Do measurements correlate with listening experience at all?

Do measurements correlate with listening experience at all?

Trust only my listening experience

Since we have started to regularly foster discussions on Facebook, it is impressive to see how many comments people make on the inappropriateness of measurements. Discussions on measurement usually go between improper to completely useless or even misleading. Hobbyists alike professionals seem to finally trust only their own listening experience.

There are of course audiophiles, mostly professionals, who strongly rely on measurements. But even they, when it comes down to a final selection from a short list of audio systems, only trust their listening experience in the end. Audio systems of a very high quality are often very expensive and as such require some thoughtful and validated decision prior to buying. One has to live with the selected system for quite some time before buying another, maybe a better one.

Most hobbyist and professionals know how much the ambience influences the listening experience. Even though, they also buy high-end audio systems in stores or at manufactures, without testing at home first. Most audiophiles agree that we cannot measure audio quality. Also most agree that the ambience highly influences the sound. Doesn’t buying at a store leave a lot to chance regarding the final listening experience at home? Even if the buyer eventually treats the room with some acoustical measures.

Designers and producers must measure in order to deliver quality

Designing a circuit for an amplifier or even for a crossover, requires selection of some components. Mostly resistors, capacitors, transistors, tubes or conductors. Properties described by measurable units under given conditions describe well these components. Units well known are like Ohm, Farad, Volt, Celsius, Henry, Tesla and many more. The deeper we look into a component the more degrees of freedom we find.

Color code rings describe resistors and indicate its resistance, tolerance, min and max resistance and temperature coefficient. The temperature coefficient you only get from the 6-ring code, not the 4 and 5-ring code. Although the temperature influences the behavior of a resistor and in amplifiers we often have to deal with huge amount of heat. Still none of the ring codes and also none of further specifications gives us information about the magnetic behavior of the resistor. In order to be sure, producers just test the newly produced crossovers or amps before selling them. A newly produced audio system consists of many components, which have lots of properties under variously defined conditions.

No one expects to buy a new, not tested audio system. If something is wrong with the newly purchased system, we would complain about it and question why it was not correctly tested. However, even if the entire system is extensively tested and proved to operate correctly, all these test results would not sufficiently inform about the sound properties.

Reviewers describe the quality almost independent of measurements

Reviewers in test magazines usually try to respectfully tell a story about a product. Professionals measure lots of criteria on request by the reviewers. Such criteria are mostly presented in form of graphs and tables and referred to in the story. Criteria are for example, impedance and phase vs frequency, amplitude vs frequency, lateral dispersion, step response and many more. Although these measurements are usually performed by professionals, the same tested device may have differently looking graphical outcomes. vs.

TestHiFi App, sound test, audio test, hifi test,

stereophile – frequency range

TestHiFi App, sound test, audio test, hifi test,

hifinews – frequency range

To evaluate and describe the sound quality of an audio system or a pair of speakers, also reviewers rely on their listening experience, which they describe in detail.

In cases where the reviewers listening experience differs from the measurement interpretations, they even explain why their listening experience is right.

Do we know what to measure?

It seems, we have plenty of measurements but none of which we trust in describing accurately the sound quality we experience while listening on our own.