Being involved in high end audio on a professional basis, all i can say that measurements as commonly shown in brochures and reviews have little if any bearing on the sound quality delivered. For the electronics, it is simple, the more feedback the lower the distortion. BUT, no one has been able to prove that is then sounds better, on the contrary. The best sounding electronis are still those that are already well designed and wel performing without feedback. In other words, how the measured result is achieved (what is in the black box) is not shown directly in the measurements, but is fundamental in the perceived performance. None of the measurements typically used in audio have any bearing on how human hearing perceives sound.
When the audio world went from analog to digital, initally the quality of the digital processed sound was basically very bad. Perceived as harsh, flat (no 3-dimensionality), lifeless, unbalanced, definitely not engaging.
One of the marketing themes was cheap reproduction electronics, no need for very expensive turntables et to get high quality. Yet within a few years the best sounding CD-players were as expensive, horrendously expensive, as the best turntables and cartridge combo's.
It actually took over 20 years to be able to fully deliver to the red-book standard (also known as the CD). But commercially it was the only viable option.
Actually already in the analog area quality was compromised to get more minutes of sound on an LP, and to make it more easy on the electronics.
I was once confronted by music makers that their standard was that it should sound great on a ghetto blaster, this was about CD's.
Adding some amount of distortion is a common practice to emphasise a particular sound in a recording.
At the end of the day a good music reproduction on a system with a good source (LP, CD, SA-CD, etc) is perseiced as emotionally engaging, 3 dimensional, and even after playing it several times a continuous discovery of new facets in the reproduced audio "image" or picture if that is a better suiting word.
Bringing this to the picture capturing and reproduction, in other words photography. There is a strong parallel.
Putting reproducable measurements and results does not give insight in the perceived picture quality, bears little relation with the visual perception, but becomes a major element in selecting a piece of equipment. Commercially it is very hard to stay in the analog solution.
However it is not just the digital part of the total chain. With some friends and aquintances we once compared pictures, using same slid film make and type, same scene, but with a Leica M and with a Canon A1 with FD lenses. Slides were put in a projector tray in random order and projected. A 100% selection of canon vs leica by all persons present. Not on color, sharpness etc. Simply on 3-dimensionality and engagement. Yet the Canon lenses measured in reviews equal or better.
Wrapping it ll up, the digital photogaphic technology is still not there, numbers are just one of the elements subjective evaluation is still the only significant element in the evaluation, and will probably remain as such, but only to those that dare to rely on it.
Jan R. Smit