Last week I made a headphone amp comparison between four different amplifiers: RNHP, SP200, G103 and G111. I concluded that those headphone amplifiers sounded the same when volume matched. If you would like to know how I came to this conclusion, please read about my test here.
However, in this post I am going to share you the lessons I have learned from this test.
I learned about how to make headphone amp comparisons fairer and more accurate.
If that sounds interesting to you, please read along.
Generally, when comparing two sides, it’s important to give both sides equal chances.
However, there are two major problems that are hindering us to do that:
A.) Our bias
Bias is to have an inclination or prejudice for an entity, which may result in incorrect treatment of that entity. We have to identify those biases and be self-reflective! Here are three examples:
-Price-value bias: The bias here is that the more expensive amp would always sound better, so the listener would subconsciously favour the more expensive amp and prematurely mark the cheaper amp as inferior. The Lake People G111 is more expensive than its older sibling G103-S, so we tend to think the G111 as more valuable and better sounding.
-Reputation bias: The reputation of an entity leads us to perceive it the same way. In example:
The RNHP has a reputation of having an organic sound, which will lead us to perceive the RNHP as more organic sounding. This process can also be found in the concept of conformity.
-Appearance bias: The appearance of an entity with its associated characteristics. For example, a modern looking and high-tech style amplifier could be perceived as analytical and harsh, while an old school looking amplifier could be then perceived as organic and lifelike. You can link this with the psychology of shapes or -colour.
B.) Unequal circumstances
Unequal circumstances of the parties, can lead to one party gaining an unfair advantage over the other. We have to arrange an equal playing field for the amps to give equal chances.
In order to arrange everything fairly, it’s recommended to have all amps set their best type of inputs/outputs and then volume match them. The key factor here is volume matching!
A volume level mismatch between amps can lead to inaccurate judgements of their sonic characteristics. For example: Imagine two identical sounding amps, but with a slight volume level difference. Comparatively, the louder amp of those two, would be then perceived as brighter and more detailed sounding, while the quieter amp would be then perceived as warmer and more bassy sounding. Solely due to a slight volume level mismatch between identical amplifiers, the sound can be interpreted differently for each of them! If you want to read more about volume matching, then please read my test, where I found no differences between amplifiers, when volume matched.
C.) To conclude: The sound we perceive from an amplifier would be then this following equation:
perceived sound quality = true sound of the headphone amplifier + bias (price, reputation, looks) + volume level mismatch
So, in order to perceive the true sound of the headphone amplifier,
we have to get rid of bias and volume level mismatch.
I hope that headphone amp comparisons will be done more fairly and unbiased in the future,
so the audiophile world can be more accurately represented to others.
Thank you for reading!