When we make a change in a system and then have a listen to that change, we rush. We seem determined to come to quick judgements about the new piece of kit – is it better or worse than the item we just replaced. Some people insist on blind tests, A/B/A or what have you. But we know from our years of experience at Vertex, that when you substitute one item for another there is a lot more going on with that change than might first be apparent.

HiRez Moncayo 1

Every individual piece of equipment in a system effects the whole system. And actually, when you listen, you are listening to the whole system – you can’t listen to an individual piece of kit on its own. So when you make a change to the system, that is what you are listening to – a change to the system!

For example, you try 2 amplifiers – and they are both regarded as pretty good performers. But one has got a linear (transformer) power supply and the other a switched mode power supply. So when you listen to them what do you really hear? Can you really just hear the true potential of the amps, or might that switched mode power supply upset other components in your system with its higher RFI output? Or, if you had a system which was protected against the worst effects of RFI with Vertex mains conditioners say, the extra power and grip of that switched mode amp might come to the fore, and end up being the amp of choice for you.

Then there’s another significant issue, and this goes right back to that problem of the quick test. We as human beings habituate to the sound of our own system. Our listening processes adapt to the things we hear, modifying what is perceived, changing some things that get through to our conscious awareness, and even completely blocking others out. When you make a change to your system, your subconscious registers that the sound does not now match the profile that it has habituated to, and may not register initially the real improvements.

Sound a bit far-fetched? Take those 2 amps again. You own the more traditional linear powered amplifier, a valve amp even, and your friend down the road has a switched mode class D machine. When you go to his place, you sit there thinking ‘this is ripping my ears off – how can he stand it!’ He comes round to your place and sits there thinking ‘this is just too soft and lifeless – I’m bored already’. Who’s right? If you are both equally experienced audiophiles how can you be so divided? Without some understanding of habituation, you will both secretly believe that the other guy chooses bad gear!

So coming back to Vertex now, when you swap a non-Vertex lead for a Vertex one say, firstly remember that you are making changes to the whole system; eg. a Vertex mains lead reduces microphony in the components it’s connecting, so some of the changes will be a reduction in distortion in those power supplies, which in turn will lower intermodulation distortion through the rest of the system.

But then you also have to allow for a re-adjustment of your perception, allow the habituation to re-balance. How do you do this? Simple – play lots of your favorite music. Your brain wants the pleasure of hearing those recordings, and it will re-adjust to the changes in the system in order to achieve this. Once this has happened you will then clearly determine if there are any real improvements because they will come as a surprise. You can’t pretend or imagine they are happening because you have not heard them before. You hear more detail, and you know it because some of this new detail is a surprise. You know the dynamic resolution has improved because you suddenly realise there are more strikes on the toms in that drum solo than you ever thought existed. You know it’s imaging better because you are startled that those whispers are actually coming from way out beyond the left loudspeaker.

Okay, so what’s the tip here? Well, its only by really allowing that habituation process to re-adjust that you can correctly identify the improvements in musical performance. And only then does it start to make sense how things like the systematic reduction of RFI and microphony are opening the window wider on your music.

Oh yes, and allow yourself plenty of time!

Share Button