To Doug Schneider,
I only came upon your article today and I am in complete agreement that blind tests obtain more accurate and unbiased results. I plan to attend the 2011 Son et Image in Montreal at the beginning of April. I have been reading various speaker reviews online in preparation. However, after reading your editorial I now seriously doubt whether I am going to be wasting my time listening to various speakers one at a time. From previous experiences at this show I know there won't be any tests of speakers in the manner you described. Do you have any suggestions as to how I could, as much as possible, minimize the effects of the non-blind nature of this a show or, indeed, any other audio show?
Don’t miss out on Son et Image because there are no blind tests; it’s still a very good show and well worth your time if you’re shopping for speakers. Besides, no show I’ve ever been to has featured blind listening tests, although I think it would be fascinating and informative for visitors to take part in a well-conducted one. Even so, there are things that you can do to reduce your bias when listening there, the key component of what a blind listening test brings, which can help make the show-going experience more worthwhile.
One thing to try to do is listening to a system without first learning its price. This is the opposite of what many people do -- they ask the price of the components and then sit down and listen, so they’re biased right from the start. Another thing is to ignore the opinions of others, particularly the person who is conducting the demo. There are various designers and salespeople who will blather endlessly about various aspects of the components, but then only play music for a minute or two. They usually talk that much to convince you the components are worth what they’re asking, but, frankly, they should let the system playing music do the talking if it’s really up to what they say. Finally, take what you learn from Son et Image and use that to narrow down your speaker selections. Afterwards, proceed to seek out these products in order to evaluate them under conditions that allow for more critical listening. I’ve found that at Son et Image, it’s not just manufacturers and distributors exhibiting, but retailers who will invite you to their stores to listen more before you ultimately decide what to buy. . . . Doug Schneider