Guys, Don't want to preach to you (or have it sound like I am) so always take what I say with a grain of sand... A quick and easy way to tell if your system is playing back records in a neutral manner is the way I used to do it when I was in college. Simply, you find an album that has constant noise in the lead in or lead out groove and play that part while listening in your sweet spot. Does the noise sound BALANCED or is it tipped forward, dull, too much top end, the tick and pop thing is too bright or has a pinched sound, too bass heavy, etc.? This is usually a good indicator that something in your system is amiss. In my best system yesterday I did this little test; I took my three phono stages and played surface noise with each of them in the system. One sounded too strong in the upper midrange, one sounded so laid back that most of the noise vanished (WRONG WAY TO GO!!) and one was just right. In other words the noise was nicely balanced from bass to the top treble. So, this is the phono stage that I am using. Since I use this Shure cart that I know is neutral, I was actually shocked that these three phono stages were so off from each other. Only the last one was actually spot on the RIAA reproducing curve (see Kevin Gray's essay): http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/showthread.php?t=106876 Now, it has to be an obvious "given" that in a playback system of any worth the SOURCE component must be neutral. For most of you that means your CD player. Most CD players I have tested are very neutral; a colored digital player would be totally useless in a system (if you ask me) just like a colored cart would be. That "tone" would be built in to everything you listen to, bright or dull and would eventually drive you nutzy (once aware of the problem). The goal when playing back music is neutrality of some form in your source. Once that is right you can go crazy and flavor your sound all you want. You have the confidence in knowing that at least something in your system is boringly neutral. That's a good thing.. Disclaimer: Of course this is not a scientific approach to doing this but is a quick and dirty way of getting a general idea of what your system sounds like. PLEASE NOTE, IF YOUR SYSTEM IS BALANCED ONE WAY OR THE OTHER TONALLY IT WILL INFLUENCE THE RESULTS OF THE TESTING. This is obvious but I thought I'd mention it. I am assuming that your system in place right now is one you like so the "neutral" sound of your phono section will be dependant on the rest of the playback gear. Duh, but I thought I'd mention it. Just trying to help!