Right on, Uncle Erik!
I was once a true believer, and thought that the so-called objectivists were all wet. I was so sure that the tube-rolling, cable-rolling, and green-marker rolling I engaged in definitely made huge differences. Night and day! The $2000 amp I bought sounded so much better than the $500 model it replaced that it was like they were in different leagues! I could hear it, my friends could hear it!
...Then I was introduced to some of stunning facts of human perception and bias, as covered by authors like Thomas Gilovich
. I started to have some second thoughts. But the key audiophile magazines kept me "on track" and kept any doubts in the background of my mind.
Later, I was introduced to some of the experts out there who don't have any snake oil to sell, guys like Floyd Toole, David Rich, Sean Olive, David Griesinger, Don Keele, and Siegfried Linkwitz, and my mind started to open up.
Finally I had the chance to do some listening, in controlled conditions, with levels precisely matched. I was surprised at how the process worked - I was able to listen to "A" sighted, as long as I wanted to become familiar with it. And the same for "B" - then I could switch back and forth as many times and for as long as I wanted. When it came time for the "x" sample, I also had as much time as I wanted... And I found that I could tell a difference just about half the time. Hopefully you know what that means. I learned what it meant, and gradually came to some different conclusions about audio.
I really don't expect anyone to be convinced by anecdotes - I know that I sure wouldn't have been 10 years ago when I was saving for $700 speaker cables. Just check out some of those authors I mentioned earlier and consider it.
There is a significant body of peer-reviewed published work correlating impressions predicted through technical measurements and subjective human subject testing. All is not solved in audio engineering, but quite a bit is!
It's also important to point out that this sort of "objective enlightenment" doesn't need to make the hobby less fun, as is the frequent editorial drumbeat by at least one of the major audiophile magazines. It can and does make it less fun when the arguments become the focus instead of the music, but it does not have to be that way. People still enjoy Rolex, Omega, and Cartier watches, even though they are well aware that a Seiko or Casio tells time just as well. It can only serve the love of music more when an enthusiast focuses on what really makes a difference, and keeps jewelery factor/bragging rights/pride of ownership separate, if they are also interested in those things.