We audiophiles are always trying to sharpen our skills at evaluating audio components. However, the very methods we use can result in precisely the opposite of the effect desired, namely boredom or frustration with our audio system before we have even paid for it; in other words, AUDIO HELL. Take the following short quiz to help determine if you have traveled this road lately.
1. Do you try to arrange instantaneous A/B comparisons of brief segments of music to maximize your memory retention?
2. Do you bring the same group of "reference" test recordings to each audition in an effort to sort out specific performance capabilities and to prevent any disorientation of confusion which could result from using music with which you are unfamiliar?
3. Do you avoid using music of which you are particularly fond so that you can properly attend to objective analysis rather than be distracted by the music's pleasures and passions?
4. Do you believe that the true function of an audio system is to re-create music; and that therefore you can only accurately evaluate audio playback if you have an extensive knowledge of live music performance?
5. Do you believe that if your evaluation addresses such matters as frequency range, signal/noise ratio, stage size and depth, instrumental separation and balance, timbre, and textual clarity that whatever other purely musical considerations there may be will take care of themselves?
6. Has it been your experience that some speakers are especially suitable for rock, others for classical, and perhaps others for intimate jazz? How do you explain this phenomenon? Is this more or less inevitable?
7. When you ask yourself; "What should be the correct reference, live music or the recording session?" Do you conclude that it is one or the other? Are you comfortable with you answer to this question?
If you have answered "yes" to at least 3 of these questions, you can feel comfortable knowing that, like many other audiophiles, you are on the train to AUDIO HELL. If you answered "yes" to most, you may be beyond redemption; but we are here to help, and there is always hope. If you answered "yes" to question #3 you probably require the services of an audio exorcist; for if the purpose of your music playback system isn't to involve you emotionally, then why aren't you shopping at Sears? Before we take a more critical look at the implications of this quiz and your answer, it might be useful to go review the past few years to see how we got into this mess in the first place.