Isn't there anyone out there that would want to be in this setting of audio nirvana.
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It is an interesting idea, but I guess one problem is that most people are not starting from scratch but have built systems that have evolved over the years with as technology and funds become available. In many cases we face single component decisions that will help in the next step of our unique evolution. I think going to the current shows will likely expose you to well synergized systems that manufacturers have spent time and effort to perfect. Many have commented on Albert Von Schweikert pairing the VR4JRs with a $20K VAC AMP, but that's what he found worked best. I think that it takes a lot of research, time and effort to put together a system and it is a neverending quest that is very personal.
Even assuming the competition could be configured so as to be equally fair to all participants (listening tests should be done blind for example), the results would inevitably be highly dependent on the preferences of the judges on the panel. And even among very experienced audiophiles, individual preferences are all over the place. I've seen this in carefully controlled listening tests.
And let's say 50 companies enter in a particular category. The whole thing is great for the winner, but what about the 49 that go home losers? As a potential participant, no matter how good I think my system is (and yes my system can beat up your system ;) ), I wouldn't bet the future of my business on a 50-to-1 shot that the jury's preferences and priorities coincide most closely with mine.
your suggestion would not ensure "the best" 50 stereo systems, only any 50 stereo systems.
you asked a question, i'll give you my ideas.
first, try to describe what would constitue the best sound for you, regardless of cost. after you have ascertained in your mind your desired goal, listen. go to as many dealers as possible. go to a show. visit friends. you probably won't hear anything that meets all of your standards. you may find one stereo system that comes close. try to understand what it is about that stereo system you like and analyze the components in that system.
perhaps, the system is out of your price range, and yes there is the matter of the room. nothing is perfect.
maybe you would select a component or two from such a system--hopefully the speakers and then figure out what to do from there.
you have resources. you can speak to dealers, serious hobbyists and manufacturers and then evaluate the suggestions.
after you make your purchase you still may not be satisfied.
the point is to learn as much as you can by exposing yourself to as many systems as possible.
unfortunately your idea is not realistsic.
you may get lucky and find a dealer who will allow you to listen to a stereo system and then change one or more components until you finally reach a point where you like the sound. if you spend a lot of time with that dealer, you probably will be obligated to buy something.
I used to think that people have different preferences, until last year when 5 audio friends inlcuding me went to the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.
We went to most rooms we always disagreed (as we ussually do)on systems some like this one better some the other, same as always...untill we got to the Genesis room: Instantly all of us agreed that this was the best system we ever listened to. There was no fault with the system in that room. Tone, soundstage, dynamics everything was just amazing way better than all the other rooms, (we visited almost all of them).
The other rooms had certain good things and other not so good. The far second not unanimous winner was Avantgarde with amazing soundstage, some liked Avalon some liked MBL none liked Von Shweikert.
The system was very expensive Genesis 201 speakers with Top of the line even more expensive swiss amp, etc.
I guess you dont go to a concert at La Scala and say, "well the violins were too bright for my taste"...
Yes I think we can all agree if the sytem is good enough and we dont have a separate agenda.
All the Best
there is another benefit of such an undertaking, if it ever materialized, namely the opportunity to compare perceptions.
it would be interesting to see how convergent or divergent are descriptions of a stereo system from multiple listeners.
i have another idea. suppose some volunteer with a big room would invite a number of people to audition his/her stereo system and invited the guests to bring a component. we could have a potpourri of combinations of stereo systems which would be a lot of fun.