The Pareto Effect in Audio – The 80/20 Rule Is Real

More Entries in Our Critical Thinking Series

Ambrosia’s first album does exactly what a Test Disc should do. It shows you what’s wrong, and once you’ve fixed it, it shows you that it’s now right.

We audiophiles need records like this. They make us better listeners, and they force us to become better audio tweakers. Because the amount of tweaking you do with your setup, components, room, electricity and the like is the only thing that can take you to the highest levels of audio.

The unfortunate reality audiophiles must eventually come to grips with in their journey to higher quality sound is that you cannot buy equipment that will get you there.

You can only teach yourself, painstakingly, over the course of many, many years, how to tweak your equipment — regardless of cost or quality — to get to the highest levels of audio fidelity.

And tweaking and tuning your equipment has other, fundamentally more important benefits in addition to its original purpose: making your stereo sound better.

At most 20% of the sound of your stereo is what you bought.

At least 80% is what you’ve done with it.

Based on my experience I would put the number closer to 90%.

This is known as the Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Rule, The Law of the Vital Few and The Principle of Factor Sparsity, illustrates that 80% of effects arise from 20% of the causes – or in laymens terms – 20% of your actions/activities will account for 80% of your results/outcomes.

The Pareto Principle gets its name from the Italian-born economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), who observed that a relative few people held the majority of the wealth (20%) – back in 1895. Pareto developed logarithmic mathematical models to describe this non-uniform distribution of wealth and the mathematician M.O. Lorenz developed graphs to illustrate it.

Dr. Joseph Juran was the first to point out that what Pareto and others had observed was a “universal” principle—one that applied in an astounding variety of situations, not just economic activity, and appeared to hold without exception in problems of quality.

In the early 1950s, Juran noted the “universal” phenomenon that he has called the Pareto Principle: that in any group of factors contributing to a common effect, a relative few account for the bulk of the effect.


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