A POINT OF VIEW: Listening techniques to evaluate high-end hi-fi systems

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The thread starts: During a recent high end demo, a track I'm very familiar with (Teardrop by Massive Attack) and have heard innumerable times, was played through a "top of the range" hi-fi system. There was pretty obvious distortion of the piano notes in the intro. I pointed it out, and we played the same track on a "mid-level" (but still extremely expensive) system in an adjacent demo room. This system played the same piano notes quite clearly, with no obvious distortion. It also sounded miles better all round.

I was informed that the top system was, in fact, better than the mid-tier system, and the real problem was with me: I don't know how to listen to music using the correct techniques.

Hard to know where to go from there! A little frustrating as I think these people are not total clowns. What can you do? Walk away shaking the head ruefully is the option I've chosen. Wallet is intact, and will remain firmly shut where these people are concerned.

I'm not going to go into specifics as to the systems involved, and it doesn't really matter what they were, but I do find it rather unusual to be told that, in effect, black is white, and I'm colour-blind. I'd always thought "the customer is always right".

Are there special techniques and if so, what are they?

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