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    Editorial: What's Wrong With You?

    I'm not a fan of writing editorials because this site isn't about me or any ministers of information. It's about the community and everyone who has helped, over the last 11 years, create what this site is today. Perhaps a couple forum posts have irked me enough to need this cathartic outlet. 

     

    Anyway, what's wrong with you? If you listen to people online or at audio shows you'll think you need medication quickly. Since I started this site I've often wondered what's up with all the audiophile hatred, judgement, and categorization. It usually takes this form:

     

     

    1. Audiophiles like gear more than music.
    2. Audiophiles don't listen to music, they listen to gear.
    3. Audiophiles are always looking for the next piece of gear.
    4. Audiophiles are foolish because ...
    5. There's music audiophiles and gear audiophiles.

     


    Wait what? Why do people care? I submit that if you're judging people by their motives for increasing their own enjoyment in life, if you're categorizing groups of people based on what they enjoy, or if you just dislike audiophiles, then you're the one with issues. There's nothing wrong with issues, I have plenty, but stop projecting yours on to audiophiles. 

     

    The ole gear loving audiophile "just doesn't like music" thing. Again, who cares? I don't care at all if someone is happy collecting HiFi gear. Jay Leno owns 150 cars including a 1994 McLaren F1 valued at $12,000,000. Oh the horror. What a loser, he must just love cars and not the experience of driving them like all the people with pure motives for purchasing cars. Only kidding. Who cares if he has 150 cars and some that are priced outrageously? I bet it isn't the same person who cares about audiophile motives because cars are cool man (said tongue in cheek).

     

    When I first started writing about HiFi I was told by a publisher that he knew a guy with six CDs and a million dollar system. This million-dollar-system-guy was the butt of many jokes and was even blamed for many problems in HiFi. Heck, this specific publisher had an infatuation about guys like this and always talked about himself as being "in it for the music man." As if there should be a podium for music loving audiophiles that anyone else who enjoys this hobby equally or more shouldn't even look at. 

     

    In fact, the snobbish level of people who view themselves as superior audiophiles because they like music more than gear is no different than the people who just rail against audiophiles for the heck of it. 

     

    Then there's the infamous Alan Parsons quote.

     

    "Audiophiles don't use their equipment to listen to your music. Audiophiles use your music to listen to their equipment."

     


    Talk about pompous. Sure, we can purchase his works of art, but god forbid if we listen to them in a way he doesn't approve or for reasons with which he doesn't agree. Who cares if what he says is true for some people? Who is anyone to judge how others have fun in life. I feel very excited for people who increase their enjoyment in life through HiFi. Whether that's because of a gear fascination or music fascination of a combination of the two. If you're happy, I'm happy for you. 

     

    This also brings up the black or white issue. As if audiophiles can only be gear enthusiasts or the so-called better audiophiles, the music enthusiasts. Like politics and the endless objective / subjective debates, there's a continuum on which audiophiles land. On one end is the gear junky and on the other end is the music junky. Based on no objective data, I'm willing to bet most audiophiles fall more toward the center than the extreme poles. I don't care where one is on this continuum, but let's not succumb to those who like to categorize us as music or gear or music first, gear second. The world is gray, many of us like both well designed audio components and well played music. 

     

    Speaking go well played music, do you only listen to Scottish nose whistle recorded at 32/384 or DSD1028? If you're happy doing that, I'm happy for you. Wasting precious brain cycles to think about or judge someone in the Scottish nose whistle camp is the epitome of foolishness. Life is too short. Crank some Rage Against the Machine and move on.

     

    Oh shoot, I forgot Rage isn't a certified group for the other end of this preposterous judgmental spectrum. Like the dealer who laughed at me because I purchased MartinLogan ReQuest speakers to play Pink Floyd when I was fresh out of college in 1999. That's a great way to win over new customers and encourage a younger audience to value and understand dealer markup. Yeah right. That's perhaps a story for another editorial that I'll never write. 

     

    OK, lastly before I get off my editorial soapbox, why do people also care about audiophiles who value fine craftsmanship, made in country ABC production, and limited editions of products? When it comes to cars, watches, houses, or even alcohol that goes down the hatch only to be pissed out an hour later, all the elements of craftsmanship are highly desirable. It's even OK to love the bottle in which one's Booz is transported. However, when it comes to audio, if you like the big McIntosh meters or the copper D'Agostino amplifiers or the bling of Mbl, you're somehow a lesser audiophile not worthy of those who value music first. 

     

    I say bring on the bling, bring on the breadboards, bring on the Patricia Barber, and bring on the Beatles. It doesn't matter to me what you like or why you like it. I don't believe it should matter to anyone else either. Gear collector? Fine with me. Music collector? Fine with me. Both? I hope you live in a big house. 

     

    I'll close with a quote from Sheryl Crow, "If it makes you happy, it can't be that bad."


    P.S. Along similar lines is the judgement of those who spend "outrageous" amounts of money on HiFi components, by people in the same music first group (not all but some). Speakers that cost $250,000 or even $700,000. Amps that cost $100,000 or $250,000. I can hear it now, you can get better performance for a fraction of the price! Let me repeat, who cares? It's the buyer's money to spend however she wants. I certainly don't want someone going through all my receipts and telling me I could've purchased far better peanut butter for less money. I can't afford a million dollar system, but I don't care if you can. I enjoy finding bang for the buck products, but I don't care if you don't enjoy the same.

     

    P.P.S Where am I on this continuum? Smack in the middle. I love great gear designs, both inside and out, both cosmetic and electrically engineered, and I love music. I'll take Pearl Jam on an AM radio if that's all I can get, but on a beautiful HiFi system that sounds spectacular, all is right with the world. 

     

     

     

     

     



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    10 hours ago, Richard Dale said:

    Words ending in '-phile' just describe a person who likes or loves something, and 'audiophile' refers to someone who loves audio, which normally means music.

    It would be more accurate to say that an "audiophile" is someone who loves audio, which means music reproduction.

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    5 hours ago, STC said:

     

    I can't recall everything about Beatles now as I was gathering information on stereo development at the time. Anyway, here is something which may help to throw some light on this discussion which has now gone out of topic.

     

    "

    Martin: Four-track was the earliest thing we had and that wasn’t until 1965. From ’62 to ’65 we didn’t have four-track. We had mono--mono was the thing. Mono was all that pop records were. Stereo was reserved for classical. Stereo wasn’t considered to be in any way useful to pop record because it dissipated the sound...

    MF: ...on the radio...

    Martin: ...and pop had to hit you square on the nose. And so it was considered irrelevant. Very few people had stereo machines anyway. And if they did, they generally had them in cabinets where the speakers were about a foot apart, so you couldn’t really tell.

    So mono was the thing. But I took a stereo machine and separated the tracks and made it into a twin-track machine. So when we recorded the Beatles live as we did, we didn’t overdub. I would keep the voices on one track and put the backing on another, so when they went home I could then mix it down and keep the voice forward--but at the same time get plenty of impact. I wouldn’t have to do it on the spot. So that gave me time.

    MF: And there was some leakage between the two tracks because they were playing live...?

    Martin: Of course.

    MF: But it was amazing separation!

    Martin: Yes, but then, in the instrumental where the voices stop, all the shit comes out on that track from elsewhere. When I first heard what they’d been doing, I was horrified. But they just did. And I didn’t find out 'till afterwards, and it was too late.

    But the worst thing is: The people got used to this and loved it! They liked to be able to turn up the voices in songs. So I was hoisted with my own petard here. I couldn’t protest anymore. I was saying, “Why do you do this? It’s a travesty!” But then they’d say, “The people like it!”

    MF: But that came out in England also—the stereo With the Beatles.

    Martin: It did. By this time I’d left EMI, and I had no power there at all. I left EMI in 1965 to start my own company. Up to ’65 I was the head of Parlophone Records, so what I said went--as far as Parlophone was concerned. But once I left, I had no authority...apart from complaining.

    MF: Back to those Capitol tracks: They were in mono, I assume.

    Martin: Yes, "Baby, You’re a Rich Man," "Penny Lane," and "All You Need is Love" should have been mono.


    Read more at https://www.analogplanet.com/content/sir-george-martin-interview-part-two-0#ZEV6pzrSh7tOpvJG.99 "

     

     

    And 

     

    Beyond this, working in true stereo the way the Beatles wanted to simply wasn’t possible through most of the 1960s. By the time of A Hard Day’s Night in 1964, for example, EMI had taken delivery of several new four-track machines, but that remained the state of the art for the next several years. And four tracks is far short of the number necessary to create what we might think of as a “modern” recording - with stereo drums, stereo instruments and stereo voices. Since early stereo attempts tended to sound clumsy and primitive, the Beatles gave up on the format until better times arrived. It wasn’t until 1968, when they began using eight-track machines, that they began giving real attention to stereo.

    In the Beatles’ minds, we should remember, it was always more important for a record to be musically good than for it to be compatible with some new, gimmicky format. The Beatles had been raised on mono. All their early records were mono. The radio they listened to was mono. And so it’s natural that, as they began recording, mono remained their chief form of public expression. From 1962 until 1968 the Beatles would record their songs, create mono masters with George Martin plus either Norman Smith (1962-65) or Geoff Emerick (1966-67), and then go off on tour or holiday, leaving the stereo mixes to be done solely under Martin’s supervision. Stereo tapes were often couriered to Capitol in New York without the Beatles ever hearing them at all.

    Wow, are your just trying to inform us of something you think we don’t know about  or are you arguing a non-existent argument? All of this is known.  They didn’t have the setup to do stereo the way we do it now. So what? In the 50’s a lot of tracks were recorded on only 3 tracks and then mixed to stereo. Even “Kind of Blue”. Doesn’t mean it isn’t stereo. 

    It also doesn’t mean the Beatles songs weren’t  quite deliberately mixed and recorded to stereo. No one has said the Beatles didn’t have an orientation towards mono. But you are over interpreting based on seeing a few quotes. Yes stereo mixes were deliberately produced  also for release in the UK, not just for the US. All the albums were intentionally mixed to stereo and not just for the US. Nothing you quoted contradicts that. You simply are thinking you understand those quotes without knowing the context.
    Sgt. Pepper is a good example. The Beatles spent 3 solid weeks working on the mono mix with Geoff Emerick and GM,  which was the most important one to them. When it was done, they basically said, “You know what we want now, so you can do the stereo without us”.  Doesn’t mean it wasn’t intentionally done and not just for the US market. 
     

    And yes, there were some odd and fake stereo mixes made by Capitol. The were so desperate for Beatles songs to fill out all the “extra” albums they made  that they would even take mono tapes they were given and make fake stereo.

      Read “Recording the Beatles” or Mark Lewisohn’s or Geoff Emerick’s books and you will see.

    Note: The 5  songs for the  Magical Mystery Tour TV special were originally intended for release on EP/45 only,  weren’t considered by the Beatles to be an “album” and so weren’t originally mixed to stereo.  

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    2 hours ago, Jud said:

    I guess it does show a certain tendency to be tendentious.

     

    Darn, I meant to use my Beatles puns Yesterday, but now I gotta Get Back to being on topic! 

     

    -Paul 

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    Triple amen to that. A whole lot of the anti-audiophile and anti-fancy gear arguments I see people tee up seem to firmly rest on the assumption that everyone's confirmation bias is identical

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    1 hour ago, Ralf11 said:

    Triple amen to that. A whole lot of the anti-audiophile and anti-fancy gear arguments I see people tee up seem to firmly rest on the assumption that everyone's confirmation bias is identical

     

    Seriously, what do you think of CC's editorial? What do you understand his overall position to be and do you share it?

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    19 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Is it possible he said it outside this single article / interview?

     

    I understood your "infamous" preface to me "possibly apocryphal." It seems to be a Slashdot commenter's quip in reference to the 2012 Parsons interview, which somehow morphed into Parsons having said it himself. It's definitely more quotable than Parsons's actual comments! 

     

    In any case, "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You" sounds great on "audiophile" systems! Haha.

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    10 hours ago, 4est said:

    The way you seem to spout BS causes me to wonder if you are running on all cylinders. If you cannot understand how a recording made off a camera and played back via YouTube might not tell the whole story, then there really isn't much common ground to work off of. I imagine we would all love to think that "sleeper cars(gear)" will out perform bespoke high end ones. The truth is that it depends a lot on the actual implementations. I am sure that I am not alone is suspecting that you system is no where near as capable as you make it out to be- regardless of price or how well you have hard soldered your cables.

     

    Again, what a recorded clip of music playing does is communicate whether there is something wrong with the sound - if there are incidental noises, like people talking in the background while listening, etc, this allows one to 'calibrate' the overall sense of the recording. If when the music starts it is jarringly out of kilter with the preceding sound picture, then something is very wrong with the playback being recorded.

     

    The "whole story" is not the point - if it's easy to hear that you don't like the sound of the gear over a YouTube link, then it would be much worse in the flesh.

     

    Yes, actual implementations are at the heart of getting good sound. And my rigs are all over the place in SQ, because I'm always in the process of investigating, and trying things out. One day it will be a bit of magic; the next day it will irritate the hell out of me - because I've made a wrong move, or something has come adrift; or an external factor has come into the picture.

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    22 hours ago, Ralf11 said:

    I am still trying to get past the Ferrari thing.

     

    There is currently a red Scion FR-S with prancing horse decal in the used lot of a local Toyota dealer:

     

    57914627.jpeg

     

    The asking price is less than the carbon fiber drink holder option on the Ferrari F12 if I'm not mistaken. One heck of a motorized drink holder, with feisty Chihuahua attitude. Awesome 👍

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    34 minutes ago, audiobomber said:


    😯

     

    I am always intrigued by systems with exotic or unusual sources, amps, and speaker technologies. I would love to hear this system, but I would not have made the same equipment choices... no bass!!!


    @The Computer Audiophile

     

     

     

    And I alway ask the question - what is this thing about bass? When I go to the concert hall, I don't hear "audiophile bass"; when I'm sitting in a room with a rock band rehearsing, I don't hear "audiophile bass" ...

     

    One of my tests for this is classic Boney M. tracks - there is a visceral, gut wrenching thud from the beat which is part of the magic - and listening to this on a rig with mighty woofers, this can be missing ... Fail!!!

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    5 minutes ago, fas42 said:

     

    Again, what a recorded clip of music playing does is communicate whether there is something wrong with the sound - if there are incidental noises, like people talking in the background while listening, etc, this allows one to 'calibrate' the overall sense of the recording. If when the music starts it is jarringly out of kilter with the preceding sound picture, then something is very wrong with the playback being recorded.

     

    The "whole story" is not the point - if it's easy to hear that you don't like the sound of the gear over a YouTube link, then it would be much worse in the flesh.

     

    Yes, actual implementations are at the heart of getting good sound. And my rigs are all over the place in SQ, because I'm always in the process of investigating, and trying things out. One day it will be a bit of magic; the next day it will irritate the hell out of me - because I've made a wrong move, or something has come adrift; or an external factor has come into the picture.

    I completely relate to your last paragraph. It fits me to a tee. Whatever is in my signature is merely my LR stereo and the one that works! LOL

     

    Your first two paragraphs baffle me though. I agree there should be some averaging, but there are too many variables for me to be comfortable saying anything concrete about it.

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    Just now, 4est said:

     

    Your first two paragraphs baffle me though. I agree there should be some averaging, but there are too many variables for me to be comfortable saying anything concrete about it.

     

    There is a fundamental difference between what one attempts to do with a car - and with an audio rig. With a vehicle there is no "absolute performance" - you can always give it a higher top speed, level of acceleration; in the extreme, land speed records and dragsters. With audio there is a set maximum - what is on the recording; the goal is to get as close to the track contents as possible; this is an https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asymptote goal.

     

    What I listen for are the signs that the gap is too large; clear "extra noises" that tell me the rig is 'rattling' too much, instead of quietly getting on with the job.

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    1 hour ago, accwai said:

     

    There is currently a red Scion FR-S with prancing horse decal in the used lot of a local Toyota dealer:

     

     

     

    If I were to buy a newer sports car, I'd get a Boxster/Cay-thing or a Miata with a jaguar V-6 sound system (lighter & more hp than stock).

     

    But, I would not try to evaluate them thru youtube...

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    You tube is getting pretty good; 4K picture and decent sound rendition. Yeah I know, it's not analog from a record (vinyl) playing. Still, you can make music sound very good.

     

    It's easy to dismiss, and it's easy not to. 

      _____

     

    Bonus (not for sound, not for picture, but for what's wrong, and right with us?)

     

     

     

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    12 minutes ago, JoshM said:

    Chris, I love this editorial because it gets at the often implicit mixing of "objective" analysis with political/moral opinions and economic value judgments. 

     

    It's perfectly reasonable for people to directly compare two pieces of gear, regardless of their relative prices. But one always needs to keep in mind that people value gear differently and have different budgets. We need to take potential interlocutors' monetary means and values into account when rendering opinions. It's weird and unhelpful to proclaim that your $1.5k pair of headphones smokes someone's $100 pair of headphones unless they're claiming otherwise. Without taking budgets/priorities into account, audio comparisons descend into pointless subjective value judgments. 

     

    Likewise, it's easy to import political opinion into discussions of any hobby without realizing it. I completely understand the argument that an expensive pair of headphones or DAC is an extravagance when there are people in the world struggling to eat and make ends meet. (I agree with Rage Against the Machine's politics!) But except for people who live super frugally and donate every extra penny to charity, we're all guilty of indulging wasteful spending. Personally, I think charity is wonderful, but it's no substitute for policy. If someone thinks that we should redistribute money from the rich to the poor, great. I agree and think the government should do more of it! But insofar as people have extra money, they should be free to spend it however they want, including on audiophile jewelry that even other audiophiles might find wasteful. In other words, keep the political/moral judgements where they belong. Don't mix them with audio discussions.

     

    Finally, as the recent Audio Fidelity remasters show, Rage albums can certainly stand up to audiophile scrutiny! 😉

    You should be a writer 😁

     

    P.S. I have that Rage version and love every minute of it. One of my ten best albums of all time. 

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