The title of this thread is a quote by Professor Dale Purves that appeared in an NPR story.
This came up in another thread regarding "tube sound" as an off-topic aside where I shared this story that appeared on NPR regarding a blind study that was conducted comparing 2 Stradavarius, 1 Guarneri, and 3 modern violins. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a very well regarded, high-impact scientific journal.
In this study, trained musicians were given the opportunity to identify the highly regard (and insanely expensive) old Italian violins from modern made violins.
Then the researchers told the musicians: These are all fine violins and at least one is a Stradivarius. Play, then judge the instruments.
The results indicate that, despite the incredible reputation of the antique violins for their reputed superior sonics, trained musicians were unable to differentiate between these violins and modern violins under blind conditions.
The old Italians certainly sound great, but not necessarily better or even that different from the best new ones, he says. It's more in the mind, or ear, of the listener.
Dale Purves, a professor of neuroscience at Duke University, says the research "makes the point that things that people think are 'special' are not so special after all when knowledge of the origin is taken away."
This reminds me of the current state of the hi-fi world where using old vacuum tube technology in very expensive high-fidelity very often desired. Even more so, it is often claimed that very rare, old tubes have superior sound to tubes manufactured in modern facilities. There appears to be a common nostalgia for these old technologies (or old violins) despite the lack of demonstrable sonic superiority over competently constructed modern versions.
I thought maybe there are some more examples (in audio or outside audio) where "Things that people think are 'special' are not so special after all when knowledge of the origin is taken away" applies. Anyone have examples?