Now back to the question of the blinded testing. Here is what the now publisher (Robert Harley) of one of the major magazines wrote a few years ago....
Blind tests nearly universally appear to indicate that no differences exist between electronics, cables, capacitors, etc. In fact, one infamous test "revealed" that no sonic differences exist between power amplifiers. Mark Levinson, NYAL Futterman OTL tube monoblock, NAD, Hafler, and Counterpoint power amplifiers were all judged to be sonically identical to each other and to a $219 Japanese receiver (footnote 7). This very test, wielded by the objectivists as proof that all amplifiers sound alike, in fact calls into question the entire blind methodology because of the conclusion's absurdity. Who really believes that a pair of Futterman OTL tube amplifiers, a Mark Levinson, and a Japanese receiver are sonically identical? Rather than bolster the objectivist's case, the "all amplifiers sound the same" conclusion of this blind test in fact discredits the very methodology on which hangs the objectivist's entire belief structure.
If differences do exist between components, why don't blind tests conclusively establish the audibility of these differences? I believe that blind listening tests, rather than moving us toward the truth, actually lead us away from reality.
First, the preponderance of blind tests have been conducted by "objectivists" who arrange the tests in such a way that audible differences are more difficult to detect. Rapid switching between components, for example, will always make differences harder to hear. A component's subtleties are not revealed in a few seconds or minutes, but slowly over the course of days or weeks. When reviewing a product, I find that I don't really get to know it until after several weeks of daily listening. Toward the end of the review process, I am still learning aspects of the product's character. Furthermore, the stress of the situation—usually an unfamiliar environment (both music and playback system), adversarial relationship between tester and listener, and the prospect of being ridiculed—imposes an artificiality on the process that reduces one's sensitivity to musical nuances.
Going beyond the nuts and bolts of blind listening tests, I believe they are fundamentally flawed in that they seek to turn an emotional experience—listening to music—into an intellectual exercise. It is well documented that musical perception takes place in the right half of the brain and analytical reasoning in the left half. This process can be observed through PET (Positron-Emission Tomography) scans in which subjects listening to music exhibit increased right-brain metabolism. Those with musical training show activity in both halves of the brain, fluctuating constantly as the music is simultaneously experienced and analyzed. Forcing the brain into an unnatural condition (one that doesn't occur during normal music listening) during blind testing violates a sacrosanct law of science: change only one variable at a time. By introducing another variable—the way the brain processes music—blind listening tests are rendered worthless.