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
Sometimes I hear a difference when swapping components, and sometimes I do not. Sometimes the difference is obvious, sometimes it is subtle. The most difficult part is deciding if the difference is better, worse or just different, and if deemed better then deciding what I'm willing to pay for it.

The one difference that blew my mind was going from a middle-tier power cord, to a upper-tier cord. It was the biggest and best difference I have heard in a long time. Who’da thunk it?

"Also at this point I came to realize it makes little sense to go and listen.


Because components at a certain level, the very best ones aren’t really doing anything.

The perfect component does absolutely zero to make the sound good.


Therefore, if you find something really good and you go to listen it is only going to reveal all the other crap in the system.

This is why I never bothered to go listen to Moabs even though I could have. If they are as good as I expect then I will only hear whatever they are connected to.


That is why for going on 15 years now I have not listened to or auditioned one single thing I have added to my system.

Yet every single one of these additions has performed beyond expectations:


Compare this to as many reviews and user comments as possible.

Along the way you get good enough reading reviews, sifting through comments, and understanding what all the various components do and how they contribute to the overall sound, that you don’t really even need to do this stuff any more."


A fine example of self contained subjectivism, and not to mention self confessed expectancy bias, as you could ever hope to find.

Outside those select reviews you agree with there’s not a single external reference point anywhere!

Are you seriously recommending this ’method’ in preference to blind listening tests??

You do realise the enormous resources in time and money that you may end up in consuming in what may eventually account to little more than chasing your own tail?

You do?

Okay, then that’s fair enough.
If it actually sounds better or it doesn't but you think it does, all that matters is someone is happy with their purchase. Also, of course everyone's hearing and listening capabilities and appreciation is a big variable.

I have found some things don't do what I was told they would, and others did WAY more than I thought possible. By making these types of changes, you learn what can impact the sound the way you want. 

What listening in stores CAN do is if you compare one component to another while keeping everything else (and I mean everything) the same. Optimally playing a few records you know. Stores may not be so willing to do this....

Otherwise, I've had a salesman say that he was so sure of the improvement, I could take it home and if I wasn't amazed (not happy or satisfied), I could return it for a refund (not the BS store credit nonsense).

It was an arm, and it made more of a difference than upgrading the table separately keeping the new arm. He's never made that guarantee on anything else I was considering. He would say something like "I'd expect it or I am sure but I've never directly compared". Also, not willing to do the cash refund guarantee. That tells you something.