I didn't say that preferences are childish. In fact, we both believe that it is proper to have preferences. The issue is what criteria or standards one uses to form the preferences. You and ricred1 say that there are no absolutes in audio, only preferences. Let me illustrate with a hypothetical story why I think that carried to the extreme, this is not really correct, or at least is partially but not completely correct.
At an audio club, you meet a friendly guy who likes the same song as you. You are curious about how the song sounds on his system. He plays this song on an old fashioned FM tuner whose station he knew would program this song at the time you meet. He tunes the radio between the station and the adjoining one to create huge amounts of static. He says, "man, I love the static which makes the music sound good to me." You say, "but the static completely obscures the words, so the system at this moment is completely unmusical and distorted." He says, "there are no absolutes, only preferences. You want to hear the words, but I want to hear the static. Both preferences are equally valid--there are no absolutes." He has good hearing, which you can briefly objectively test, but he still maintains that anything goes, as long as one prefers it that way.
OK, this is an extreme situation, but lesser degrees of bad sound are common. He could play the song on his CD player which has no static. But he is using an old tube amp whose tubes have drifted way off spec, and the words are still muddy compared to what you are used to on your more accurate/revealing system. The same conversation unfolds--he says, "I like NOT being able to hear half the raunchy words in that song, but you say, "I want to hear as much as possible of what the singer intended, good or bad."
Who is right, you or he? Do you still say that he is right, since there are no absolute standards and anything goes? I maintain that in order to have your preferences, you have your own standards. Are these standards totally subjective without any objectivity? Some people like systems with more deep bass, because they believe that for some music with deep bass content, reproducing deep bass is essential. That is objectively true which is an example of some absolute truth. More generally, everyone has had great moments of discovery and exclaimed, "boy, that sounds REAL." That means REAL, not merely good or great, which is a subjective preference. Now, you will counter and say, "real to THEM," as if to imply that it is totally subjective without any absolute basis in reality. NO, there IS a basis in reality, as the quick recognition of something truthful appears. If you hear some music in the street with your eyes closed, you can usually tell whether it is unamplified live, or an audio system. How and why? Because your ear makes fairly quick judgments, based on reality. The confusion lies in the fact that no system is perfect. It is natural that there are different opinions about what aspect of it comes closest to the reality. I like to hear the transients of an instrument, others like to hear the body of that instrument. Actually, we all like both the transients and the body, but we differ in our preferences of each attribute. Those of us who seek high fidelity as the standard will disagree about which system best conveys it, but at least there is agreement that there IS an ABSOLUTE SOUND, an expression capitalized on by Harry Pearson. But those who say that system building is only about preferences without absolutes are saying that anything goes without any reference to reality.
One day, speakers will get much better and sound very close to reality with more careful ancillary component matching. Then there will be more agreement as to which systems are much closer to reality than others. At present, with so many mediocre systems, reality is a pipe dream, so many people naturally don't even try to obtain high fidelity and are content with merely getting sounds that please them.