How reliable is audio memory?

I recently rebuilt a pair of speakers that I last heard in jan 2021. I know it’s not that long ago, but I had fond memories and was convinced that I remembered all aspects of the speaker really well. I did, however, have some doubt as it’s frequently stated that we can’t trust our Audio memory. This often comes up in burn in threads etc, as I’m sure most of you are aware.

I was worried that this would end up just being an expensive experiment and result in a big let down.

I hooked up the speakers for the first time 3 days ago and was very happy to discover all the aspects to be exactly the same as I remember! The bass (bass driver is already well broken in), detail, midrange presentation, dispersion etc.

I learned that I CAN trust my audio memory. Which is nice to know! Even the difference between my different cable options. With my “ecosse” cables being the icing on the cake for this speaker.

Has anyone else had a similar experience?
Or has anyone experienced the opposite, have you been let down by your audio memory?

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Yes. I can agree with you on Audio memory.
Much like an Olfactory memory perhaps.
That utterly unmistakable recognition. Also perhaps a muscle memory.
Ear - brain being mostly muscle related.

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I have memories of sounds - including one as far back as 54 years ago (!). How accurate they are I have no idea. My impression is that sound memory is generalised, rather than being absolutely true to tone and detail.


I have trouble remembering A when I listen to B and go back to A as in testing cables or DACS.



I’m sure older audio memories would not be as reliable as they might also include and be attached to emotions and therefore be better than we remember. I am just very surprised how accurate my memory was regarding this speaker. I had expected on some level to be wrong and that I’d be disappointed.

How was your reunion with the mb2se? I know you said you listened to it years ago and wanted it. How long was it between hearing it first, and purchasing? Was that memory reliable?

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Me too. I much prefer to use A for 1 week, then B for the same. Then I seem to immediately be able to pick out the difference. 1 track comparison is not enough to assess a component IMO.

I do not think that audio memory is very reliable. What you remember is the emotion you felt at the moment you heard the music. Depending on the circumstances, your brain will construe on a imaginary scale the degree of satisfaction or dissatisfaction at this specific moment. Can you reproduce the exact same feeling hours, months or years later? No way!


Absolutely, it’s the emotions derived from what we heard that we remember. Audio memory is not really a thing.

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No sorry I don’t agree… I remember the dispersion characteristics being that it carry’s around the whole room, the way the guitars jump out of the speaker on certain tracks, the way the bass surrounds you, and the way male voices are so textured. I’m sat here right now listening with the same satisfaction. Couldn’t be happier with them. Although it was only a few years ago that the memory was made. Maybe if you tried to recreate or explore a memory from your teens you may run into trouble.

If it’s impossible to remember what something sounded like then what’s the point in upgrading? You would have no point of reference other than emotions. I think many people agree that better quality components sound better… how would they remember what the lesser quality component sounded like? E.g. less defined bass, less detail…etc.

Maybe there are variations between people and their ability to remember the quality of sounds?

Can you not remember the sound of your Mother or Fathers voice in your head?

I actually struggle with that. However we clearly remember at least some aspects of the sound of voices, or we’d be unable to recognise people’s voices when hearing them without visual cues, whether it be friends/family on the telephone, or prominent people outside of our own direct contacts, e.g Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, particular actors, etc.

My un-qualified opinion: Audio memory is probably OK, but is easily overwhelmed by confirmation bias.


+1 for what Winky said.
And I confess to substantial skepticism on the part of others.

I hear you Mark84 but if you had to downgrade your equipment for whatever reasons, I bet that after just a little while you would enjoy the music as much as you do now. Music talks to the soul, not the hifi.

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There is a context in what I’m saying, we’re talking about remembering differences between audio systems.

It’s interesting that you say that… I upgraded to an NDX2 about a year and a half ago, and I can remember the increase in detail from the Uniti boxes. At that time I had heard an Atom, and a Nova. The NDX2 was paired with a Nait 5si. I enjoyed this system for a while but it became evident that while the increase in detail was nice, there was something missing with the amplification. The Nait was a bit flat in comparison and brought less colour/texture to music. knowing the NDX2 would vastly improve with better amplification, but ideal amps being out of my budget, i decided to settle for a Nova and be happy that my system was balanced and I wouldn’t be stretching for upgrades that were out of reach.

Anyway, I suppose it’s one of those things that will devide people. I have no desire to create another “burn in” type thread. I suppose the point I was making was that I was surprised my memory of the sound of my speakers was bang on.

Thanks for your insight. :+1:

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I wasn’t initially talking about remembering the differences between systems but just how accurate a memory was of a system when compared to the same system 2 years later. I was surprised how accurate it was.

If you were to answer the phone and speak to one of your friends for a few moments you would likely remember who it was based on your memory of their voice. I suppose there is an evolutionary advantage to this ability.

Although, I have got this wrong from time to time at work.

Not saying my opinion is %100 correct, just thought it was an interesting topic to discuss.

I believe there are differences between people and how we hear and interpret sounds. I saw a really interesting documentary on syneasthesia. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. There were some that would see colours in their heads when hearing music, or see numbers as colours for example. I found it fascinating. I am not saying i fit with that description but it’s possible that there’s a spectrum for these things that we don’t fully understand.

My wife wouldn’t have a clue if I swapped components…. I don’t know if that’s because she doesn’t care, or she can’t hear the difference. She says she can’t hear a difference but I’m not convinced that she listens intently enough. She does enjoy music though.

Another interesting oddity that fascinates me is where certain people can’t recognise faces. Even that of their own wife. They would have to remember what they were wearing when out and about rather than just look for a face.


Going out on a limb with that evaluation, Winky. :wink:

This is a testament to your skills as a carpenter.