Is Audiophilia a Team Sport?

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Friday's article by Roger Skoff included a quote from one of my esteemed colleagues, Anthony Cordesman, who has forgotten more about audio than I'll ever know, "Audiophilia not as a hobby, but a "sport" that could be enjoyed both by playing and by cheering-on one's 'team.'" I think he's absolutely right. I also think that "fan hooliganism" is responsible for most of the incivility I see in some audio forums such as Audio Asylum.

It's funny that in sports you are, almost by definition, supposed to have a team whose side you are "on." Your obvious preference is that "your" team will win. This need to win makes the game more exciting, no doubt. But it also makes the experience more emotional. At what point does our need to win cross over and begin to effect out ability to see the game clearly? Now relate that to audio, and our ability to hear clearly.

Back to the whole team thing; I've put together a list of the various audiophile teams and their principal leaders/cheer-leaders or big boosters. I'm sure I'll miss more than a few, so feel free to join in...

The Analog Records Team - Michael Fremer - I've know Michael since the days when digital was only a mad glint in a rogue engineer's eye. He rules. Long may he ride, to quote Neal Young.

The Digital Team - No leaders right now. But I'd give this one to Sony. They did the first PCM recorders, shared the royalties for CDs, and developed DSD.

Tube Team - Audio Research, Conrad Johnson, Cary, Harvey Rosenberg, David Manley - With the simple mantra, "Tubes Rule," this team has swept from a small coterie of designers and customers in the '70's to a major audiophile team that has made the search for smooth plate Telefunkens into a worldwide quest.

Solid State Team - Jeff Rowland, Dan Dagastino, Krell, - Subdivisions abound within this particular team. Class A, Class AB, Class D, and even digital ICE amplifiers use solid-state devices.

Electrostatic Team - Martin Logan, Quad, Magnepan, Stax, Arthur Janzen, Peter Walker - For team members there are electrostatic transducer designs and then there's everything else. When it comes to headphones, I'm definitely on this team.

The 44.1 is Good Enough Team - Xiph org - This link will take you to an extensive argument as to why 192.24 files "make no sense." The argument is that 192 offer little over 44.1 in average listening conditions. So, who among audiophiles is average?  This quote, "192kHz digital music files offer no benefits. They're not quite neutral either; practical fidelity is slightly worse." Shows they've never done any real listening to high quality music files of their own creation, and no, warble tones don't count.

The Ergonomics and Specs are all that matter Team - Consumer Reports - Ever read a CR review of audio gear? It makes Sound and Vision look like a bunch of wild-eyed audio mystics. But why is it, when it's time to buy a dishwasher, we all relay on CR, when we know their approach to audio is so wack?

The DSD Team - Cookie Morenco, Gus Skinnas - As more DACS incorporate DSD into their feature set (it's built into most of the current DAC chips) we should see more DSD title availability, hopefully on HD Tracks. To my ears DSD is the most natural sounding and least-colored recording format available.

The High Rez Downloads Team - HD Tracks - If you believe, as I do, that downloads are the future of audio, then HDTracks is the place to go to get a taste of the future, now. I understand that occasionally a "high rez" mix will come from a DVD-HD or even an upsampled 44.1 source, but that is rare. My fondest hope is for HD Tracks to include more source information as to the provenance of their high-resolution albums. Since well-engineered recordings, be they digital or analog, are the result of clever recording engineers, and they deserve some credit.

The Headphone Team - Jude Mansilla and Head-Fi - If you long for some youthful, exuberant, and sometimes downright tribal verbal intercourse, Head-Fi is the place for you. And as they say regularly on Head-Fi, "welcome, and sorry about your wallet." My collection of headphones has doubled since I began to peruse Head-Fi with regularity.

The ABX Team - The Joy-Killers - On some sites, when anyone mentions an audible difference, these trolls pop up, "Did you do an A/B/X test?" They'll enquire. And while I do A/B tests all the time, A/B/X tests IMHO are for the chronically negativistic

The Bose 901 Team - HiFiSoundGuy - The only team of one. This one person has almost single-handedly raised the Internet's opinion of the Bose 901. Well, not really. His claims of the 901's sonic competitiveness with contemporary designs have largely fallen on deaf ears. Or supported by deaf ears, it's hard to say which. But while I will readily admit that the Bose 901 is a visually striking design (especially with it's original circular-base stands) it is not in the running for sonic holy grail.

The DIY Team - Speaker Builder, Amateur Electronics - If you let them build it, they will come. Members of this team overlap with the Modifier team. If there's something that's stock in their system it's merely because they haven't gotten around to modifying it, or rebuilding it from scratch.

Single Driver Team, no-crossover Team - Lowther - One driver can serve them all, if all means full-frequency response. It all depends on what full-range means. Also a lot of overlap with the modifier and DIY team

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I'm sure that you can come up with many more teams, but my point is that joining a team does influence the way you see things, and perhaps even more importantly for audiophiles, how you hear things. Like rabid team sports fans whose primary raison-d'etre is watching their team WIN, often at the exclusion of enjoying the game, members of audiophile teams often seem to be more concerned with being on the winning side than advancing the goal of higher fidelity.

Go, team, go?!?

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