Whatever changes we affect in our systems have repercussions: a new preamp changes the synergy of what came before it, records sound different with a new phono cartridge, AC power through a regenerator is radically different than straight from the wall.
Our systems are sensitive enough that we need to be mindful of the repercussions of change. Even setup changes have their repercussions.
The trick with repercussions is to give them their due. Too often I have found people expecting isolated change when performing an equipment swap.
The idea that more than what we directly change has a broader impact on sound is a good reminder—something to tuck away for future reference.
Our systems don’t exist in a vacuum.
It’s better to imagine them as parts in a chain. Each link affects the other.
Observations and theories
It might sound like a bird’s chirp, but scientists listening to what might be misunderstood as the sound from a video game is actually the billion-year-old echo of the collision of two black holes. This bird-chirp represents something extraordinary, something Einstein predicted more than 100 years ago. Ripples in the space-time continuum that are produced by cosmic events — called gravitational waves.
That it took more than 100 years to measure what Einstein had predicted might shed a small light on the nagging argument in high-end audio. How can we hear that which we cannot yet measure?
I would suggest that while it might seem a bit of a stretch to compare the theories of Einstein to what we struggle with in the high-end, it might be less than you think. That is because nearly all theories have their roots in observations. Einstein’s theory of relativity was partly born from observations he made sitting on a moving train. He noticed that on the moving train everything was “normal” or stationary relative to him. But, one look out of the window and time seemed different.
Another series of observations made by Einstein during his formation phase of the General Theory or Relativity suggested that these same gravitational waves would bend light—a theory that brought howls of laughter and loads of ridicule until in 1919, when British physicist Sir Arthur Eddington took advantage of a solar eclipse to prove light from stars bent as it made its way around the sun, it did, surprising Einstein not in the slightest.
When he was asked what he would have done if the measurements had discredited his theory, the famous physicist replied: “In that case, I would have to feel sorry for God, because the theory is correct.”
I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that what we consistently observe is true but cannot yet measure is more than likely the truth in search of a theory.
Once there’s a theory of why observations don’t match the limits of test equipment, then it’s only a matter of time when some bright minded person will set the record straight.
Until then, we’ll just keep plugging away.