Generalizations That Audiophiles Should Avoid

AR-GeneralizationSnakeOil450.jpgHype, Hyperbole, promo-talk, whatever you choose to call it, has been around audio and specialty audio gear practically since the first "Hallo, Hallo?" emanated from Edison's vocal cords.

How many times has the phrase "sounds exactly like live music!" been bantered around? Like forever...and then there are the following phrases and statements, all generalizations, all of which are all part of my own personal verbal audiophile no-fly zone, so wings up, here we go...

Tubes Rule - EveAnna Manley of Manley Laboratories has been a friend of mine like forever, and her firm uses the term "Tubes Rule!" as one of their marketing slogans. Since they make tube-based electronics I understand why the term is used for their marketing.

AR-GeneralizationTubesRule450.jpgManley gets a complete pass from me...no harm, no foul, but when during the course of a discussion of sound or during a demo if someone tosses out "Tubes Rule!" with no context or real-world example, I have to call that as generalized BS. Which tubes? All tubes? Used how? Everywhere? Not bloody likely...so don't use that phrase unless you give specifics...pretty please...

Analog is better than digital - I see this a lot. Again, without specifics it means nothing except the human uttering it is behaving like a simplistic boob. It can be true or false, depending on the particulars of the music under comparison, but without specifics it is almost as meaningless as "I like red wires."

Digital is better than analog - This statement has the same issues as the prior one - without specifics It's meaningless posturing. Some digital does indeed sound better than the analog versions of the same recording, while in some cases the analog sounds superior...the particulars matter, a lot.

AR-GeneralizationKHZ450.jpg44.1/16 is all the digital resolution you need - We've all seen the graphs and spectral analysis that prove that there's not a lot of additional sonic info above 20 KHz...but since harmonic overtones go both above and below the prime frequency, just looking at the spectrum analysis doesn't give you a complete picture. On well-recorded material, such as my own recordings, I have heard differences between the original higher-rez file and down-sampled 44.1/16 version and I only hear up to 13.5 KHz! It's not just about high tinkly stuff...there's a level of inner detail and listener ease that comes with high-resolution, especially on phase-coherent recordings.

LPs are better than digital files - While I won't dispute that LPs are more tactile, metadata-enriched, and fundamentally organic than a digital music file. "Better" is entirely subjective. Unless you go into why and what makes an LP better it's merely another meaningless generalization. Are we talking sonics or something else? An LP can be better, but it can also be worse...the more important question is, why?

AR-GeneralizationValveTubeTransistor450.jpgX "blows away" Y - I hear this way too often. When two similarly-priced products with similar vintages from two respected and competent manufacturers are compared in a properly matched-level comparison very rarely does one prove to be so far superior to the other that such a phrase as this could be applicable. Only poorly done tests get this kind of result - or if one of the two components happens to be broken...so unless you want to be labeled either someone who can't do a proper matched-level test, or merely another (of many) audio blowhards, don't use this term...

Cables are all snake oil - While even I doubt the veracity of the "research" offered up by some cable purveyors, others, such as Wire World, do have solid science to back up their claims. So not all cable manufacturers are selling products based on false or difficult to verify claims. By stomping around muttering "snake oil, snake oil" all it gets you is one giant step closer to a well-tailored tin-foil hat...

AR-GeneralizationVinylCDicons450.jpgClass D amps suck - OK, mature audiophile (I won't dignify the B word with use) it's time to get back off your lawn, into your listening chair, STFU, and listen to a current-gen class D amp! I know of seriously dyed-in-the-organic-cruelty-fee-wool tube-a-philes who have class D amps driving their primary listening and review loudspeaker systems. I'm sworn to a death vow not to reveal who, but even you, my "bury-me-with-my-tubes" friend, would be surprised...in the words of Bob Dylan, "You will not die, it is not poison..."

So, that's my short list of stuff not to say in my presence if you want to continue onward with the discussion or demo or audio position paper.

I'm sure you have your own short list of smug audiophile generalizations that shouldn't see the light of day...feel free to add yours in comments section...

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