Why Do So Many Audiophiles Reject Blind Testing Of Audio Components?

Because it was scientifically proven to be useless more than 60 years ago.

A speech scientist by the name of Irwin Pollack have conducted an experiment in the early 1950s. In a blind ABX listening test, he asked people to distinguish minimal pairs of consonants (like “r” and “l”, or “t” and “p”).

He found out that listeners had no problem telling these consonants apart when they were played back immediately one after the other. But as he increased the pause between the playbacks, the listener’s ability to distinguish between them diminished. Once the time separating the sounds exceeded 10-15 milliseconds (approximately 1/100th of a second), people had a really hard time telling obviously different sounds apart. Their answers became statistically no better than a random guess.

If you are interested in the science of these things, here’s a nice summary:

Categorical and noncategorical modes of speech perception along the voicing continuum

Since then, the experiment was repeated many times (last major update in 2000, Reliability of a dichotic consonant-vowel pairs task using an ABX procedure.)

So reliably recognizing the difference between similar sounds in an ABX environment is impossible. 15ms playback gap, and the listener’s guess becomes no better than random. This happens because humans don't have any meaningful waveform memory. We cannot exactly recall the sound itself, and rely on various mental models for comparison. It takes time and effort to develop these models, thus making us really bad at playing "spot the sonic difference right now and here" game.

Also, please note that the experimenters were using the sounds of speech. Human ears have significantly better resolution and discrimination in the speech spectrum. If a comparison method is not working well with speech, it would not work at all with music.

So the “double blind testing” crowd is worshiping an ABX protocol that was scientifically proven more than 60 years ago to be completely unsuitable for telling similar sounds apart. And they insist all the other methods are “unscientific.”

The irony seems to be lost on them.

Why do so many audiophiles reject blind testing of audio components? - Quora
i’ve challenged blind testing advocates to show me a system that equals or exceeds the performance of my system using only blind testing as a system building method.

all i heard was crickets. zero response. blind testers don’t assemble systems using blind testing. they just have pre-conceived opinions. so why even pay attention to them? i don’t.
Gee @cleeds , nice selective posting there. You know there are AES members and people with access to research literature here ...

This is a convention paper, not a journal paper, which means it does not go through the normal peer review of a formal journal paper.


The conventional .05 significance level used to analyze typical listening tests can produce a much larger risk of concluding that audible differences are inaudible than concluding that inaudible differences are audible than concluding that inaudible differences are audible, resulting in strong systematic bias against those who believe differences are clearly audible between well designed components that are spectrally equated and not overdriven. This paper discusses ways to equalize error risks, introduces a quantitative measure of a listening test’s fairness, discusses implications for literature reviewers, and presents a statistical table enabling readers to conduct equal-error analyses without calculations.

1,658 posts
04-29-2021 3:19pm
i've challenged blind testing advocates to show me a system that equals or exceeds the performance of my system using only blind testing as a system building method.

That does not even make sense.
The notion that blind testing for audio is an absolute test is absurd, and on so many levels. There is abundant literature (although not enough) on the frailty and limitations of blind testing in all matters of research. (That doesn’t mean that blind testing doesn’t have its place in audio, but it’s useless for most audiophiles.

No, there is not abundant literature that says blind testing is bad. You will have a hard time finding any.  There is literature that deals with bad testing that is blind, but not the basic concept of blind testing.  Every example given in this thread claims to show blind testing is bad, but not one of the actually does. 

3,869 posts
04-29-2021 3:12pm
It's really a depressing question. Why do so many people reject/fear science?

To quote Disney, "because when everyone is super, no one is super".    Bonus points if you can identify the reference without Google.