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We can guess what it means, or we can turn to the great audio reviewer Lewis Carroll who explained it so clearly in his great audiophile tome Through the Looking Glass:
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."
It seems that this term is used a lot in comparison between cheaper and
Context is everything. Within the context of comparing cheaper and more expensive gear refined definitely does have meaning.
Although first I'm going to assume we agree its really sound quality we're talking about, and that "cheaper and more expensive" are stand-ins for worse and better sound quality.
Take any one seemingly simple thing like a drummer hitting a cymbal. It goes "ting" right? Simple enough. Which is how it sounds from most budget gear. I mean decent budget gear. Crap budget gear gets it more like, "tss."
In reality the "ting" is not so simple. Depending on the brand of cymbal, where it was hit, and how hard, what stand its mounted in, and how well it was recorded, that cymbal is gonna put out all kinds of harmonics across a whole range of frequencies- and with not only a range of frequencies but a whole range of dynamics. Not "ting" but more like TiiinnNnNnnnnNggggggg taking like forever to trail off into nothingness.
Got it? Cheap gear, ting. Coarse. Expensive gear, Tiinnnnggggg. Refined.
Totally worth it.
A. It's a "refined" sounding system, not speaker.
B. The descriptors above seem to be discussing resolution / clarity rather than 'refinement'.
C. Refined is qualitative. "How are ~equally~ resolved systems different in their refinement?" Using oil as an example: though refined oil is supposedly "purer," how does it taste?
We cannot explain it but you will know,
Several things will happen when you attain this in your system.
1. If you are still a working grunt " like me " you will start thinking of your play list at lunch time and speed on your way home, focused on the listening room and if you got "just "the right placement with your speakers. Ignore all the gouges in the wood floor you are making.
2. You will start pulling stuff out for a listen that you have not herd in years, and hearing things you have never herd.
3. At some point in the listening session you wife will break into the listening room and ask........
I have no idea. Most of the descriptors used by the audio press are meaningless. My favorite is timing which is the purview of the percussionist not a HiFi system. Same for pace unless your turntable speed is off. Characteristics that remain in spite of the program source are the fault of the system such as bass heavy or too much treble. A good system will take on the characteristics of the program source and add or subtract nothing. It can either cast an image or can not. It either has very low bass or it does not. It can play loud cleanly or it can not.