... Good stuff...
I would be inclined to agree with you, simply because of your talent with words.
Over the years I've had a variety of different amplification in my HT. Same room, same speakers, same wires, same source, calibrated with the same microphone to the exact same level (85db). Each one sounded different at all sane volumes. With your logic, I've certainly fooled myself. Somehow, I've also managed to fool my wife (who preferred how things sounded two amps ago). I've also manged to fool 100's of reviewers who also can hear the differences (bench tests included). And also, I've fooled 10's of thousands of other respected individuals who have made Home Theater, and specifically HT Amplification their profession. Smart, highly intelligent, driven people who have designed and built the gear we see and hear today. See, you're calling us all either; delusional, ignorant, or liars. It's demeaning. And offensive.
You see Hdkhang, the overwhelming proof that there *IS* a difference.
And yet, on the other side, we have a very small (and vocal) minority who claim otherwise. Many of the very loudest of the bunch would *really* like to believe it so. I suspect many of this minority suffer from the same confirmation bias you claim afflicts the majority. And they lack the experience of playing with different amplifiers in their own HT.
10 years ago there were no less than 6 high-end audio shops within 20 miles of my home. Places I could demo the latest and greatest. I could even get the sales guys to *gasp* switch amps around.
Today, where does an educated consumer go to listen to amplification? Where do they go to listen to speakers from Linn, Energy, Vienna Acoustics, Infinity, Martin Logan, Definitive Technologies... All with the same amp/processor? Today, there's a Best Buy (at least mine has a Magnolia), and that's it. Perhaps today people just aren't exposed to these differences. Maybe people now get their buying advice from internet forums instead of actually listening to the gear in a demo room. Maybe, just maybe - In a industry where equipment cannot be demo'd easily by the average consumer, manufacturers push feature set as the only real way of differentiating their product... Since the quality cannot be heard from Amazon.com but the checklist of DSP modes is easily compared.
It's Movember. I'm observing it. I'm supposed to act gentlemanly.
I am not going to call those who have only owned receivers ignorant.. Instead I will encourage them to experiment, have fun. Get a cheap amp from Craigslist, try it out.
I'm not going to call those who have had separates but disagree, delusional. It's not my place to make judgments on another person's truth. Instead, I understand them and agree to disagree. Who am I to judge?
And finally, I'm certainly not going to call every legitimate reviewer, professional or hobbiest, from every publication / forum / blog for decades, a liar.