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 agree with that approach. However, helping and learning is the reason i and most are here. As @jjss49  had pointed out

i think the major pitfall for all those who try to contribute here is to take different views personally and take it as offensive regarding one’s own findings and beliefs...trick is not to put oneself and oneself’s ego into it...

We seem to be in a time where differing views are not well tolerated. Some take it as an offense against their ego. Then they spend more time defending their ego than their position or POV.  This often happens when someone Can't defend their statements or POV. But rather than admit their error, they try to defend their honor. At that point the discussion goes sideways and no one gains anything




@unreceivedogma - the Don’t Worry Be Happy approach to fine listening

Ha! Do a search of AudiogoN for "Don’t Worry, Be Happy".You’ll see, it’s also been my philosophy for years. It’s simple, but liberating...



Yes, tweaking your system might also include tweaking your audio/psychological apparatus.

[Just exactly how this is successfully done is, I fear, not something that might be easily found on any psychiatrist couch or in any self-help book].



The Role of Psychological Factors in the Evaluation of Audio Products By: Laurence A. Borden | July 2004


"Psychologists posit that evaluation is a comparison process in which consumers:

1) hold pre-consumption expectations,

2) observe product performance and compare the performance to their expectations,

3) form confirmation or disconfirmation perceptions (did the equipment perform as expected?), and then 4) form summary judgments.


Translating this into English, and relating it to audiophilia, this means that when listeners audition a piece of gear, they: compare the sound to what they expected, decide whether the gear fails to meet, meets, or exceeds those expectations, and then arrive at conclusions about the gear."




How about because it is hard to do.

I am a clinical research scientist as well and have a deep appreciation of biased ascertainment of endpoints. Nevertheless, it is fairly easy for me to hear differences in amps, preamps, dacs and CD transports that blinding won’t help cause I am impressed with how my brain tells me that my pre-listening biases are in the wrong direction. Great example, I put in an ASI Teknology modded Black Ice hybrid preamp in my reference system and was blown away by the spacious, clear, crystalline sound that had spot on tonality and tone colors. It replaced an Audiogon cult preamp and despite my clear expectation that the cult preamp would be better, it wasn’t.

If you are trying to discern very modest differences then blind testing is best. However, I can make a cogent case that if I am struggling to hear modest differences then it is probably not worth my time to try and figure out that puzzle - and certainly not worth much incremental money.

I doubt seriously if my preamp is the best around even to my ears and brain. However, I can guarantee u that I won’t be spending 20k to test the waters and find out. I have though been convinced that the modest bucks for Grover Huffmans Pharoah speaker cable and the nearly 2k per pair cost of the Zavfino Silver Dart interconnects is audible and worth opening up the purse strings - at least a bit.

I dont reject blindtest either...

I reject the claim that it is ALWAYS a good thing to eliminate biases, i reject the claim that  all biases must be eliminated in audio experience for the sake of measuring numbers specs instead...

It is the correlation PROCESS between subjective and objective, the backbone of acoustic/ psycho-acoustic  science...

I accept blind test to be a necessity in the industry and sometimes a self inflicted tool and discipline...Thats all... Never a universal remedy replacing listenings experiments...

In learning listening acoustic/psycho-acoustic experiments, the biases accumulation and orientation is the WAY, blindtest is only used sparsely here as a tool....