The importance of specifying conditions

It’s all in the small print

If I told you, my vehicle did 0-60 in 3 seconds, you’d think it was a supercar.  However I was actually talking about my lawnmower!

You thought I meant 0-60 mph (miles per hour), whereas I meant 0-60 mpm (metres per minute).  I wasn’t lying to you, but clearly I left you with a different opinion of the capabilities of my vehicle.  If I measured my lawnmower going down a hill, I could have said 0-60 in 2 seconds.

To be able to judge the truth, you need to know:

  1. What units the specification is measured in
  2. How the specification was measured

Without both of these criteria, you can’t make any judgement on how good a spec it is.

Audio trickiness

In most industries there are very strict guidelines on points 1 & 2 above, and if you deceive, you’ll get punished. Indeed recently loads of major car manufacturers got serious fines for providing incorrect fuel efficiency figures on one of their cars.

In the consumer audio world (unlike pro-audio), there are very few authorities who punish wrong figures or statements, so it’s widespread practise to provide misleading figures.  Manufacturers generally try to push the envelope until it gets so silly that somebody has to step in to stop it.  The last big event was in 1974, when the US FTC authority had to step in to stop people claiming that a 4W amplifier was capable of 1000W music power! Sadly today manufacturers, even respectable ones are starting to claim stupid specifications for their products, specs that can’t possibly be true, yet misdirect the public into thinking their products are better than reality.
This ultimately affects us all, and devalues proper audio research and development.


So with audio, to get a proper figure, you need to know what the measurement units are, and how it was measured.

We’ve got further articles detailing what you need to know for specific measurements, dig in!