Today, this sort of thinking has carried forward into an era where none of this applies any more. Digital audio performs to specs that we could only dream about in the analogue era. Noise floors aren't just low, they're down in the strata that makes up the Earth's core. Response is as wide as a human being can possibly hear. Distortion levels are so low, you don't even have to look at the specs any more. Just about everything is free of audible distortion.
Yet people keep wanting to use spec sheets to choose what amp or CD player to buy. They look at numbers that slice gnat wings up into microscopic potato chips and decide that a gnat wing sliced ten times is better than a gnat wing sliced nine. They create new specs like jitter that have no real basis in audibility.it's just another gnat wing to slice up. When they finally get to the point where they figure out what .0001 actually sounds like (or more accurately, *doesn't* sound like) they convince themselves that there must be some magical property of sound that hundreds of years of intense scientific research hasn't discovered yet... And lo and behold! They happen to own a pair of magical ears that can hear that mysterious aspect!
People have a natural inclination to want to plus things. They want to think that their CD player is superior to other CD players. They want this so much, they convince themselves that it is, and then go looking for any shred of science that might prove that. When science can't come up with a good explanation, they abandon specs entirely and just say they can hear it even if it can't be measured.
HiFi equipment has become wonderful in the past few decades. It's time to shake off the preconceptions carried over from the analogue days, and start talking about things that are measurable, can be heard, and do make a difference.
What should we be looking at today to choose which model to buy? Usability. Digital audio is tremendously flexible, but equipment manufacturers make consumers jump through hoops with massively complex remote controls, multiple black boxes that all have to be plugged into each other to produce sound, and settings for organizing and listening to music that require plowing through submenus, inventing kludges and coming up with just the right combination of checks in boxes. Usability is key to a stereo that provides enjoyment, and no one bothers to break that down systematically to compare different models like they do with specs, which really don't matter at all.
Edited by bigshot - 8/14/12 at 11:32am