Agree or disagree with the following statement.


Trying to get some input on an issue that a few of us are debating.

Statement:

If you have never listened to any particular component, you can't have an opinion on how it sounds.

Answer:

I don't agree with that. Measurements provide a fairly good indication of how something will sound. That's the beauty of science -- it's not necessary to have first hand experience to make reasonable judgments. You likely disagree and that could be a difference in our background and education."

So, the issue at hand is, can tell how a component sounds without listening to it, and just go on specs? Or, do you have to listen to it, as well, because the specs don't tell the whole story?
zd542
I have same feeling. Technical data of component gives always me an idea weather it fits or doesn't my system.
There are reasonable judgements on that, there are also manufacturers that reflect and present the actual test data with plots... Another words most of tech data is available from reputable manufacturers to the educated public so they don't have to listen to the salesman and create their own smart home audio/video system.
I total agree with your statement listed above. I was told once before "if you don't vote, you can't have any opinion on politics".
Being rather partial to my money and not enamored of do-overs, I insist on an audition before buying. That said, much can be inferred from specifications, and they are the tools I use to determine what to audition.

For example, I started giving consideration to new 2 channel speakers after finally probing the limits of what my current speakers offer after 30+ years. I very much want to keep a similar tonal balance to what I have, so I know I probably want something with a nominal 8 Ohms and thus somewhat less efficient, a flat response curve, preferably floor-standing, a smaller frontal profile and wider frequency response. So far, I've auditioned B&W 802, Martin Logan Summit X and Harbeth HL5. They have all been acceptable in their own way, but none have caused me to pull the trigger. PMC twenty.26 and fact 8 are next.

My 2 cents, anyway.
I have been in this hobby for 60 years now. I was a recording engineer for many years and I have a BSEE degree. Unless there is something dreadfully wrong with a piece of equipment I have never seen any measurement that tells me how a piece of equipment will sound. Speakers are about the only thing that might have measurements indicating their performance yet how they measure in a lab vs how they measure in your listening room will not even be close. Remember when solid state came out measurements were superb yet they sounded like crap. Digital measures perfect but many people still prefer vinyl. NOS cd players measure poorly compared to oversampling delta/sigma dacs but I still prefer NOS dacs. If you buy solely on measurements you are just luckey if you like the sound. Listening is the only way to buy HiFi equipment
IMHO
Alan
Statement:

"If you have never listened to any particular
component, you can't have an opinion on how it
sounds."

You can always have an opinion, but it you haven't heard
the specific component in question, your opinion is just
that...an opinion. Not very valid in my book.

To add to the above, even if you've heard the gear, all
individual rooms, systems, ears and taste in music are
different. Also most listening biases are different too. So
the only way to be sure is to listen to the piece of gear in
your system and room, with your music and ears...

Posting in these forums are fun and entertaining, but
bottom line if asking "what
speaker/amp/preamp/etc. you should buy is a crapshoot at
best without actually hearing it in your own environment.
02-19-15: Effischer
Being rather partial to my money and not enamored of do-overs, I insist on an audition before buying. That said, much can be inferred from specifications, and they are the tools I use to determine what to audition.
+1. As I've said in more than a few threads here in the past, the main usefulness of specs and measurements is in identifying and **ruling out** candidates that would be poor matches with other components in the system (e.g., impedance incompatibilities, mismatches of gains, sensitivities, power capability, etc.), or with the listener's requirements (e.g., peak volume capability, physical characteristics, perhaps deep bass extension, etc). But not in selecting among candidates which make that cut, where listening is essential.

By doing that preliminary screening based on specs and measurements, the randomness of the selection process is decreased considerably, together with the likelihood of expensive mistakes.

A second major usefulness of specs and measurements is in diagnosing problems or sonic issues that may arise or become apparent in a system that has already been assembled.

It is also sometimes possible, btw, to rule out candidates from consideration on the basis that some of their specs are simply TOO GOOD. A classic example being THD numbers that are near-infinitesimal fractions of 1%, which is often indicative of heavy-handed application of feedback, resulting in TIM distortion and excessive amounts of the most objectionable kinds of harmonic distortion. Or specs that are so good that they may be indicative of misplaced design priorities, and compromises in other aspects of the design.

As evidence of these usefulnesses of specs and measurements, I couldn't begin to count the number of threads here in which I and many others have found it useful and necessary to refer to the measurements John Atkinson provides in Stereophile.

Regards,
-- Al
Just to clarify, the underlying debate is that some people claim that they can look at a spec sheet, and determine how a component will sound, without listening to it. Not that specs can't be of good use in making a selection, just that they can be used as the sole purpose for judging sound quality. For me personally, I can't do that. I have to listen or I can't say how it will sound. Others claim they can, so I'm thinking maybe some people have the ability, or they can somehow learn to read a spec sheet in a way that tells the whole story.
Thanks for the clarification, ZD. I know that in most situations I for one would not be able to predict with any kind of precision or certainty how a component will sound, based on specs and measurements. And I would feel highly confident that the same holds true for the vast majority of other experienced audiophiles.

Best regards,
-- Al

Totally agree with Al on this one, and for those that rely heavily on specs,
here's some for you,

. : ... :. . :: . .. . . .
. . :.. .. :.. . ....
..:. ... ..:.. .: .... .
. :. ... :... ..:.. ..
. ... .: .. ... .: . .

IMHO, the above will tell you just as much as a spec sheet with regard to how a component will sound assuming there is no measurement that raises a red flag.
Al, absolutely agree but I would even question power specifications. Assuming that they follow any standard (like FCC power) it is only useful if one listens to sinewaves. Average music power is only few percent of maximum power. It is possible that one amp will have 200W rated FCC power but small headroom while the other listed at 100W average has huge headroom allowing to play music much louder. Load characteristic is also important. How particular amp behaves with given speaker (complex load). How much current it can deliver etc.
Is it soft clipping amplifier or the one producing tons of nasty higher order odd harmonics. If sound is related to specifications at all it would be inversely proportional.

All equipment reviews should have full test measurements, otherwise your at the mercy of reviewers bias and or poetic babble and if the reviewed piece was matched or mismatched to the rest of the system.

By reading and "understanding" all the review "measurements tests" on Stereophile, one can "usually" gauge what a component will do or sound like when it's matched or mismatched with other components.

All reviews should be this informative, and it would be nice for Stereophile to bring back "capacitive stability load testing" of amps into 1k and 10k square waves, which they drop 20 odd years ago, as this told a lot of what an amp was designed like.

I asked JA why this "stability test" was dropped, was it because it taking out too many unstable amps on the test bench, the answer was a coy yes, I thought this is a good test as then the consumer would stay away from such a poor design. I remember if the early Naim 250 was even in the same room as a pair of Quad57's it would blow up. That's how unstable it was.

Cheers George
"02-19-15: Tls49

Totally agree with Al on this one, and for those that rely heavily on specs,
here's some for you,"

Is that braille, or is there something wrong with my monitor?
Al as usual spot on. I pitty the fool who buys on specs without using his own ears as the final factor. Now one understands why so much used equipment is for sale.
Measurements, Really?
Not being able to understand specs worth a tinker's fart I have this ball made of crystal which allows me to see and hear things. Really.

All the best,
Nonoise
Are you joking!!
Specs are important in matching impedances of preamp and amp,source output with preamp, or an amp with a speaker's sensitivity/load impedance. But at the end of the day, it is all about our own ears and personal taste. Any new component should ideally be auditioned in our own home system before a purchase. Mistakes in equipment purchase can only be written off as lessons in an audiophile's life. Such is the risk of this hobby.
Ultimately, you have to listen to the equipment, because after all, you are using it to play *music* nad *sound* not listen to pink noise 24/7.
Is that braille, or is there something wrong with my monitor?
Zd542
Something wrong with your monitor.

Yes, you should always listen in the end, but specs if you understand them as I outlined above, allow you to weed out the rubbish or unmatched stuff before you spend the bucks, no matter how the wow factor looks externally.

To dismiss specs is just buying on hope and crossed fingers. To do the homework on specs will save you time and money selecting the right matching equipment to start with. Then listen and decide on the bunch that is spec'd right for your system, instead of buying total mismatched stuff.

Cheers George
I buy gear based on looks alone, and especially love meters and tubes. So neither sound nor specs matter...only looks. If it happens to sound good also...well...that's a "win win."
"Measurements provide a fairly good indication of how something will sound..."
IMHO ,measurements,even good ones,are no indication that you will like the sound
Statement:

If you have never listened to any particular component, you can't have an opinion on how it sounds.

You are always entitled to an opinion, it just won't be an "informed" opinion. Just as someone may have an opinion of food that they have never tasted. Opinions carry different amout of weight, I usually give more weight to someone's opinion if they have actual experience. However, everyone is entitled to an opinion, on anything, regardless of how informed, or misinformed that opinion may be.
Wolf is correct. Give that man a silver dollar.
Remember the old line: Opinions are like a$$holes. Everyone's got one and they all stink! Jmcgrogan2 is right, you're entitled to your opinion and the weight that anyone places on it is up to them to determine. The more information used to form it, the more weight it may carry.
If opinions were limited to only what one has heard this whole forum would be about 1/4 the size it is today.

Then again, it is usually impossible to comment on a single component when heard in the context of an entirely unknown system, with speakers and cables and room and electronics that are new to you too.

But ... none of that stops anyone from venturing an opinion on anything.
At some point, measurements will be telling, but usually I thinks it's a mistake to judge a product solely on its specs. It's usually a good idea to listen before reaching a conclusion.

In fact, I'd go a step further and say that - Even if you HAVE heard a component, it's tough to definitively have an opinion of how it sounds. System matching and ESPECIALLY room matching are critical.

You can look at specs and rule out a component for use in a given application - a mini monitor that's down 10db at 100hz probably won't do well in a 5,000 cubic foot room, but that doesn't mean that it sounds bad. A really poorly designed product (horrible on-axis response and power response in a loudspeaker, for instance) is probably a decent indicator that a product won't sound good in any application, but IME such products are pretty rare.
"Statement:

If you have never listened to any particular component, you can't have an opinion on how it sounds."

Disagree. how good something sounds is always an opinion. Some more educated than others. Specs are merely on set of data provided by the maker that one can assess in order to formulate a more educated opinion. Measurements add more detailed information to work with usually if done well, as typically seems to be the case with Stereophile.

I will agree you can't know how any particular case will sound until you hear. No two are exactly the same. Each case includes room and listener in addition to gear. No two will ever be 100% the same. With trained ears focused in on things, all it takes is a fraction of a percent difference to matter.

I disagree with any argument that one cannot have an opinion unless one actually hears. WHat one says about one what hears is an opinion as well. What matters more is the opinions of many over an extended period of time. Then you probably have something you can bank on.
The problem is that the current regime of test and measurements is not based on human hearing/perceptual rules except in some very basic, almost vestigial ways (such as frequency response).

As a result sometimes the specs are counterintuitive; for example ultra low distortion should come off as neutral and good, but often in reality sounds dry and slightly on the bright side.

The idea behind the specs is to know you are buying quality- it should be borne out on the bit of paper. But until that bit of paper is designed to agree with how human perceptual rules work (and mind you, this has nothing to do with taste or preference) the paper can often wind up nearly meaningless.

So as others have wisely pointed out, you simply have to audition it to know if you will be able to live with it. The fact that this has been true for the last 50 years should really speak to how poorly bench specs sit with human hearing rules.
Only an imbecile would buy based solely on specs. Anyone here done that?
Look, how do you buy a TV? You go in the store and look at the picture of the ones in your budget. Then you pick the one you like. Why should audio be any different? Duh!
Would you marry a woman based solely on her specs? If you did, It would almost certainly be a brief and costly experience. Audio components are a little easier to get rid of but the sting could be just as bad. It's your money though, so fie away.
I've not read the whole thread, so I may be off topic now or repeat what has already been written, sorry in case.

I think specs can give us an idea on 'how it sounds' but just an idea, a hint. That's due to several reasons, going from the reliability and completeness of the specs to one's capability of fully understand the specs themselves, and passing through a nebulosa of factors I don't now but which may give a 'model' its peculiar voice(employed materials, constructive solutions, proprietary patents not unveiled yet... a factor I could call undeclared specs) .

A skilled technician or a competent hifi enthusiast may guess much of the sound of a system by just reading the specs of all the components; I can't believe, though, that he could EXACTLY and COMPLETELY imagine (like hearing in his mind) the sound in all it's shades, subtelties, the exact amount of crispiness, of slam, dynamics, harshness...
and nuances and subtle differences are often what this is all about.
Its often not possible to hear something without buying.

When that is the case, as it often is for me, I decide based largely on technical considerations. I try to limit my choices in most cases to better known products with a track record that has a lot of end user review and comments available as well, but in the end it is technical considerations that often determines my choice. By technical considerations I mean more than just specs usually, such as outwardly apparent aspects of design, design methodologies, measurements, and anything else available, including related discussions on this and other sites.

I am a technical person so I feel most assured making the decision based on technical criteria in the end. It does require synthesizing a lot of technical information though and that is not an easy task.

Its worked out pretty well for me. Most things I buy have tended to stick around and get a lot of use more so than ever. This site and the information that can be had here has been a huge help.
Also I would say that the best "specs" on paper seldom win in that alone they are insufficient to determine things conclusively. But in all cases of accurate specs at least, they provide some objective basis for comparison whereas most else is totally subjective. Its the usage of the specs that matters more than which numbers appear "best". I think that is consistent in what Almarg says regarding using specs as a means of determining what is most likely to PERFORM well together. Note that performing well together and sounding good are not the same thing, but I find optimizing performance overall however one chooses to do so always pays dividends towards achieving the best sound possible.
It takes some sensibility to read a review and determine if a component might work for you, and if enough reviewers say it's good...it just might be good. Since subjective reviewing became normal, lots of bullshit has flown as well as useful information along with often indecipherable tech notes, but I think the tech note people need jobs to keep them off the streets and sheltered. Exceptions exist, like when I bought a very well regarded phono cartridge and it sounded far too unnaturally "treble rich" (screechy) in my rig...sold it as a barely used item to somebody who (I assume) got better results, and replaced it with something recommended by an audio pro. Still...it looked GREAT!
My hobby revived when I bought my first laptop. Up until then I had only the system I bought in '78. Everything I have acquired since was over the net, and I have lots. There is nothing I'm not happy with...amps, pre amps, cdps, speakers, etc.. All good stuff with stellar feed back researched on the net. So I don't believe you can't buy successfully without audition, just that it's not wise to do so without at least extensive, positive, feed back.
There are certain specs and claims that raise red flags. As a dealer on the hunt
we look at specs and manufacturer's marketing materials as a means to
eliminate those products and companies, we'll never pick up a line and pass it
on to customers without thoroughly testing it in our place.

david
Don't know if it's been mentioned here, but: "If you
haven't heard it: You have no opinion" is a quote from
Ivor Tiefenbrun, the founder of Linn Audio Products. Not
really that profound, but completely accurate! A blind
person
can have all the information extant, regarding the color
red(wavelength frequency & range, position in the
electromagnetic spectrum, most tomatoes and blood are red,
we
relate it to anger, sometimes means, "STOP," etc),
BUT- if they were born blind; they still have no idea what
it
looks like(zero Experiential Qualia) . No doubt, some
measurements are important, with
regard to choosing components to function properly, within
one's system, but- there have been many components that
tested
like gold, yet sounded like crap(and vice versa).
I agree with the statement, but find test parameters important too.
Csontos: and imbeciles have never been known to be found in internet chat forums, right? Right?
True, you can't tell how equipment sounds based only on measurements. But that's more a factor of us not having adequate measurements that are truly fit for purpose.

And we should always listen to equipment when spending our money, because in the end, all that matters is that our own ears are pleased.

But I want professional reviews to include measurements, and I want the professional reviewer to understand measurements and what they mean. Sorry but I don't trust other people's purely subjective opinions. There is just too much room for unchecked ramblings (Sam Tellig? althought I always enjoyed reading his well-written ramblings) and outright unethical behavior (see Corey Greenberg).

Without measurements, it just opens the door wide open for people telling me that CDs sound better when they coat the edges with green paint.
When you listen to a system, the overall sound and stage is build by all the different tools in your set togheter including the acoustic of the room.

Even by chancing one tool you can influence the overall sound and even the stage.
IMHO ,measurements,even good ones,are no indication that you will like the sound

That's all too true. I agree, Sunnyboy1956.
Measurements are facts.
Listening to a component enables you to form an opinion.
Forming an opinion from measurements is called a guess, a shot in the dark because you haven't actually heard a component.
Kind of reminds me of Japanese approach in the 70s and 80s, the better the specs the better the sound.
"Without measurements, it just opens the door wide open for people telling me that CDs sound better when they coat the edges with green paint.
Abrew19 (Threads | Answers | This Thread)"

You have to buy the real stuff. Never paint the edge of your CD's; green, or any other color. You need the expensive, secret formula, audiophile magic marker. Not just a regular marker, but a magic one.
02-20-15: Macrojack
Would you marry a woman based solely on her specs?
Well YES. It's easier to put up with someone that has GOOD specs. LOL!!!

Every manufacturer worth his salt uses specs to design their equipment. Then they listen. Any one who doesn't, I would give a very wide berth to.

In fact I ask the nay sayer's here to specs, if they can name one manufacture that doesn't use specs/measurements to design their equipment before they listen.

Cheers George
Tice Clock...need I say more?
Wolf, not sure what you mean. The Tice Clock worked great according to the positive reviews. Just throw out the negative reviews. They're outliers.