Auditioning processes

I was scanning the switch and Ethernet cables mania thread just out of curiosity and was wondering how many forum participants can quickly discern what must be very subtle differences in SQ. I have difficulty convincing myself of differences with even more substantial changes in equipment. So my question is what is your process in auditioning changes. A few well known songs emphasizing different musical qualities? It seems that members like @Darkebear for example has a great ability for this just to name one of many members.

Generally, I’ll try something for a while by just enjoying music as I usually do. Then I remove it from the system and go back to enjoying music. If I feel like I miss having the change I removed then I consider keeping it. Otherwise, I’m happy to have saved my money.

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I, too, have great difficulty when it comes to small changes - which in reality applies to a large proportion - even more so because I too easily get drawn into the music and forget to concentrate on differences. And it is a process I find a real chore, and do not enjoy.

The other thread gives details of the “Tune-Dem” process, which sounds relatively easy - though it is only focussed on certain aspects of the sound and therefore does not guarantee that the resultant “better” is necessarily better and more satisfying on balance to the individual.

My auditioning process has changed and evolved over many years. At one time it was hearing differences and deciding if I wanted them but now it is very different, as I had made many mistakes in the distant past not realizing that differences were not always improvements and you can gain a part and lose the whole.

Now I ask myself - ‘am I enjoying this?

That is my baseline.
Then the next comparison is - ‘is this more or less enjoyable?

It is important at this stage to try not to be analytical and if anything try to ‘turn-off’ any temptation to reasoning and just soak it in and see if it connects with me better or worse.

After that I very quickly ascertain the usual things I’m very familiar with as better vs worse.
But then there are aspects that do not ‘fit’ into anything I have tried to quantify before - that takes many hours - and usually many days before it emerges into awareness - then I can spot the effect immediately when I hear it again as my mind has a kind of ‘matched-filter’ for that effect, good or bad.

Then it is a matter of realizing that I follow a design-concept of what I’m generally going for musically and it is somewhat different from other people a lot of the time, but with overlaps.

I then assemble the HiFi as a system that deliveres more of what I want and less of what I don’t - and then I’m generally happy.

But auditioning - don’t jump to firm conclusions when you hear something that immediately seems better, as often it is better by omitting something that you only realize a lot later when you find you are not playing as much, if any, music anymore with your new ‘improvement’.



Thanks @Darkebear, makes sense that it is after all quite subjective with potentially many variables that differ at different times you listen. I may have made the mistake you described above when I auditioned SL speaker cables and heard an immediate difference. I reasoned that since it was Superlumina and expensive that the differences must mean “better” than the NACA5 and switched to SL.I now wonder about certain subtle aspects I may have lost and will need to try the NACA5 again to convince myself either way.

I’d never go back to NAC A5 in context of my system the SL speaker cable is miles better - but obviously you have to have it work for you in your system.

The main ‘problem’ IMO with SL cable, one I did have for a bit, was the extended LF deep bass it allowed my speakers to produce meant I had to adjust the rest of the system set-up to handle it, or it fed-back and spoiled timing. It needs the Fraim set-up (if you use that) more carefully tweaked to ensure cables are dressed without touching the Fraim or wall and Burndies on Power Amps does not touch the floor - bubble-wrap is useless when using SL speaker cable the Burndies have to be off the floor, especially if you have a suspended floor like I do.

NACA5 is a great cable for the far lower cost, but it really limited my system performance and once I heard what the better SL cable could do it was I’d say the main upgrade I’ve made in cables above all others anywhere else, as the NAC A5 was strangling my system performance in terms of openness and dynamics.


Auditioning depends on end game and what needs fixing in your system.
If the end game is to get to the best classic series or even 500 series then that requires a particular approach which means balancing available budget with wisest next step.

Fixing a problem requires a different approach. Take advice from a good dealer and home demo. As others have said, a difference is not necessarily an improvement. Don’t switch cables/boxes for track by track comparison, live with a change for a few days until you become accustomed to it and see if you enjoy the music. If no, switch back/try next cable/box etc. but if enjoyable, listen to characteristics such as detail, amount/clarity of bass etc. And then switch back to your original item and do the same. If it is a worthwhile improvement and/or addresses the original issue you will find that you miss it when gone. If not, the original item is best.

Sometimes you will like character A of one item and character B of another - that is when it becomes tricky because you have to weigh up which you prefer. If you can’t pick a favourite it is of course possible to keep both and swap out as the mood takes you.

Many people here discuss the merits of quite exotic (expensive) options - don’t get drawn in! They may be on a different journey.

As for Ethernet cables, don’t forget that WiFi can also give good results.

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Indeed, snd this is where “Tune-Dem” falls down, as it gies on only one angke.

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•Bjm wrote,…“Sometimes you will like character A of one item and character B of another.”

This never occurs if you use,.and can use the evaluation method Tune-Dem.
I’ve never been through it.

:small_blue_diamond:Innocent_Bystander,…A completely incorrect claim,.which shows that you do not understand,and can apply the method Tune-Dem.

And,.you have to learn the method practically,by being with someone who performs it.
It is not possible to learn the method by reading about it.

Tune-Dem was invented by Linn,.and used by Linn in evaluations to bring out the best MUSICALITY.
NOT HIFI :roll_eyes::grin:,.as someone claimed in the “Ethernet Switch and Cables Mania”- thread.

Also keep in mind,.that it takes many,many years of practical training,to be good at using the method.


Hi @Peder, let’s have a bit of a reality check here. If the method requires training, support and perhaps a PhD then I think you can count most of us out!

I personally like to enjoy music and have no wish to associate that pleasure with a complex process - life is too short! :smile:


An important thing worth remembering when auditioning something - is that of learning how to listen.
We can all get used to listening in a certain way.
Put something in that fundamentally changes the perspective…e.g. Stand mounts to floorstanders to omnidirectional to open baffle speakers.
The different ways digital is processed. Using copper wires or silver wires. Etc.
Maybe better ? Maybe different ? Spending time with something could lead to what at first unimpressed but later is preferable, and vice versa.

Hi, I have basically two ways of approaching such process:

  • short term, in case of components on loan for a limited period of time or A/B tests. I have a list of songs/tunes that I consider a good test, that I know very well and that I always use in this case. One session with all the music with the first device and then the same list/sequence with the second device. During each session I take notes. At the start one minute of silence in the room then again one minute before the second session.

  • long term, in case I change something in the system and I can use the new device for a longer period. this is my preferred solution, I simply listen to music without comparison. Usually the changes sooner or later will be evident to me. Then after a long period I return to the previous settings and I lsten again for a long time.

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I think that this is a bit part of what Linn are saying re Tune-Dem. They suggest you listen for each instrument, ie, “Can you hear all of the musicians playing all of the instruments all of the time?” For me, doing so does require repeated listening to the same passage sometimes, especially if I don’t know it well. That’s why I like to audition with the same tracks all of the time; I have learned what to listen for in those tracks.

So that is the ‘left brained’ side of the audition. I also believe strongly in the ‘right brained’ part – the “Am I enjoying this” or “Is this really musical, to me” part.

I like to do some of each; pick apart the music to listen for small details . . . and also just ‘sit back’ and let the music wash over me and take it in as a whole experience. Both have their utility IMHO.


That sounds like some sort of initiation process is required.
If it takes that much practical training, does it do anything useful? By which I mean - do the uninitiated appreciate the difference? And if so, how do they manage that when they are not trained to listen ‘properly’?


Yes, but relearning can be beneficial. Like changing your preferred seated position within a large auditorium with an orchestra playing something you like and know well. Perhaps.

You have hit the nail on its head.
A process - if anything, is likely a very personal thing.
Guidelines can be set. Curve balls can be noted. Cul-de-sacs can be appreciated. But the process - if it’s going to be constructive, has got to come from oneself. If that means years of PHD or something arrived at within an instant. It’s all good.

My auditioning process may sound weird but it works for me. I don’t try to listen for differences like deeper bass, crisper highs or more detail etc. I base everything on how it affects my body. If I can’t help but move or be swayed by the music and it pulls me deeper into the experience I know it’s better for me.

I will a lot of times listen to a new piece of equipment while reading. The more it pulls me away from the task at hand the better it is.


I don’t believe in to analytical methods like tune dem. You can have better instruments separation, more clarity, better soundstage and more details…Does it mean that it’s better? Not
I you tend to analyze the music, you can loose it’s whole . The most important is the enjoyment it gives you. Is your attention is more focused on music by this component ? Are you more involved ? Immersed?
For that you need to relax and disconnect your brain. Just listen and feel.
Listening very shortly to a track, then swap the component, then listen agan is to cerebral and loose the experience and intimacy of the whole track.
If we follow the tune dem, the Chord Dave for example will appear better than the nds or nd 555. It’s better on a lot of hifi criterias.
However the naim streamers will present a more cohesive sound, with a whole traction and involvement, a sense of togetherness that is missing in the Dave. It’s the main characteristic of the analogue sound which I prefer.

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I have used the same basic auditioning tracks since 1980 and have a high quality vinyl record and CD with them on.

Graham Parker & The Rumour - You Can’t Be Too Strong
Sandy Denny & Fairport Convention - Autopsy
Clifford T. Ward - Someone I Know
Peter Skellern - Love is the Sweetest Thing
Elton John - Shooting Star
10cc - Don’t Hang Up
Vivaldi - Concerto for Oboe, Strings & Continuo In A Minor RV463 (1st Movement Allegro)
Beethoven - Bagatelle Op. 126 No.4 (Presto)
Debussy - Trois Images Pour Orchestre - Iberia

Each song carries specific sounds and I have concise instructions for what to listen for so I can judge how faithfully a system reproduces the original. Using these recordings lets me focus entirely on judging the system. Thankfully, I don’t do it often.

I throw in some less well recorded music such as Wimple Winch’s brilliant single “Save My Soul” and ask myself if I enjoyed listening to it.

If we are judging digital replay then the closet source I have heard to the original sound, the one that makes me think I am listening to real musicians playing great music was Chord’s Blu2 DAVE through Audeze headphones so if available this provides a great benchmark, systems from Naim and Linn pass with flying colours.

What you may notice is most boutique tweaks show promise in some areas, but fall short in others.

When you start to sing along with the music. Pom diddy dee pon pom 21st Century Schizoid Man then you know you are doing fine.

If it sounds better than it is better.


I take a similar approach to @TiberioMagadino. My choice of music goes back to the 1980’s but has been refined over the years. My original choices included:
Allegri’s Miserere
Purcell’s funeral music for Queen Ann - just for the drums
Sibelius’s violin concerto
Dire Straits’ Love over gold / telegraph road

Now I add:
Some guitar work from Antonio Foricone or Ottmar Liebert
Sandy Denny’s Fotheringay and/or Banks of the Nile

I’ve always followed the Line Tunedem philosophy from my experiences as the SO, but now I add an overall impression of the music and how it affects my mood.

It will come that at a audition of Naim’s Statement the music that stood out was two,old stalwarts: Elvis’s Fever and Nils Lofgren’s Keith don’t go. I mention these because I would not normally have such music in my collection, but they made such an impression on me I immediately bought them. That’s what a good system should do - inspire you.