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April, 2005

THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF ASCERTAINING THE ABSOLUTE QUALITY OF A COMPONENT

Monday, April 25th, 2005 by Mike

The logic goes like this: a component has to be part of a system in order to be heard, and also that every system system has flaws.

These system imperfections can:

* Cover up what the component does best

* Conceal flaws in the component.

* Be counter-balanced by the imperfections of the component (i.e. the component can cover up flaws in the system)

This why equipment reviews should be comparative, for example:

* component A sounds leaner than component B

* component A communicates more detail than component B

and even value judgments are OK here, for example:

* component A sounds less natural than component B

Even better would be to give some context:

* component A has better control of the bass than component B in my bass-resonance-rich listening room and with the X amplifier, which is under-damped is comparison to most amplifiers evaluated here, driving these same speakers.

And finally, and of course these kind of conclusions can be wrapped up in many pages of expository brilliance (no, I am not being catty, I wish I just had a couple o’ them drops of expository brilliance, or even just the time to read them)

* speaker A has better control of the bass than speaker B playing tracks 1, 2 and 3 on the CD that contains lots of information in the 60 - 100 Hz range produced by an electric bass in a studio environment, when driven by amplifier X, known to be under-damped in comparison with most amps, notably the X, Y and Z which audiophiles might be expected to also use with these speakers, in my bass-resonance-loving room of dimensions HxWxD, with interconnects known to less detailed than most, including the more often recommended C1 and C2 cables, which might themselves rob the bass of some detail and control, and with speaker cables that smear information in the time domain causing a lack of punch in comparison with all speaker cables evaluated here, ever….

This should make the obvious even more obvious, that the more perfect a system is, the less excuses and qualifications the description of a component’s sound in that system has to have.

Next: Why oh why do good systems seem to go spontaneously bad?

A SARCASTIC LOOK AT THE RELATIVE NATURE OF QUALITY

Friday, April 15th, 2005 by Mike

If component A is better than component B and component B is better than component C, is component A always better than component C?

Skipping any speculation on the answer to that question, how about the transitive nature of ‘almost is as good as’.

This ‘almost as good as’ is treated as a transitive relation on the web a lot, and it has a tendency to sneak in to all of our thinking patterns from time to time.

It goes like this:

Component B is 95% as good as component A, and component A is the almost universally acknowledged best available component of its type. And guess what, component B only costs half as much as component A. Ignoring the fact that that 5% is what separates great from very good - this logic invariably concludes that component B is a really good deal.

Ok, fine, if it was left there. But then comes:

Component C, when modded by Mr. Mod, is 95% as good as component B, and it is only 1/2 the price of component B.. an even better deal! And this usually fractures into the fact that any modder, not just Mr. Mod, can take component C to within 5%, or so, of component B.

No we are not done.

It turns out that, component D, E, and F, also when modded, are also around that 90-95% as good as component B range. And those can be gotten really, really, really cheap used.

And here is where it gets weird … :-)

It appears first as a speculation, then as a fact, that, you remember that component A? Is is really all that good? That is really a lot of money they are asking for it. Is anything really worth that price. And….

Is component A really better than component B… or even better than component F for that matter.. Hey, it is all in the Ear of the Beholder, right? And didn’t that fella we never heard of before say that the Sony/Denon/Radio Shack item sounded better in their system (who cares that their system sucked as a review system)? We all know these differences are just all hype, right, put out by the reviewers, dealers, and manufacturers.

So hear you have it, component F, modded by just about anybody putting up an ad on the net, is as good as, and maybe even better, than the best in the world.

Let’s all go out and buy one!

For the final twist:

Then rumors start being posted about the $60 component, that if you are lucky enough to get the one out of very ten units that is better than it has any right to be… just happens to be 95% as good as…

Well, you can imagine where it goes from there…

Next: How can you judge the quality of a component in an imperfect system - and, there being no perfect system, how can you judge the quality of any component ever?

YOU KNOW IT IS GOING TO BE A BAD DAY FOR A DEALER WHEN

Friday, April 1st, 2005 by Mike

8. A product they invested heavily in has now been discontinued and is available direct from the manufacturer at 50% off …. which is less than what the dealer paid for it.

7. One of the products they carry is rumored to catch on fire… with the added twist that it has to be left on over night before it starts sounding good.

6. One of the products they spent a years profits on stocking their store with has just become the featured item in a major online retailing magazine.

5. A product they bought without hearing it first turns out to be embarrassingly bad.

4. A product they carry is never reviewed….

3. A product they carry is given an unfavorable review.

2. A product they carry is given a favorable review.

and the worst day possible is:

1. They post anything as a dealer on the Asylum.

OK, I DID NOT PROMISE IT WOULD BE FUNNY

Friday, April 1st, 2005 by Mike

And I will get to you manufacturers someday too…


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