Crutchfield offer remote listening test option

I was intrigued by the latest catalog I received from Crutchfield outlining a remote listening feature now available on site. As they explain, they’ve spent a few years developing a test facility that enables them to present sound samples of speakers tailored to the headphones you may have or might get from them as part of a listening kit. The idea being you pick a few speakers, select the headphone model, chose a music track (from metal to mellow) and then switch away to your hearts content as you listen.  Full credit here for trying to solve possibly the greatest obstacle to hi-fi purchasing for ordinary people, getting to listen before buying.

Now there’s plenty of problems still to be solved here given the unknown parts of the chain involved but the general idea adds a lot more fun to browsing. I could not resist spending some time here so cued up a few comparisons, chose a pair of Sennheisers that I have for the listening, and gave speakers a run through some acoustic, modern jazz and metal.

My impression? It works better in theory than in practice. Since I am very familiar with Audioengine speakers I chose a pair of those first so as to calibrate my ears before adding various KEF and Focal into the mix. For the life of me, those Audioengines sounded nothing like I’ve heard from that brand before, and it was the Focals that sounded more like the pair on my desktop. Ok, maybe I need to try a couple of times, or maybe my rig, with it’s Audient interface makes for a different response, though experience suggests not so much. Choosing floor standers which I don’t own, I compared some $1500 speakers from Martin Logan, PSB and Monitor Audio. These all seemed slightly different and perhaps each slightly better suited to different genres (though it surprised me that I liked the PSB on metal the most).

The interface to all this is intuitive once you set it up, the changes between samples seem rapid though I am not convinced it always happens as you imagine – best to play a sample, pause it, then play another speaker rather than just hitting play on one speaker after another in rapid succession and assuming that a new ‘play’ just  stops the previous one and switches for you.  Doing just that on occasion gave me the impression nothing had changed (I know, I can hear the ABX arguments now but try it for yourself and see what you think).

Bravo for the attempt Crutchfield. I am sure this will only improve and it will be popular. Give it a try at https://www.crutchfield.com/speakercompare/

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