Written by 6:00 am Audiophile • 11 Comments

Are Audio Beliefs Fact or Opinion?

Paul Wilson looks at the idea of “fixing” the audiophile hobby…

AR-FactOrOpinionSmallFromat.jpgIn a recent article I wrote regarding comments left on forums and web sites, one reader replied that he was going to continue commenting until the “mistakes were fixed.” Now in all honesty, there was not a lot in the way of specifics on what the mistakes actually were or how they should be corrected. In considering the matter, I suspect these perceived mistakes could be wide ranging. And of course, it got me thinking. 

One hallmark of high performance audio is variety. There are many ways to assemble and enjoy an audio system. There are price points from the very affordable to the extremely, and many would say ludicrously expensive. There are so many options available, the obvious result is a diverse methodology utilizing any number of system building choices. I seriously doubt any one person could ever exhaust all the available combinations of components and cables in a system. Common sense, time, and very likely purchase cost would get in the way. Yet how many audiophiles harbor the opinion they alone are somehow possessed of a higher degree of what is correct, and consequently incorrect when putting together an audio system?

AR-DigitalvsAnalog.jpgConsider analog and digital. Fact – analog lacks the dynamic range of digital. Fact – analog may contain pops and clicks and surface noise that denigrates the sound. Fact – analog requires more work and effort to utilize than digital. Fact – many people, in spite of everything, simply enjoy listening to an album. How do we reconcile these discrepancies? How do we address the fact that despite its shortcomings, there are those who still enjoy, even prefer analog? On the other hand, if you prefer digital, are you somehow mistaken? Which part of this is fact or merely the opinion of someone else? And if you are in some way of a contradictory position from another audiophile regarding analog or digital, are you therefore correct, incorrect, informed, uninformed, or instead, merely of a different opinion? Can your determined position actually be “fixed?” Should it? 

AR-MITCables.jpgConsider cables – another highly contentious subject. There does not appear to be any unilateral agreement or conciliatory opinion regarding cables. Suppose you have, use and believe in hyper expensive cables. There will be those who will support your beliefs and those who do not. Disagreements, not surprisingly, are wide ranging. One popular theory is an expensive cable cannot possibly make any difference. Another, possibly lesser held theory is they do. Most surprisingly, there does not seem to be a lot in the way of scientific evidence that better cables make a difference. Those in advocation for superior cable products lend their support, primarily, because of claimed improvements heard when switching one cable for another. They hold with the position that better cables make the most difference with better systems, and those with lesser systems cannot hear any improvements anyway. Is it not surprising, therefore, that disagreements ensue? Regardless of the actual truth, most of the discussion surrounding cables is opinion, right? Or can factual evidence be claimed when two or more listeners hear the same result – regardless of what that result may actually be? 

AR-Choices.jpgLet’s circle back to the original question. Let’s fix the mistakes. And what, exactly, are those mistakes? At what point in time do we cross an unseen line in the sand regarding what is fact or fiction, right or wrong? Just because any one audiophile supports a belief in an audio component or methodology, is that same audiophile mistaken if those beliefs and preferences contradict someone else? If I like apples and you like oranges, am I right and you wrong because I say so? How exactly should we set upon the task of fixing these presumed mistakes?

Of course, none of this addresses the question of the veracity of a person ascribing to the goal of “fixing” the audiophile hobby. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I will leave my choices and beliefs to myself. Should I choose to support the notion that better cables matter, or if I prefer one amplifier technology to another, those are my decisions alone. What I do not really need or want is someone telling me my preferences are wrong or misguided simply because their opinions differ from mine.

AR-Choices2.jpgWhen you get right down to it, the audiophile hobby is not only a collection of component choices, but also a variety of individual belief structures. We have and hold sanctuary those beliefs as they are most commonly our guiding principles of system building. Our opinions are ours alone and they are made based on any number of ways. It does not matter if we believe cables work or don’t work, only our conviction in any side of a disagreement is relevant. If we like digital over analog, we are not, somehow, a second class audiophile because we have upset some highbrowed position by analog proponents. Conversely, anyone who does like analog is not necessarily sacrificing sonic excellence and yielding to a forgotten technology because they support a presumed inferior medium. 

AR-InMyOpinion.jpgOurs is a hobby of wide ranging choices. It is chiefly a hobby whose main benefit is about having fun. When we sit down in the listening position, do we enjoy what we hear is the preeminent question. If any individual audiophile is enraptured by what is heard when they play their audio system, that is all that principally matters. Whether or not the system is budget priced or costs more than a home, cables are expensive or inexpensive, whether they are streaming, spinning PVC or polycarbonate is inconsequential. All that really matters is we like what we hear. Our fundamental enjoyment is that “oh wow” feeling bestowed to us by a collection of audio components. 

Most importantly, no one should tell someone in such a position that anything, anything at all needs to be “fixed.”

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