Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Along my travels of helping those in need on various forums, I come across many audiophiles who are unhappy with their system for one reason or another. More often than not, this is a result of system mismatching, mainly due to buying blind without an audition. Whilst grabbing some good deals, buying blind is fine if you’re happy to live with the random result of your purchase, but to make sure your system sounds its very best, an audition is essential. Here are a few tips to make the most of your audition.
Whilst a dealer’s demo room may not represent your own listening space, it is still a place where you can directly audition and compare many products. This allows you to choose the best product for you based on comparative sound quality.
Use music you know very well. Auditioning equipment with music you’ve never heard before gives you no point of reference. Well recorded music will sound great on anything. My advice is to take along some music that you feel doesn’t sound too good on your current system – what seems to be a low quality, muddled recording can be vastly improved by a good system.
Don’t listen to product after product after product. Compare two products at a time, then dismiss one and move on to the next two. This will eliminate the confusion of switching back and forth between five or six products. It's far easier choosing between two at a time instead of five at a time.
The amplifier and speaker pairing is a very important one, so when auditioning loudspeakers, do listen to them with your existing amplifier, or if looking to upgrade later, your intended amplifier. The system should closely represent your own – there’s little point listening to a group of £500 amplifiers through a pair of £5,000 loudspeakers. Those speakers may well show the differences between the amplifiers, but they'll be struggling to maintain composure, and therefore won't be sounding their best.
Don’t be put off auditioning a product that a magazine hasn’t rated very well. A product may only be three stars in the opinion of one reviewer (and it is exactly that - his/her opinion), but it may be the perfect match for your system, making it a far better value purchase than any five star award winner. Your dealer can be of help here, as he has chosen his range of products for a reason.
Quick A/B auditions may work for some people and is usually the norm, but spending a little time with one product and getting to know it before moving on to the next can help take the stress out of whether or not you should hear a difference – forcing yourself to hear small differences won’t help. Take your time, relax, and form a general opinion of a product, or take notes of what it does, or doesn’t do well to your ears. It’s your ears that matter the most, and your purchase should be what sounds the best to your ears, rather than any reviewer’s opinion.
Lastly, a good dealer will guide you far more easily along your upgrade path, and give good advice if you’re confused about anything, or suitable recommendations should you need them.
davidf @ the little audio company