Our expectations often determine our reaction to a piece of audio equipment before we even listen. If we expect the new preamp to sound warm, rich, and revealing then we’re either delighted or disappointed depending not on its actual performance but rather how close it met our expectations.
I learn the most about a new circuit or piece of stereo gear when I haven’t any expectations. Without a preconceived bias, I can evaluate gear based solely on performance.
The problem is that we almost never acquire new gear without an expectation of how it will sound. That’s because we made the leap to acquire new kit because of an expectation: better this or that, solving a problem, stepping up to the level of another system you heard before.
Even if your expectation is the new gear will outperform the older system you’re going into that demo fired up with the hope of getting somewhere specific—a problem because it’s easy enough to miss benefits outside our expectations.
It’s not often easy but I do my best to clear away expectations and preconceptions in the hopes of discovery.
Sometimes beauty is unexpected.