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Testing untestable hardware

This will likely come across as supremely stupid, but I am wondering if there are ways of running "blind" tests of hardware that is dependent upon physical interaction to perform properly.  It's nice to have loudspeakers and amps and file formats subject to valid test setups, but is there some not-so-obvious means to test components such as "canalphones" or their like?

I only ask this--a question which, superficially has an obvious answer of "of course not, you dipshit"--because I often fail to conceptualize when a solution is obvious to other minds.  Having recently been completely disappointed with some Shure E2s (and being pretty skeptical of the "burn-in" phenomenon, just sold them on eBay), it dawned on me that equipment like this, which seems too physically invasive to be susceptible to blind testing, is among the few "PR mumbo-jumbo"-prone high-tech accessories that can still take advantage of the "placebo-of-price" phenomenon.

One possibility: local anesthetic applied as deeply as possible to the ears, blindfolds, and a set (like 15-second) insertion period, etc.

Reading that last sentence, it comes across as almost parodying the stringent adherence to the blind testing here at Hydrogenaudio.  I promise it isn't.  It might sound silly, but I am genuinely curious.  Thanks.

Testing untestable hardware

Reply #1
I would say that the only way to meaningfully test these sorts of components is by measurement. The process would be to test various properties of the components such as frequency response, phase response, linearity and pretty much any other parameter. These can then be compared to the known properties of the human ear to decide what audible effect they will have.

It would also be possible to construct filters with the same effect on the sound and see if they have an audible effect. I really can't think of any other way to do such a test.

 
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