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  1. I've found this interesting opinion piece on the question of Live vs. Reproduced and one's ability to assess accuracy through listening. In Search Of Accurate Sound Reproduction: The Final Word! Do all audio enthusiasts have the same ability to judge high quality sound reproduction equally? An even better question might be: “how important is the term “accurate” when describing and evaluating audio components today? What, if anything, does accurate sound reproduction mean for the average audio enthusiast, or better yet, should it? The enjoyment and goal of accurate music reproduction is inextricably linked with the audiophile components that we use and evaluate to achieve great sound in our homes. Of course, each individual has or acquires different needs and subjective abilities while trying to achieve this ultimate sound quality. In the case of high definition audio reproduction, we should remember that the strive for “neutrality” in high end audio has a chain of command that THEORETICALLY ends with the individual listener; assuming of course that this is his ultimate target! Without getting to deeply philosophical, one could argue that judging high definition sound reproduction is quite subjective in theory; while on the other hand, true “accuracy”could well be a different story altogether! Looking back to the advent of high definition sound reproduction which had a huge surge in popularity in the late 1960’s, it really came to fruition in the 70’s with the help of a few particular audiophile magazines; namely Harry Pearson’s “The Absolute Sound” and particularly, J. Gordon Holt’s “Stereophile”. These journals were revelatory in the fact that its founders, were music lovers who were trying to describe the sound of hi-fi components as closely relevant to what they perceived and heard in many live musical events both had attended throughout their lives. While I personally did not agree with all of these authors opinions, they both had the intuitiveness of realizing that the “proclaimed” accuracy or neutrality of audio components and high quality sound reproduction should be recognized more for their intrinsic and individual tonal qualities as compared to live, unamplified sound per say, versus how the components measure up in a laboratory. This, we all know by now is a far cry from throwing out all objective technical measurements by any means! Technical measurements are quite useful in what they fundamentally tell us about the basic design principles of a component and the probability of them reproducing audio in a faithful and hopefully, accurate way in our home environment. The best designers will let their ears be that final judge. More importantly, both of these individuals were firm believers that high quality audio components, particularly loudspeakers, should try to bring us (if the source material permits) as close to what we remember hearing (live instruments) in a particular venue in a natural acoustic where the performance may have originated as well as trying and keep the loudspeaker neutral so it is agnostic to the type of music being reproduced. Some reviewers today still understand this whereas others seem to have pushed it under the bus. Still others are not even sure if it means anything to them personally at all. However, a truthful soul will readily admit that much pop, rock and electronically manipulated program material has no relevance to live instruments in a real space and venue. A good recording of live, acoustical instruments and voice made in a studio or setting with relatively few microphones (preferably a cross paired figure eight; (see Blumlein https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blumlein_Pair ) and high quality recording equipment will reveal more about a components sound stage, stereo imaging and indeed, its sound quality than music that is intentionally and commercially manipulated for a specific effect. The sound of the “real thing” means different things to different people but is not the aforementioned music the only true standard for judging the ultimate performance of an audio syst are quite eager to proclaim which reviewer or journals opinions he or she considers the “gospel”. However, generally speaking, a high definition audio system that can convey this type of source material convincingly will never fail to please the prospective listener. http://www.stereophile.com/content/acoustical-standard-follow-letters I will be the first one to admit that all of us high-fi enthusiasts and music lovers, rightfully, have priorities and “tastes” in music which are critical when choosing hi-fi components. Having said that, this is quite different than proclaiming that an individual’s “tastes” in recorded music reproduction are all that really matter when auditioning the sound quality of high end audio equipment. Quite the contrary. While engineers, some of whom may be musicians, try to perfectly recreate a particular musical event, in fact, an individual’s ideas as to how a recording may ultimately have been fabricated in a studio may well be far removed from what he actually heard at a particular “live” event. Let’s be blunt: an electronically manipulated and amplified source is NOT RECREATING A REPLICA OF LIVE SOUND REPRODUCTION! (Hate to say that folks…) Our hearing is interpreted by our brain. If you’re a musician, your brain rewires itself differently. I think that has quite a bit to do with how we perceive and process sound, independent of the audio components used to evaluate the finished product. So then, if your tastes run awry from acoustical instruments, recordings and recording venues, it may certainly be even more challenging for you, the music lover, to evaluate a particular components true qualities and/or faults that you may come to acknowledge in your home listening environment; no? (...) read more at http://www.vintageandsound.com/in-search-of-sound-accuracy/