THE DEMO: Counterintuitive benefits of fatigue during component evaluation

Neil McCauley / editor in chief – my point of view:


Yesterday I received an email reminding me that one of the best means of evaluating equipment is fatigue. Yes, I know that sounds counterintuitive but I guess we’ve all experienced our system’s sounding so good that we could listen for hours. And we do.

However, please consider the opposite. Say you try something new or perhaps just evaluate what you have currently. It sounds open, dynamic and stirring – but for how long? Does listening to it over time encourage you to turn the volume up perhaps just a little? Want to hear more rather than less? Then you’ve got something worthy of keeping.

But if you get listener fatigue, then something’s amiss.

Like you, I have a few reference recordings I use to evaluate products and changes in a system. One test I use is whether the music is pulling me into it or driving me away. A few tracks and I can usually know pretty quickly which direction it’s driving me.

I can identify a few reasons and no doubt there are many more. Clearly the mood I am in influences both my perception of a familiar track and of course how I feel about that perception. And then of course there’s the issue of the AC varying from morning to evening during the week and of course the week compared to the weekend.


The logical and intelligent (Howard really loves that word) solution is to buy a PS Audio P5 Power Plant he said. So we borrowed a P3 and this may well be sufficient.

HiFi Answers needed (and still do) a way to make sure that when we evaluated something, that it wasn’t affected by the time of day. I had figured out quite a while ago that my home system sounded everywhere from wonderful to uninteresting depending on the time of day and narrowed the culprit down to the AC power quality. Regenerating new power solves that problem and brings a freedom to the listening experience I hadn’t consistently enjoyed up until I experienced mains regeneration first hand.

I've found it’s best just to relax when I am evaluating a new cable, CD or just enjoying my setup. Nowadays i.e. subsequent to the P3 I pay attention to my interest level, fatigue level and general enjoyment.


I find I am either going towards or away from the music and that, readers, is a great indicator of success or failure of the changed component in the system.

Thank you

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