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mind over matter


Prominent Member
Or is a change as good as a rest? Not sure where the best place to post this thread is, but since the speakers is one of the last places the sound gets to before it reaches our ears, this seems as good a place as any. How much of our discrimination between the quality of sources, before it gets to our speakers, and our judgement about which is best, is simply a result of noticing a change, regardless of whether that change is for better or worse?

After being happy with my hifi for years I changed it for a home cinema setup, to also use for stereo music. Initially disappointed with the stereo sound (I was now using satellites+subs and an AV amp, rather than 'proper' speakers), I must have eventually got used to it since I've been really enjoying it up until late.

Then a week or so ago, I found an old stereo amp and fed to this the pre-outs from the AV amp. Immediatley, music sounded much better. After enjoying this for a while, I thought hey, lets plug the DVD/CD straight into the stereo amp (surely this must have a better pre-amp stage than the AV amp I thought, and therefore sound better than using it just as a power amp). Sure enough, it sounded better again.

Plugging everything back into the AV amp to confirm this and register the change, I thought,, hey, was it just my imagination or did that one little passage of music sound a little better this way, making the most of the sub? After swapping to and fro, with various combinations of source/amp and speaker either using or not using the sub, it started to feel that what I was hearing was not something better or worse but something just different. With each change of equipment, I became leass confident that the stereo amp was really better.

Either I'm average Jo, or someone with really bad cloth ears, but I'm talking discrimination at the level of amp here. Meanwhile, there is a bargain on ebay - a mains cable, with a current maximum bid of only £320. It normally retails for £895. Yes, that’s correct, a 3-pin mains plug attached to a bit of cable to plug into your hifi, can cost £895. Go figure :rolleyes:


Prominent Member
I think I know where you are coming from, and from what I understand it's that we very quickly become accustomed to a new sound, be it more or less bass, or treble, or whatever, and this becomes the new norm. It is also very difficult to remember exactly what somehting sounded like only seconds before. This is what makes comparitive testing between components difficult - we are just not able to accurately remember that something sounded like when it is replaced by something else.

One other thing we also have to get used to (and this may be the most contentious point) is that there is (probably) not that much difference between well-designed and matched components at the budget end of the market, and those costing an order of magnitude more. Yes, they may go louder, and with less distortion, but at "normal" listening levels (and for me that means with kids asleep upstairs) are they that different?

And what is "good" anyway - it's only subjective. We all have our own benchmarks, standards, acceptance criteria or whatever. And most of us have a point at which we say "that's good enough". My missus would rather have her fingernails pulled out than admit that my relatively modest system is in any way better than the 1980's all-in-one "separates" box that she brought with her when we moved in together. Although since buying a new amp and speakers she suddenly buys more CDs and listens to more music (sadly, James Blunt and the like, but it's a start!)

I think the points I'm trying to make are:

  • A lot of kit sounds very similar to most people
  • Things may sound different, but is it better?
  • Some people are prepared to spend more money on cables than I would on a car (then again I'm a tight git!)
  • It's not about having what you want, it's wanting what you have (heavy, man!)

    Rant over - next!

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