3D lifelike sound and impeccable measurements - mutually exclusive???


The more I investigate gear the more it seems that it’s easy to get organic involving sound with flesh and body and a 3D immersive soundstage with the right matching of components but it also seems like it necessitates choosing some components that don’t measure well/add colorations/even order harmonics etc My question is are there components (specifically amps/preamps and integrateds) are out there that combine great measurements and in your mind also have that organic immersive sound that really helps many of us get more emotionally involved in the music or are these qualities mutually exclusive? 
29649088 468c 45bb abbf 3e7016fea3cdclarinetmonster2

Absolutely not;


These are some of the specifications for the ARC LS 28 and it delivers what you specified.




FREQUENCY RESPONSE

+0-3dB, 0.4Hz to 200kHz at rated output (Balanced, 200k ohms load)

THD+NOISE

Less than .007% at 2V RMS BAL output.

NOISE

Less than -100dBv at max volume (103).

DYNAMIC RANGE

122dB (AES17).

CROSSTALK

-105dB
On the colorful and measurements be damned, Conrad Johnson Premiere amps.

On the neutral but expansive and immersive: Luxman, Ayre, D'Agostino
I’m currently running an integrated (croft Phono Integrated with Harbeth) that’s firmly in the colorful and measurements be damned camp and combo sounds fantastic esp for the price but I’m interested in moving to the other camp If I can find an integrated or separates that fill both bills. 
I don't understand the question. Do you want what sounds good? Or what measures good? Don't say both. Life is full of choices. Nobody gets everything they want. Nothing is ever perfect. So your choice. Which one do you want? 
Millercarbon
essentially you answered my question in your own way. Yes it’s a “can you have both” question - great measurements and organic involving sound or are they really mutually exclusive. By your answer you are saying that you believe they are exclusive and you pick one or the other. Understood. 
The thing with me, I’ll be fiddling with the tone controls. Flat measuring speakers are just that. LOL Who measured what? The measure of good sound is "HOW does it sound to YOU"? I don’t count on your preference, you shouldn’t count in mine...

For speakers I always look at materials, I love beautiful things, to a point...where’s the beef? 20k speakers you better have something besides 2 or 3 drivers in a box no mater what it’s made out of.
Everything else is window dressing.. Lookin cool is cool, but it ain’t 20k cool, 1/2 the cost in materials and options on finish.. Maybe..

You know why a 50k amps cost 50k? Because somebody paid that for it..
Wasn’t worth a nickel until someone paid that for it..

Flat measurements.. that went out the door as soon as you put ANY speaker in a room...AY? ANY SPEAKER and ANY ROOM.. They are all different..

I think a speaker CAN measure well and sound good, some more so than others.. I’m also a believer there is no substitution for the NUMBER of drivers. MORE IS BETTER... I don’t care what you own.. MORE IS BETTER...
No I don’t care if you haven’t learned that yet.. Just like BASS columns.. when your tired of the good sound you’ll try bass columns.. THEN you’ll finally hear what I like.. GREAT sound.. is there better? NO!

DB Servo array with NARROW MB columns and NARROW baffle monitors... I’m closer than I’ve ever been..
How do they measure? When the room is close to finished, I’m gonna start charging admission... :-)

I bet you I made 25 different horn shapes too.. 25 years of that crazy venture.. Sure is something about the RIGHT horn.. and about 2-4 watts playing LOUD and clear and just perfect... Billie Holiday Perfect is in the EARS of the beholder, ay OP?

Tap Tap.. Lambada, Amiga!

Regards
"Nothing is ever perfect."

Except millercarbon's system...

https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/8367
I have not found measurements useful in regard to how well a piece of equipment will reproduce music in my system. What I mean by that is it will not tell me how wide or deep the soundstage will be, how much definition I’ll get with individual instruments within that soundstage or even how realistic human voices & instruments will be reproduced. That stated, they are not absolutely useless. Some measurements can give me an idea of what equipment should mate up well. Examples of that are; phono preamp gain to find a phono preamp that mates up well with low output MC’s / Speaker sensitivity & ohm rating to help determine what amp(s) are required to power them well.

All the best
I can't imagine sitting listening to a great immersive 3D sounding system and then worrying about whether it measures well or not.
Your experience’s are a point in time. And you are listening for the experience right?
Measurements are useful for narrowing down options and your preference then is the litmus test in my opinion 
3D lifelike sound and impeccable measurements
as jond said... 

the first is the objective for enjoying our music ... the second is purely incidental and i couldn’t care less
By your answer you are saying that you believe they are exclusive and you pick one or the other. 

No, not me. I already know measurements are irrelevant. It is nothing to do with me. It is nothing to do with being mutually exclusive. That is your game, not mine. What I said is not some word game. You are the one asking about "impeccable measurements" not me. I don't even know what "impeccable measurements" would be. 

Is 200 watts impeccable? What about 2? Is -85dB S/N impeccable? Or do we need to be -110dB? You throw "impeccable measurements" out there as if it's something anyone knows. Trust me, know one does! My guess is you yourself don't even know what your own "impeccable measurements" are. 

Point I am trying to make, what I am really saying, stop asking us and think it through for yourself. My questions are meant for you to answer for yourself:

Do you want what sounds good? Or what measures good?

No one can answer these questions but you. 
What measured good is a good design for the eyes of the Engineer...

What sound good is a wavefront of sound touching the ear of the listener....

Between the 2 there i million years of evolution....


Replace any design that your ears could not love or like and keep your ears open....

Remember only that acoustic is Queen in audio and all working gear are only the replaceable 7 dwarves....

Really only one or two people have answered my question and made suggestions of brands that they believe both measure very well AND offer an immersive musical experience in their opinion. That’s really all I’m looking for. How hard is that?
I have followed this site with, what can best be described with amusement for many years, watching, popcorn in hand, for what may be said next. I must say, I have finally been tempted to answer, at least to the Op, the posted of this question.
Let's review what you have done. You have asked a user group, who I will estimate:
  • 99.5% of users have never engineered a commercial audio product
  • 99% of users probably have not engineered any commercial product
  • 98% I would expect have only a limited and likely inaccurate knowledge of how our hearing and brain processes information (before the screaming starts, we don't know all the details, but we know quite well the response mechanisms to external stimuli)
  • 97% would have no knowledge, or at best only a cursory knowledge of how to measure anything like what you would require
  • 96% would have no or at best only cursory knowledge of how to interpret those measurements to equate to something simulating a lifelike sound environment
  • 95% would have no or at best limited or cursory knowledge of how live instruments sound, when one sits relatively close. Most will have limited experience from infrequent live performances, or worst, the sound of their own playing colored by their location.

I am 99.9% certain that you will receive answers 100% confident, communicated with great gusto, that one could never measure for something such as this.  Please see my list above when evaluating the veracity of these comments.

I can assure you, that, if, you limit the goal to, as stated, lifelike, and not an individuals interpretation of what they think is lifelike, then indeed measurements will guide you far closer to this goal than any other method. However, the measurements are not simple, and would be almost exclusively in the acoustic domain.

We must take a step back at this point, though, and accept that 2 channel audio, the usual way, via speakers, is fundamentally flawed in its attempt to simulate what are normally sounds originating from a single point. There are many tricks that are played, and inherent information in the recording, and those measurements can be used to maximize the effectiveness of those tricks and inherent information to realize your goal. It would be best to start with a goal of an effective 2D lifelike presentation. That fundamental flaw of 2 speakers to create an effective 2D illusion struggles even further with 3D illusion.

I think you will find that those who most ardently and likely vehemently disagree with this position, don't possess the knowledge or measurement skills, and unlikely the practical experience of even attempting what your goal is. Fortunately, though, there is a lot of real knowledge, hence why concert halls keep getting better, both with acoustic and amplified performances. That is the result of professionals with experience and professional tools.
Hi @clarinetmonster2,
@Jond graciously gave you a superlative reply. Give it some thought. 
Charles 
No, good measurements and good sound are not mutually exclusive, but good measurements don’t ensure good sound.  Poor measurements don't ensure good sound either.

For example, Pass Labs preamps and amps measure well and most people think they sound great at their price point, which isn’t cheap but not outrageous these days. Of course other people don’t like the Pass sound.

In general, if you want 3D immersive sound without spending a fortune, go with tubes, pre and power. They don’t measure as well as solid state and you can often hear those poor measurements, loose bass, for example. I think tubes is where the sounds good / measures poorly dichotomy can be most readily experienced.
I will say that I’ve only heard one setup so far that would probably satisfy both sides of this equation- it was a pair of higher end magicos with an all Moon front end. Pretty much had everything sonically. Other than that I’ve heard a lot of compromise as tomcy6 referenced, usually when you get that beautiful holographic imaging and organic texture to the music there May very well be some trade offs, it seems until you get to the megabuck gear perhaps.
op

Really only one or two people have answered my question and made suggestions of brands that they believe both measure very well AND offer an immersive musical experience in their opinion. That’s really all I’m looking for. How hard is that?

there is a website that is right up your alley, run by a ex microsoft guy who uses measurement as the key yardstick to audio equipment greatness, then he listens to the gear, sometimes, as an afterthought... you can get his greatest hits list and cross tab against opinions here or the recommended lists of stereophile or the absolute sound

good luck

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?forums/stereo-and-multichannel-amplifier-reviews....


Charles1dad
yes, i appreciate the sentiment and it’s pretty much what I’ve always followed is just my ears not worrying at all about measurements hence why i run Harbeths with a hybrid notorious for measuring poorly and sounding great. But you know how it is, we get bored and want to see what is possible in this hobby. 
Jjss49 yup I have checked his reviews out. Interesting but he’s so skewed to the measurements side you never know how it will actually sound. Ah yes Rereading your post I think you’re right that is not a bad way to go to use it as a cross list along with stereophile measurements etc.

I don't understand the question. Do you want what sounds good? Or what measures good? Don't say both. Life is full of choices. Nobody gets everything they want. Nothing is ever perfect. So your choice. Which one do you want?  

This is where the great Pyle amps come in. Measurements be damned, sound be damned! 

Just GREAT sound that can’t be quantified by name or price!

If you want good, not great, sound, ya gotta spend $20,000 at least.
Well I’ll give an example of gear that measures very well and sounds organic, musical and 3D to my ears on the DAC side. The chord DACs I’ve heard have a very analog lifelike quality to them (have heard the qutest and Dave) and measure extremely well. The Dave is expensive the qutest is cheap - there have to be some under 10k components on the amp/integrated side that combine these virtues....I would think.
The only problem with Miller carbon'd system is those tecton speakers, theres speakers that image and do three-dimensionality much better than those like the monitor audio Platinum, Sonus Faber, Focal.
@clarinetmonster2... ASR is basically all about measurements. That is their thing. I am soon going to be testing based on sound, some of their best measuring amps ever. We will see, 
If it sounds amazing, then why would you care how it measures? And if it sounds awful, but measures well, that only makes you distrust your ears. I’ve heard or read numerous interviews with respected designers that may start with measurements initially, but use listening to do the final evaluation and refinement.


Measurements do not indicate how something will sound in a real world situation, room, associated electronics. There are far too many variables. Just buy what sounds good to you and be happy. No one on here will be listening to it, only you.
It seems to me that a good soundstage is largely determined by loudspeakers, speaker positioning, and room acoustics. Less so by electronics (unless we're talking about digital signal processing, maybe.) I'm not aware of any metrics that directly indicate soundstage size or holographic image quality. 

So IMO the short answer to the OP's question is "no", 3D lifelike sound and impeccable measurements are not mutually exclusive. But that is mainly because the measurements that are usually available seem to have little or no bearing on soundstage/imaging.  Does a higher SNR ratio and "blacker background" have some positive impact on the soundstage/imaging?  Probably.  I don't know how it would make things worse, everything else being equal (which rarely is the case).

Geof3 I’ll be really interested to hear your findings, are you going to post them?
It seems to me that a good soundstage is largely determined by loudspeakers, speaker positioning, and room acoustics. Less so by electronics (unless we’re talking about digital signal processing, maybe.) I’m not aware of any metrics that directly indicate soundstage size or holographic image quality.

So IMO the short answer to the OP’s question is "no", 3D lifelike sound and impeccable measurements are not mutually exclusive. But that is mainly because the measurements that are usually available seem to have little or no bearing on soundstage/imaging. Does a higher SNR ratio and "blacker background" have some positive impact on the soundstage/imaging? Probably. I don’t know how it would make things worse, everything else being equal (which rarely is the case).


Thanks it is also my experience.....

Does a higher SNR ratio and "blacker background" have some positive impact on the soundstage/imaging? Probably.
They impact more and partially the "timbre" experience and perception of the original event recorded by the engineer, but "timbre perception" "imaging" factor, and "listener envelopment" factor and other acoustical factors are linked to the way your actual room RECREATE the recorded acoustical settings in your own room for your ears and recreate the "original" atmosphere using your own room for the "translation" and this is given by real concrete acoustic controls by your specific ears , and not by the electronic design used in your gear only and " per se"...



Acoustic is the reality, Fourrier analysis is the map....

The map is not the reality... Why?

The reality contain and encompass the map, acoustic phenomena contains Fourrier analysis +your specific ears and many other ears.....

You can design knowledge or reduce knowledge to design, you cannot design feeling even with A.I. Only mimic it like map mimic some aspect of reality, sometimes essential one....

My mechanical equalizer, Helmholtz tubes and pipes,are PARTS of the pressure zones of my room....They ARE the room....They are positioned for my ears in this particular room and tuned by them not by frequency but by "timbre" perception ,that is to say by first wavefront perception....

An electronical equalizer is an external analysis of my room with an "ideal" mathematical perspective, modulo Fourrier analysis and "precise tested frequency response used one by one with a mic., for an "ideal" listener that do not exist, the seating location is a millimeter spot and out of it, all run acoustically "amok".....


This is only my limited experience, and no, i am not a scientist, only a listener.....Feel free to correct me....






«If the map is in my head, and if my my ass is in the reality where is my body ? »-Groucho Marx


The way I look at this is that any journey has to start somewhere. This hobby is a journey and you have to enjoy every step of that journey also knowing there will be mistakes and frustrations just like life. Then as your journey is progressing you will realize that your journey has no end. You can map it out the best you can but will have many many detours. Measurements are a good starting place but only one small part of the overall equation to get the sound you want. Trade offs will be another component. X=[y+Zxq] but y+z is better minus q. Then you get there and you hear someone else’s system and you are blown away and realize that X is not X but it is Y=[x-z+q] and you start your search for Y and this takes you back to your starting place of measurements. Enjoy the journey and most of all enjoy the music!
It seems to me that a good soundstage is largely determined by loudspeakers, speaker positioning, and room acoustics.


Don't forget the recording. You can't play back what is not there, but you can create a false but pleasing result. Is it lifelike? No. Does that matter? Also no.

are there components (specifically amps/preamps and integrateds) are out there that combine great measurements and in your mind also have that organic immersive sound that really helps many of us get more emotionally involved in the music or are these qualities mutually exclusive
@clarinetmonster2  No. But which harmonics are dominant in the distortion signature is important. They should be either the 2nd and 3rd or just the 3rd, in sufficient amount (with respect to the higher orders) to mask the presence of the higher ordered harmonics.
They aren't mutually exclusive but I'd say measurements will get you closer than your ears alone. 
They aren’t mutually exclusive but I’d say measurements will get you closer than your ears alone.
It is the reverse... 😁😊



All piece of gear well designed sound good in principle... In reality they differ...For many reasons linked to many factors out of the narrow family of parameters used in the design creation, or linked to forgotten possible parameters,or unpredictible factors and the fact that this piece of gear so well designed it is, will be embed somewhere with something....And anyway any design is the result of a set of choices function of a trade-off....

Which part of your body will decide that this piece of audio gear is usable or good or bad or anything between all these and decide if the trade-off at the source of the designing process is good for you?

Not your brain alone reading schemas, but a brain coupled to your 2 ears in a particular set of acoustic condition called a room....

It is logical because the timing of actual waves event in your room to your ears is necessary for you to make a sound judgement about the resulting potential S.Q. coming from the timing bits coming from the recording process and translated through your dac...

Timing of bits is great but in reality equivalence is not equality, and timing of bits are not equal, even if equivalent, to timing of real events...There is a microphone separing the timing acoustical concrete events of the original lived event and the timing bits from the recording choices at beginning... And now there is a speakers/room/ears separating the timing of bits and the timing of events in the speaker/room and in your brain...

Because with a recording here we have 2 sets of timing concrete events : one recorded in bits in the dac itself, and one not recorded at all; but emerging in your room for your ears from the active room translating the timing bits through the amplifier/speakers in another timing sets of events...

I suppose you play with a dac, but using a turntable will not destroy my argument....



«Numbers on a dial never sing»-Groucho Marx listening to a radio set

«2 timing set of events called bodies must synchronize themselves in the act we call making love, and a piece of gear or the galaxy, nevermind which one, must synchronize and the synchronization is not a completely determined part of the initial timing events»-Anonymus Smith studying scaling design...

«Why not saying that more simply? A range of play between parts and scales»-Harpo Marx

«Are you an astrolog? »-G.Marx
They are not exclusive in fact the best components offer fantastic sound and measurement but they are not the components that the magazines write about but the components that stand the test of time because they are so good and always will be.
They are not exclusive in fact the best components offer fantastic sound and measurement but they are not the components that the magazines write about but the components that stand the test of time because they are so good and always will be.
Very well said....

Firstly, I am a scientist (in professional quality), so to me there is zero question about the objectivity and importance of measurements.
That being said, here we go:1. Industry does not measure all the parameters relevant to sound quality. We do not know what all those parameters are, and of those we know, some are just too hard to measure, or inconvenient. (Analogy: we are measuring blood pressure, weight, height, while we should be doing whole genome sequencing, transcriptome mapping and a metabolome report.)2. We fret greatly about hundredth of a percent of less distortion from an amplifier, and linearity range over a 20+ kilohertz, while the loudspeakers distortion is reaches the tens of percents and instead of a linear range we have a roller-coaster ride. So, if your amp is perfectly flat, you will hear every bump that your speakers add. You should have an amp that cancels out your loudspeakers distortion.
3. Equipment are considered without the effect of the room. The distortion of room + speakers + amp + source should be considered when talking about perceived sound quality, not that of a singled out component.4. Measurements all aim at laboratory standards, royally ignoring the requirements of psychoacoustics. That is, we do not measure sound quality as perceived by the human brain. We measure reliability.

So, there is nothing wrong with measurements, but the applied methodology is lacking, or is just in its infancy to say the least. At the current state of measurement practices measured parameters are perfect predictors of whether the gear performs up to spec or requires maintenance. Also, we can infer many attributes when we know the equipment's topology plus measurements. (Eg the same set of measurements from a SET amp and a solid state amp will result in markedly different sound and loudspeaker compatibility.)As John Atkinson said, with measurement we can tell apart good speakers from bad speakers.
But the only way to tell a great speaker from a good speaker is by listening. (And that applies to other audio gear as well.)
As John Atkinson said, with measurement we can tell apart good speakers from bad speakers.
But the only way to tell a great speaker from a good speaker is by listening. (And that applies to other audio gear as well.)





Great post!

Your post add much to my main points and is clearer than mine...

But you are a scientist and you smell science...

So to speak!

My best to you.....
Excuse me, but realworldaudio started with his conclusion, that there is nothing wrong with measurements. But his entire argument was nothing but showing all kinds of things wrong with measurements. Then after explaining exactly what is wrong with measurements he concludes that there is nothing wrong with measurements.

And, he calls himself a man of science? But wait, "in professional quality" whatever that means.

I know the state of education is so bad these days no one has been taught the first thing about science. But now even professional scientists haven’t a clue? We are doomed. Doomed, I say.
Excuse me, but you started with your conclusion, that there is nothing wrong with measurements. But your entire argument was nothing but showing all kinds of things wrong with measurements. Then after explaining exactly what is wrong with measurements you conclude that there is nothing wrong with measurements.
Millercarbon read more carefully...

He dont speak about measurement the way the "objectivist" speak about them....

You hurry too much on your horse.....

He confirm what i said and what IS the scientific meaning of measurement : RELIABILITY....He even confirm your take on measurement....

For example point 4 in particular:

Measurements all aim at laboratory standards, royally ignoring the requirements of psychoacoustics. That is, we do not measure sound quality as perceived by the human brain. We measure reliability.



Then he IS NOT an "objectivist" audiophile in the "skeptic scientism sunday club" but a true scientific mind...
"Measurements all aim at laboratory standards, royally ignoring the requirements of psychoacoustics. That is, we do not measure sound quality as perceived by the human brain."

Well stated realworldaudio!
lot’s of wandering in the wilderness drilling dry holes,   if you are interested in moving the collective ball forward then the answer is listen plus measure plus move forward our understanding of the ear brain...

there are many things we have yet to understand, that is perhaps the first step to shedding the ego. Ego sings the praise of something it has yet to hear.....
Benchmark HPA4.... drop the mike.
Oh, I think it’s “mic” sorry
@clarinetmonster2... indeed I will. Might be a bit though. Back log, shipping time etc.
Koestner
ive been very curious to hear the Benchmark amp and preamp as they seem to be the poster children for great measurements- I’ve read mixed things on the sound/presentation . Mostly very positive especially the preamp but some I guess perceive the amp or amp/preamp combo to be lacking in life and others think it’s the best they’ve ever heard. 
@clarinetmonster2 I love the AHB2 and HPA4. I normally use it with the DAC3B but recently more so with the Audio Mirror Tubadour. It is a big difference with the tube DAC. You hear whatever gear you add or remove with the Benchmark gear or the quality of the source you use. 

Since you hear whatever gear you add I am getting a warmish preamp, the CODA 07x, for a headphone system. However, I will flip it over to my 2 AHB2's connected to my floor standers via a easy XLR change (to mix it up). What I will hear is the CODA dominating the sound not the AHB2.

If someone is looking for a MINT condition white AHB2. I sold a 2 week old (brand new) AHB2 to someone a few days ago. He did not like it for his setup and has it up for sale today. 
“Measurements all aim at laboratory standards, royally ignoring the requirements of psychoacoustics. That is, we do not measure sound quality as perceived by the human brain. We measure reliability.” - realworldaudio

Thanks so much for this! It brings home the crucial point that anything in life generally, and in the audiophile world specifically, can only be critically discussed in consideration of the multiple complex relationships specific to the thing, or object, in question, and never as a singularity.

clarinetmonster2 -  your post has raised very similar issues to that of another discussion that has now been deleted, unfortunately, regarding measurements and hearing. In that discussion, one of the primary contributors, and main proponents of measurements, ‘prof’, was asked if he had a beloved piece of equipment that he later discovered measured badly, if he would let go of the said piece of equipment. The reply was not quite conclusive, but a vital part of it drew my attention - prof has a Conrad Johnson tube amplifier which he said was so evident in better sound quality than ‘lesser’ amps, that he did not need to be reassured by tests regarding its performance. I wish the discussion had not been deleted, so that I could refer to it in verbatim here, but the gist accurately applies, and it was not ascertained if prof had indeed measured his Conrad Johnson for degree of distortion. But in the discussion, he was also quick to dismiss the hearers who said they could distinguish between differences of sound quality in various high end cables, and home tweaks, because he felt that those differences could not be measured.

The point is that even measurers ultimately rely on hearing to justify their choices - however important measurements may be to them, it still comes right back down to ‘hearing’ for the most intelligent measurers.

Subsequently, as hearing forms the basis of our decisions, and what we hear is the sum total of an entire chain of events that characterises a ‘system’, it is a touch moot to ask what specific piece of equipment measures well, and also sounds good, and the entirety of a system determines this. 

A decent analogy would be the path a falling leaf takes from its branch to the ground, the leaf being the signal, the branch being its source and the ground being the ear the leaf finally falls on, to decay as sound. Everything in that signal’s path constitutes the equipment that the signal interacts with on its journey; another branch, a cluster of leaves, the bird flying past, the light breeze or sudden gust of wind that took the leaf on its erratic path. Now, audiophiles generally believe that the ‘correct’ and undistorted path the leaf should take, would be the one straight down, directly under the very spot of the very branch the leaf came from. Nothing could be further from the truth, because the ground itself is an entirely different surface or medium from the source itself, the branch. The only thing that is important, is that the leaf lands on a spot that is most conducive to its continuing the food cycle, of wonderful decay, and reconstitution as food for the ground to grow other trees. This in no way means that everything becomes subjective, as we can all agree that a leaf falling on a concrete pavement will not do as well as if it fell on a moist depression of shaded soil. But it does mean there are general places that the leaf will thrive, and under the most nuanced of circumstances, either thrive better, or not so well. Hearing is all about this. There are very very general agreements about what sounds ‘good’; what ground provides acceptable conditions for a dead leaf to decay and contribute, but within this realm is a huge degree of subtle difference. The best listeners I know, have learned the ground upon which the best sound comes, the smallest nuance and difference that generates the most positive impact. They are unable to tell which specific interference in the path of that leaf contributes to its final touchdown, because every single interference had a part, big or small, to play.

It does not mean that science becomes subjective hell, because if it were possible to ascertain every single subtle interference of the leaf or signal path, that it would be possible to mathematically determine where the leaf will fall, and how the signal will end. But this is truly beyond science as we currently know it - let’s just call it an objectivity that comes from the deepest known critically subjective observation.

But it does necessarily mean that the accurate selection of good equipment through their measurements does not help in the big picture - in the same way that it is virtually impossible to chart the path of a leaf through every single interference it passes on its journey to the ground, there are similarly too many nuanced interferences in the signal path to determine ultimate sound quality through the measurement of interference of a single piece of equipment.

The measurement of all the combined relationships are likewise too difficult to ascertain with numbers, because the final product of the entire journey cannot be determined until it emerges from the speakers as sound, and not a mere signal.

This final act of ‘measurement’ is what could be called critical hearing.

It is what hearers like millercarbon, magister, and many others try to cultivate and build deep foundations on. 
In friendship.