The Science Of A Hobby

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For most audiophiles, reading books and the variety of available web sites is something typically done for basic entertainment and research. It is one potential way to learn about new things, have questions answered and find out more about our hobby. Of the web sites I generally follow, I am always impressed at the level of scientific intellect displayed by many of the respondents to the articles. Some very bright people are audiophiles.

AR-Science.jpgIn fact, our hobby is quite scientific. When we position and reposition speakers to achieve optimal soundstage, we are basically conducting a physics experiment. Playback in general, or the practice of acoustics, is a wide ranging field of scientific study. Yet we have the felicitous joy of simply hearing a song on a stereo. A profoundly simple act borne by ingenious complexity.

Consider some of the terms in our hobby - capacitance, frequency, ohms, decibels and watts to name a few. Our hobby has the singular uniqueness to be discussing something like how standing waves and first reflections affect sound quality one minute, and the next talking about how the cymbals sounded so lifelike. Why? Because they are part and parcel of each other - the latter being the result of the explanation of the former. I suspect that few other hobbies practice similar levels of scientific inquiry, particularly by the hobby's proponents.

AR-Stamp-Collecting.jpgTake stamp collecting for instance. So, you need a book, stamps, magnifying lens and some glue? I mean, what else, really? I don't collect stamps and I'm certainly not denigrating doing so, but I doubt those that are stamp collectors spend much time discussing the chemical composition and adhesive properties of glue.

What I find so fascinating about being an audiophile is we can make this hobby very simple or profoundly complex. "I want a stereo so I can listen to music." Or, "I want to do a detailed study on the dielectric properties of audio cables, and, how the manufacturers set about making theirs operate optimally." Similar examinations may also be made for every component in an audio system.

I say with presumed certainty that many, if not all of the stalwart designers in our industry have some measure of science background in general, and quite possibly physics specifically. To design audio products almost requires a degree in, or a commanding knowledge of, electronics. Yet the result of this brilliance requires the user to do little more than push a power button and select play. A task happily performed with a simple elegance that belies the complexity in how it works.

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