One thing that is always subject to change when introducing new equipment or ancillaries. An increase in the quality of resolution in software that was not previously audible. I'm not talking about the mysterious appearance of 'detail' which is so often nothing more than a tweaking of the upper level frequency response, but a purity of signal, i.e. clean, clear, transparent like bright stars on a dark night from the top of Bare Mountain.
You can appreciate most other things on other disc's based on your judgment of your 'test' discs used on new equipment, I think. Just not increases in resolution which have previously been obscured.
Always a crap shoot. Buyin', tryin', & cryin'.
Using a certain set of so called test discs or those you use whenever you try out new equipment is not a bad idea. As far as looking (or listening) for surprises...are you hoping to hear things you have never heard before or are you referring strictly to the clarity? Typically when researching equipment a person is looking for a specific quality or effect, maybe for a particular type of music or a piece that is well rounded and works well with all types of music-not sure there will be much surprise if you purchase a piece to accomplish what you set out to do.
Not sure what type of a system you have or are trying to put together-it almost seems as if you have heard some audio terms thrown around and maybe you are attempting to figure out what they mean?
Clarification. This was more of a "experiential" question, really. The question was essentially this: if one listens to new component X and with one's set of test dics consistently hears improvements in areas A, B and C, once that component is inserted in the system and one listens to a whole range of other discs in the newly configured system, has it been your experience that the same improvements (A, B, C) consistently appear? Or do you sometimes hear not the expected improvements but other ones (D, E), or sometimes no the improvements at all, or--worst case scenario--some negative effects?
In other words, in your experience has the use of a set of test discs with a new component been reliably predictive of how it sounds with all the other discs in your collection?
If you add a new component to the system , it either passes one's listening test or it doesn't.
Think you are over analyzing all of this.....
A component that, when added to your system, makes some of your recordings sound better will surely make some others sound worse. Twas ever thus!
Funny thing Drubin, and perhaps I'm just lucky, I've never had any recording sound worse when I have made a long term addition to my system, BUT I have not had a uniform improvement accross the board. A lot of dross remained just that, but a quite a few border line cases certainly improved, especially with the selection of CDP's and phono stages/cartridges. Especially CDP's. :-)
A component that, when added to your system, makes some of your recordings sound better will surely make some others sound worse.
A truer statement was never typed.
When you audition, you usually use your reference music. So you like what you hear and you buy it, and you take it home. Now, you play the music that you have that is not your reference, or, perhaps, not the best recorded music you own, but music you enjoy listening to. Maybe the peice you purchased, you purchased it because it revealed those reference recordings of yours in an incredible manner. Well, it's a very revealing component and it will now reveal ever flaw in every piece of music you have. Careful for what you wish for.
Agree with Drubin and Tvad. I experienced this particularly during a period of time in which I was fascinated with the pleasure of discovering more and greater detail in my system with each improvement. At a certain point, the quest went from pleasure to nightmare. Suddenly more and more discs (beyond my few "test" discs) sounded unlistenable. (The test discs sounded great. They tended to be extremely well-recorded, mastered, etc.)
I got so angry with my "wonderfully detailed but painful to listen to" system that one night I very nearly busted one of the drivers by throwing a shoe at it.
After that, I found Audiogon, and tortured fellow members with numerous posts about finding a more "forgiving" system sound. I'm trying to compromise the lust for detail with the lust for listenability. Not an easy tightrope to walk, but once I found the BBC monitor style speakers, that got me a good bit of the way there. Oh, yeah, and tube electronics (that sound like tube electronics).
if you have auditioned component x long enough, including break in, it has some audible effect(s) upon the sound of your stereo system.
for example, if the component attenuates the high frequencies in one recording it will do so in another. thus whatever effect the component has upon the stereo system, it will have that effect on all recordings.
it is easy to verify, in a gross way, how frequency response is affected by component x, without listening to reference discs. it is also relatively easy to observe changes in sound stage width and depth without using your reference recordings .
in summary, if a component has an effect , it will always have that effect, for all recordings. i believe logic is the explanation.
My experience is similar to eweed's but without the shoe throwing incident. My solution was also different as I did not go the tube route.
My current set up is not as revealing as some previous systems, not as much sparkle on tip, but I can spend hours listening and enjoying that time.
I agree with Mr Tennis's explanation.
If you listen carefully and identify freq shifts with your test CDs (Hopefully with all octaves freq content), you can reliably predict how the other CDs will sound like.
The paint doesn't match the color chips. My wife and I are trying to choose a new exterior paint color but when we bring home samples to paint test swatches on the house the colors look way different than the paper color chips. This closely matches my hifi upgrading experiences. Sound familiar?
I suppose it boils down to how well you've chosen the test discs (and perhaps how many you use). Akin to buying the sample 1 pint can of paint and trying out a couple of square feet on a wall.