Nil Einne wrote:
BTW, anyone seen a double blind review or something similar of the amp?
What would a double blind review prove? Only that it sounds different from some other amp. This would only be at all useful if you were familiar with what the amps it is compared with actually sound like. Furthermore, speakers tend to affect the final result a lot more than amp, so you'd also have to be familiar with the speakers they used. I think the reviews you find in this thread and MikeC's original post tell enough of the story -- the amp, in and of itself, produced satisfactory results for all who tried it.
You're missing several key points.
Firstly you're right a double blind would prove that the difference is really there but this in itself is important. It's amazing how easy it is for people to hear differences that are not there, which is why I always take such claims with a grain of salt. You only need to hang out in any audio forum where people can 'hear' differences between exactly the same digital stream going to the same DAC and output to the same analog set up or tell you how much better their $200 speaker cable is to know there is a lot of nonsense in the audio world.
I admit for an amplifier + DAC system, it's probably not that likely there is no real difference (and in any case there are also a lot of confounding factors like audio levels, equalization settings etc) but you still need to take great care in presuming that any claimed difference actually exists.
More importantly if done properly, a double blind can also help you determine if a solution is really preferred because it sounds better to the listener or because of some other factor like the cost, the brand, or even (in this case) the perceived elegance of the solution or the fact that other people find it better (many people have now read reviews so they 'know' it's supposed to sound good). It's easily possible that the reason a person prefers something is because they want it to be better. In other words, it can tell us more then is something different, it can give us an idea of 'which solution does this person solely because of the audio output'. This is significant because particularly with multiple results, it gives us an indication of whether we are likely to prefer an alternative solution in the absence of the ability to test it ourselves.
An ideal double blind test would involve multiple receivers and this mobo amp and multiple listeners (perhaps multiple speaker sets as well). But even if you're just talking about one listener it's still useful when you pool multiple results. Ideally the double blind should be performed without either subject or experimenter (if that's necessary) having listened to either set up before hand but for a home test, this is unlikely, most likely the person will be testing their receiver against the mobo meaning they will have experience with the receiver (but if done right, not the mobo). While unfortunate (as there is a good chance the person will either consciously or unconsciously know which is their receiver and therefore it's not truly blind), this is still better since at the very least the person hasn't compared the two, and 'decided' (again doesn't have to be conscious) which one is better beforehand based on who knows what factors and therefore is basically just re-affirming a previous decision (ditto). (In any case of course, by being a double blind at the very least they're hopefully less concious of which one is 'supposed' to sound better.) It could however also involve listeners who've don't have strong experience with either set up which provides a very useful addition since these people (provided the experimenter is blind) approach some degree of a real double blind of a random listener.
Ultimately by taking multiple results from multiple people, we may be able to get some very, very, very rough idea of how this mobo compares to other comparable solutions. There are still so many potential confounding factors to list, but at least there's a far lower chance the person just found the mobo good because they wanted it to be (or vice versa). This is particularly important in this case IMHO because it's a rather niche solution so the sort of people interested in it are likely to be similar in a number of ways. Given the cost and the small number of reviews done by independent sites with a decent review process most of what we are relying on is a self selected population. (Of course I'm aware of the problem of 'independent' usually involving samples selected to give the best results.) While a double blind can't overcome that (although tests from independent listeners will have some effect) it will reduce the chance the person is just hearing what they want to hear which as I've already said is amazingly common in the audio world.
P.S. Perhaps my standards seem to high, I admit I have a semi-scientific mind so I cringe when I see people claiming that something is better because of a 3% difference without any sort of evidence of proper repetition to try and get some sort of error bar or for that matter, suggest the difference is likely to be noticable.
P.P.S. I'm not denying that what I'm describing above is still far from ideal science or that it will be rejected if you try to publish it faster then the current downslide of the world economy but it's a matter of degrees. A number of decent double blinds is likely to be far more useful then 50 or so random comments by of people's experience under unknown conditions who knew exactly what they were comparing. I.E. Not perfect but better then the alternative.
P.P.P.S. Of course the reason it's preferred by the listener is indeterminate. It could be that the amplifiers most listeners have experience with are more similar to the preferred one for example. But as I'm not trying to design audio amps nor trying to understand scientifically what and why people prefer, that doesn't concern me. I'm far more interested in knowing what a relatively unbiased observer thinks of the mobo's audio output in comparison to similarly priced system. Of course it's even possible that a solution may be preferred or not initially perhaps because it's famiiar (or because it's novel) but over time once the new system becomes more familiar or less novel one's opinion will change. But this is something very difficult to test for, so it's not IMHO worth giving much consideration.