True or False?

The following is a common sentiment from some who claim to be audiophiles.

If you hear something but can’t measure it, you only think you heard a difference.


This notion is also common among people who claim to possess an accomplished understanding of audio, especially when achieving a high level of performance for a minimal investment.

So who’s right? On the one hand we have Objectivists who claim if you can’t measure it, you can’t possibly hear it or if you do, its expectation bias and self delusion. Are these people correct? Do they get as good as a sound, or better for far less money by ignoring cables, power cords, mechanical isolation, basically any accessory that many have found to dramatically improve performance despite a lack measurements? Do those who dismiss expensive digital to analog converters as being no better than rather common digital components with decent measurements get just as high a performance level as those of us with MSB and DCS? Do people who claim it’s all about finding perfect speaker placement, do these people outperform those of us with systems that cost multiples more than what they pay (Who also pay close attention to speaker placement as well as everything else)? Or do those of us who pay attention to cables— digital, analog, and power, what we set our components on top of, how we place our speakers, acoustics, and tweaks, expensive DACs and the like, do we get better sound? Who’s right? And how do we ultimately determine sound quality?





I have never met an Measurementista that had a high-end system. They are out there I'm sure, but they are rare birds. The people with really good systems are tuned by ear, perhaps with some measurement confirmation but I'll trust what I hear before I trust measurements. 

My measurement devices were refined by natural selection over thousands of years and are responsible for the survival of multiple generations.

I keep them on the sides of my head.

Is this not an audio hobby?

Measuring one’s own hearing is right out I suppose. Only after good ear cleaning of course. 😉

Now back to listening to my hifi sound meter in hand…..

Look at the success BorderPatrol has had with their DAC the SEi.

No it is not a giant killer but is is a darned good DAC and it measures for crap. But it sounds wonderful and it is simple….wish I never sold my SEi and since have bought 4 or 5 DACs that cost 10 times as much. Then I figured it out the others were soulless, measured well had all the lights and bells and whistles but no soul. Kind of like a Honda VFR a great motorcycle but no character or soul. 

Sometimes more is less and sometimes less will sound better, but again that is subjective. I think at times how much we spend on thing like Audio Gear, Motorcycles and Cars is all ego. Then we go to the forums and say look at me, look what I bought my Ducati is better than your Honda, My QLN speakers are better than your Tektons (FACT), my Raven is better than your Primaluna.

Pure ego stroke and it is human nature to look for validation from our peers.

It is all subjectively objective.

Just my thoughts on it.

Have a great day Hockey Time. 



In the end, there is an inherent subjectivity to this hobby.  Stuff might measure well and not sound so good.  People who think that only measurements count assume that we have discovered every variable capable of determining sound and can accurately measure them.  They never allow for the possibility that the parameters that are measurable may be the tip of the iceberg, that we haven’t discovered a whole lot of stuff that determines sound.

  So-the answer to your question is no, we can’t determine in an absolute sense what an objective truth is.  It’s in the ear of the listener.  
 I hope this concept doesn’t cause you to lose sleep.

@russ69 it is not one or the other what brings the best of audio gear and rooms. I believe you need both.

For ourselves, my partner and I, we listen and then we do measure IF we like it. We want to make sure that both my ears and logic participate. I have yet to listen a system I liked, that did not measure with he same degree of goodness.

Why people are afraid of measurements, or make it a binary option? I am not saying to not trust your ears over measurements, but undoubtedly measurements will take you in paths, some good and some bad, that your ears alone could not.

Yes there are some things that are very difficult to measure but most everything can be measured. I even measured my old NHB-458 and the NHB-468 before I upgraded. The NHB-468 sounds better in most areas than the NHB-458 for sure, but it also measures better.

The same is true with speaker placement. Sure you can place your speakers by ear, but you are leaving at the very least 30%-40% on the table from a proper sonically measured room. 20 years back I moved to a hew house with 3 rooms that were used for music, all sonically treated with bass traps, etc., but the rooms were just ugly. The sound was incredible, my gear never sounded so good, but we were fortunate to meet a couple that designs opera houses and symphony halls. To make the story short, I hired their company to come and look at the rooms and see if they could be improved and wanted the rooms to be more than music rooms.

They measure the rooms as they were, and then removed every single panel, every single diffuser and bass trap, took every piece of furniture and started to measure the empty room with lots of microphones, and selected quite a few optimal speaker placements and marked the positions with an UV paint each one with a different sound signature. Then incrementally added furniture at the end we had 3 rooms that sounded magnitudes better than before, without the vast majority of panels, diffusers or bass traps. Just 2 diffusers in one room, 1 diffuser in another, 1 bass trap and 2 diffusers the another. The 3 rooms are much more inviting and comfortable, that sound better not just for us but for most of our friends including 2 of our friends, that play piano and cello in concert halls around the world.

Now, we can use them for listening and to entertain too. Sure they could have used a few more panels/diffusers to make the rooms better sounding, but my partner and I appreciated the styles in the room more than the incrementally better sound experience.

Recently I bought a house for work in the USA, the house is made of wood sticks, the floor is suspended on wood sticks, basically a big resonator. I got REW and and 2 microphones, after 3 days of listening and measuring what I was listening, I ended with a room that sounds way better than what I started and 2 basic speaker placements, one for Classic/Spanish guitar/Flamenco and one for Rock.

Every ear is different, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I do not understand why one would spend $x on audio gear and not, at the very least, spend 2-3 days with REW, listen and measure as to extract everything out of your room and system.

Sorry for my grammar, I started to learn English late in my life.

Hearing like all our senses are highly variable functions. No absolutes. No two ears exactly the same. Luckily only your ears matter and thank god there are measurements and other objective criteria to help steer all our ships towards something actually of high quality and perhaps even good value. Isn’t that what we are paying for?


What others think sounds good may be of value. Or not. That only follows under the assertion that it’s only your ears that actually matter to you.


So when people come out and throw objective facts into doubt it turns me off.   I detect an agenda and it is likely of little value to me. 

In the case of the "objectivists" I find they are not worth listening to.

  1. They're agenda seems to be founded on starting an argument
  2. Usually with a tone of superiority and talking down to others
  3. They love "flame" wars
  4. Will justify their position with a self fulling prophecy 

The whole reason each of us has a given system is we enjoy it and believe it sounds good to us. That is all the matters. We want to enjoy the music we love on a system that meets sounds good to us.

The premise that measurements are the only thing that can matter is silliness - especially since the music creation process is a creative endeavor. Why do "objectivists" put out the notion "Wow, this sounds terrible but it measures perfectly.  I am right and everyone else is wrong. I will be happy to be unhappy and pissed off but at least I am right."

Not even sure why objectivists want to engage except for some deep seated emotional issue to prove something to others and covert them from the misguided subjectivist path to the light of the objectivist religion. 

I do not understand why one would spend $x on audio gear and not, at the very least, spend 2-3 days with REW, listen and measure as to extract everything out of your room and system.

Thanks for the well thought out post. I'm not sure I can respond with a reasoned answer. The only thing I can say is I learned a long time ago that you can't make a deficient loudspeaker do what it physically is not capable of doing. So electronic correction has its limits. I also like clean simple systems so adding ANY device into the signal path has a downside. Then finally, I've been doing this a long time and even though I use trial and error, I usually stumble upon a workable solution in the end. I'm not against measurements, I just find their usefulness, in home audio systems, very limited.  

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I have never met an Measurementista that had a high-end system.

+1 on this one. Show me a system that these measurement freaks have that has proper and careful placement. There are a few on this site. But notice how uneven or carelessly placed those systems are. Now if you ask me to show them - I don't recollect one top of my mind. But search for users who side with the measurement freaks and then check their system page. Most measurement freaks think that they can simply buy stuff, put it in a room and be done. Yeah, right.


My measurement devices were refined by natural selection over thousands of years and are responsible for the survival of multiple generations.

Exactly. Point is that measurements freaks don't trust their hearing. Hence they seek to validate.

Every ear is different, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion

Glad you feel that way. You are probably a rarity in the measurement freak world. For rest of them, only measurement OR their opinions matters.

Reading some responses above, I need to point something out. Nowhere in my original post do I say anything of this being an either or where acoustics are concerned. I actually state that along with paying attention to cables and other accessories, we also pay attention to acoustics. Lots of attention and that also includes running rudimentary programs like REW. This is how great systems are made, by paying attention to everything.

@ted_denney "And how do we ultimately determine sound quality?"

By what sounds good to my ears, not others.  

Agree there are people who believe that.  Put another way, their theory trumps reality, and they frequently use the word "snake oil".

@milpai extremes, specially opinions, are of no use in any facet of life or engineering, they always left behind a lot  of good things, but again that is my opinion :)  

@ted_denney  +1 with everything adds up, but there are few exceptions like Ethernet switches and cables; saying that ethernet cables and switches can make a difference in the sound, engineeringly and electrically nonsense; and this is very different that cable and speaker cables for example.  The Ethernet subject is a completely different domain.

Few things will achieve more than speaker placement. If my $50K speakers in the USA are placed incorrectly they will not sound good regardless.

REW is good enough for me and my limited knowledge on sound measurements, but helped me hugely to make my room in the USA sound magnitudes better. Professional services like the one I get from these 2 companies are in the order of magnitudes of what I can achieve with REW but cost in the many of thousands Euros more.


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there are few exceptions like Ethernet switches and cables; saying that ethernet cables and switches can make a difference in the sound, engineeringly and electrically nonsense

Are you sure? 

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@ted_denney  this is not about being sure, it is about knowing the protocols involved, electrical engineering and signal paths.

They do not even make a difference at the Ethernet physical layer.

But  if Ethernet "audio" switches and cables sound better to you, then good for you.

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Yeah, you’re wrong. Completely wrong. A lot of products that you would claim make no difference, like ethernet switches and ethernet cables, make a significant sonic difference. All you have to do is listen. Exactly what this hobby is all about.

They claim knkw without listen or have bad ear. There magic in system that can’t be measure.

@tubebuffer you are assuming, which is not the equivalent of knowledge. You have absolutely no idea what I have listened or not. I am lucky to be able to buy anything I want at any price and I do, but first my partner and I have to like how it sounds.


What am I wrong about, 25 years of electrical engineering for one of the largest tech companies in the world, contributing to multiple IEEE protocol working groups for different protocols including IB, Ethernet, FC, AMBA, contributing to PCI-SIG, knowing the signaling path in simple bus adapter like a NIC, over 35 years of listening all kinds audio equipment, or that if something sounds better for you, then good for you?

When emotions and absolutes get added to a discussion is where I stop engaging, not worth the time.



Astroturf, I noticed you don’t have a picture of your stereo, why am I not surprised? And your 25 years as an electrical engineer, does not disapprove the fact it’s clear as day to hear the effect of digital cables, and other things you fail to grasp. High End audio is subjective at the end of the day.

High End audio is subjective at the end of the day.

But at the beginning of the day it is mostly objective, with designers and engineers using theories and measurements to work through the design phase of a variety of gear.

They are not sprinkling cables, nano particles, (etc.) into a witch’s vat like an alchemy class or magic potion.

In fact we have moved from alchemy to chemistry and physics over few millennia.

The magicalness seems like a bit too much foo for many. If you can show that it makes a difference, then it is easier to consider using it, and whether that difference will be sonically better or sonically worse in a specific person’s particular room.

If you can show any of it, then it should be easier for us to grasp it.

I have Maggie and rockport and Wilson and bw and Cessaro. I to have speaker I want in desire room. Zu in potting shed and I have Tannoy in polishing garage they not high desire room. Wilson in poolhouse and cessaro in office but rockport in perfect treat room.

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There is a tremendous amount of confirmation bias in audiophile music. 

If I only get that to work for hours on end. It may form an initial impression, but I can't make it last for years. No way I can fool myself that long.

So who’s right? 


At this point me.


I will take my ears over any kind of measuring device. Sight,taste,sound are surely very subjective.  Can someone tell you what your favorite food should be? While we might be able to agree that a particular woman might be beautiful,do we all agree exactly why?  We also might all recognize the sound of a train. Do we all hear it the same? I think sometimes we might get a little too tied up with how something might measure,vs the reality of what our ears are telling our brains. Is it possible that a good measurement might cause a certain amount of expectation bias? It measures great,thus it must sound great?  

If you can show any of it, then it should be easier for us to grasp it

If they could show it,  they would. They don't even use their ears to listen but their eyes. If it really was

clear as day to hear the effect of digital cables

Should be like a walk in the park to sit and listen blindfolded while an uninterested third party tested this. 

Yeah, I know it's not a science experiment but a hobby, like magic 


How can the measurementistas assume that every possible measurement has been discovered? Even with existing measurements, few agree on the actual tolerances or hearing limits into which the measurements and tolerances fit. It’s also rare that any reviewer mentions humidity, atmospheric pressure, what they ate during their last meal, the blood glucose levels, blood pressure, mood, medications or any other variable that could impact earing acuity.


In the late 1990s, I was personally involved in a test of two absolutely identical models of preamps. There was a three millibel difference in the otherwise dead flat frequency response. 3 MILLIBELS, NOT 3 DECIBELS! Four listeners were involved. We were consistently able to identify a difference and to say which unit was the "A" unit and which was the "B" unit. The difference didn’t jump out and grab us, it was more of a subtle hardness. But we all agreed that the unit without the hardness was the winner.

The manufacturer that hosted this test built all his equipment to a much closer tolerance because of the results of that test. It required special instrumentation, very clean electrical circuits feeding the equipment and a lot of patience and understanding of his circuit and the components used in his equipment. He still enjoys a reputation as to top designed and manufacturer.


We can measure car for 0 to 60 and how it handle and study most popular paint color but can not measure feeling man gets while drive car.

Pass...... to many false flag arguments on this topic. Troll thread. The only meters you need are free and they are located on the sides of your head in addition to the non measurable emotions that you feel when you listen. I can find great pleasure in any number of systems and equipment combinations based upon many years of experience and listening prowess. 

The border patrol is a very good dac indeed...yes it does not measure all that great, but what it does is brings you closer to the music, more organic and analog like. No trickery or filters, just a plain old r2r Philips chip and a choke input, tubed power supply. 

I strongly believe in objective measurements, but this statement is total gobbly gook. Over the years measurements have improved and we do measure more and better some things we heard before and can measure now.

Besides what measurements do you use, frequency response, harmonic distortion, the standard ones. I saw a friend pick a cartridge over 40 years ago from a frequency response cure and 1 kHz square wave not knowing what it was and saying - I want that cartridge, I know how it sounds.

With time our measurements improve and what we hear will become more and more measurements. Indeed it's hearing more that will drive our search for more and better measurements.

You guys prattling on about measurements, did you actually read my original post? Or is this just a reflexive, triggered reaction? The question isn’t measurements versus no measurements, or anti-measurement. The question is, do people who do everything, acoustics, measurements, and things like cables, accessories and higher end electronics for which there is not a sophomoric suite of measurements that prove anything, do we get better sound when we pay attention to everything versus guys who only address what can be measured and ignore everything else?

It’s not a contest between two extreme ideologies so the whole rambling OP is nonsense.

What’s that old saying? Liars figure but figures don’t lie. Math is the only way to show that something is different. Everybody’s hearing is different by the equipment that things are measured on is neutral and doesn’t make things up.


What’s that old saying? Liars figure but figures don’t lie. Math is the only way to show that something is different. Everybody’s hearing is different by the equipment that things are measured on is neutral and doesn’t make things up.


The only thing that’s good about new expensive equipment is that generally the funds made from those products go more towards R&D budget than say a company that makes money on an expensive equipment that they sell a lot of. At least that’s the way I look at it. When I buy a new $7000 preamp the manufacture made it I know it’s going to come up with something even better a few years down the road. I don’t consider the idea I just stated applying to expensive enter K’NEX and power cards. I’m sorry but I can’t see you spending the same amount of money on cords as the entire frame cost. That’s just called getting ripped off