Everyone That Says Their AV Upgrade is Slightly Better is a Liar
Yes, the title of this article is inflammatory. But, also yes, it is true. Too often we see reviewers and owners alike saying that they upgraded a piece of AV gear and that they heard slight improvements over their old gear. I’m calling BS on every single one of these people. Or shenanigans if you are of a certain age. Either way, everyone that says their AV upgrade was slightly better is a liar. And here’s why.
Noticing Small Differences is Very Hard
It is very hard to notice very slight differences between two things. It is even harder when there is some period of time between the two experiences. In AV, these slight differences are often stated (and taken) as fact. But let’s talk about real differences that many of us experience and never notice.
Have you ever changed a tire on your car? Sure you have. We’ve all had tires wear out or punctured. Did you notice the difference in how your new tires sounded when the car was in motion? You likely didn’t even though they surely did sound slightly different.
What about when you change the air filter in your AC? Did you notice any difference in the sound the AC makes when it is running? Surely that new filter is less restrictive than the old one and surely created a slightly different sound.
Have you ever had hair long enough that it covered your ears? Could you tell the difference between when it was covering your ears and when it was pushed back over your ear?
All these differences are surely noticeable, but we never noticed them. If you did notice them (I have with a tire change), it was because the change wasn’t slight at all. It was massive. In my case, my wife had my tires changed to off-road versions. They were incredibly loud and no one failed to notice the difference.
Are These AV Upgrade Differences Real or Are People Liars?
One common question I get is to help people choose between two TVs or projectors. It is easy when one is good and the other is crap. But most of the time people have done their research and have two good options in mind. Is one objectively better than the other? Probably. But that’s really not the answer. The answer is…it doesn’t matter. They’ll both be great.
When reviewers look at TVs, they have special equipment to measure performance. But you don’t have any of that. What you have are two eyes. If we took those two very good TVs and put them side by side, you may be able to notice the slight differences between them. But you won’t be doing that. You’ll have your old TV and then you’ll have your new one. The new one will look noticeably better (we assume) than your old. But if you took that new one down and put in your second option, I doubt you’d be able to tell the difference.
Why Do People Claim to Notice Slight Differences?
I’ve talked about the psychology of AV before, and it is very much at play here. People spent money on their AV upgrades, they’d rather lie to themselves that they hear/see a difference rather than admit that they don’t. They aren’t purposeful liars about their AV upgrades. They just can’t admit that their new speakers/AV receiver/TV just isn’t noticeably better than their old one. And if they can get someone else to say the same thing, it validates their purchase even more.
These claimed differences wouldn’t likely stand up to a blind test. Honestly, I don’t really care. I’ve had people say absolutely outrageous things to me about things they think they can hear or see. To each their own, I say. It is when they start making these claims online that I have the problem. And reviewers? People that get paid for their opinion? They absolutely have to back their claims up. It is unacceptable for a professional reviewer to claim that they heard a thing without explaining everything they did to make sure they weren’t just making it up.
The Small and Big of Things
The only real way to notice small differences is to make sure you can swap between the two AV devices quickly. By quickly, I mean nearly instantaneously. It is not enough to swap out a speaker for another and then use your memory to say that the new speakers are slightly better than your old ones (or vice versa). You need to have both in the room at the same time and switch between the two with the press of a button. The same is true with any other AV upgrade that you are comparing.
If you don’t want to be a liar, just don’t claim that you heard small differences with your AV upgrade. There are plenty of big differences out there that you can experience. Get a subwoofer for the first time? That’s a big difference! Get that second subwoofer? Another big difference. Go from a small flat panel to a much larger one (or a projector)? Huge difference! Budget speakers to quality? Another huge difference!
The problem is one of diminishing returns. We loved that feeling we got when we upgraded our AV receiver for the first time and experienced massive differences. So we upgrade again and…well…it just isn’t the same. After you pass a specific threshold (we have already covered this specifically for speakers), you just don’t get those massive changes in performance.
Any time someone says they heard a small difference, you should take what they claim with a massive grain of salt. They may not be purposeful liars about their AV upgrades, but they may not be telling the truth. Instead, ask them how they verified these differences. Or, better yet, do the experiment for yourself. Small upgrades exist, and they can certainly be worthwhile, but don’t just fool yourself into believing them. Instead, be sure so that you can rest easy knowing your upgrade was a good one. Or get your money back if it wasn’t. Either way, you should end up happier.