Written by 6:00 am Audiophile • 2 Comments

Can You Read An Audiophile’s Eyes?

Mark Smotroff considers a more karmic approach to confrontation…

AR-AudiophileEyes225.jpgHave you ever had one of those conversations with somebody who it turns out has a really strong opinion? You probably have experienced that moment when you counter that person’s view and their eyes open super wide almost glaring at you as if ready to physically attack…

This happened to me recently with an audiophile I was speaking to who shall remain nameless because that’s not important in the grand scheme of things. But, in the aftermath of that conversation I got to thinking about these sort of trigger-points that impact each of us uniquely and how we can all interact without throttling one another!

AR-AudiophileEyesAnger225.jpgNow in the case of my recent conversation, this person was a digital audio professional. So I understand that it’s that person’s job to be 1000-percent pro-digital and many of their pitch points were indeed valid. But… that doesn’t mean those points are relevant to everyone (especially to me!). So, as soon as I mentioned to this person — playfully and light-heartedly — that I still enjoyed listening to vinyl and in some ways preferred the analog sound, the angry eyes came out glaring fire! I had to quickly and gingerly backpedal to keep the conversation from escalating down a negative path — I could see this person was almost literally biting their tongue to hold back bitter bile.  

It’s curious. 

AR-AudiophileEyesHammerJudge225.jpgThe person grew more frustrated when trying to oversell, talking down to me about recording studios and such, so I had to (again, lightheartedly) let them know I had actually recorded in several professional recording studios with my bands including 24-track analog as well as digital and that I understood the process… and the difference…  

Then we got into the discussion about the limitations of vinyl which I also understand and appreciate. They are true realities… There’s no contest there — LPs are an imperfect and old format. But… vinyl records do hold a place for many of us in the audio universe who — when its done right — genuinely prefer that sound presentation.  (note: after vinyl, high resolution digital surround sound is my jam… again, when its done right… just so you understand I’m not anti-digital!).

AR-AudiophileEyesVinyl225.jpgI guess at the end of the day I’m ruminating on what exactly is the sound that feels “right” for reproducing music? Is there even a right or wrong? I’m not sure.  Many musicians these days — when given the option and the accompanying budget – – would prefer making their original recordings in analog at least for the basic tracks because they prefer the sound that results. They often also prefer vinyl as a delivery mechanism because it conveys that sound in a way they think complements their music.  I’m not saying its the best, nor is it the majority these days, but it is often preferred.  

On the consumer side, if you have a modest stereo system and a turntable, vinyl play back can actually sound really great at a fairly reasonable price.  Now while I have a DAC and do enjoy much of the sound it can deliver (especially on a well done high res download), I do find it telling that amidst my current circle of friends here in San Francisco I still don’t know anyone who has a DAC in their homes for listening to music via their computer. If they do have one, they have not been talking much about their digital audio joys.     

AR-AudiophileEyesDigitalEyes225.jpgI recently sold an extra pair of speakers to a friend, an aspiring young audiophile (in the loosest sense) who is on a super tight budget… He has an inexpensive-but-serviceable turntable from the ’90s and an old Technics receiver probably from the same era… but he had these horrible speakers. So I was happy to pass along my extra pair of JBL 4410A studio monitors (for next to nothing) because I knew they would be greatly appreciated by him. The other day I was over his house and he was playing a Steely Dan album for me and — even though he still hasn’t gotten his listening area set up properly — his system sounded so much better. I could see the joy on his face from the sound he was getting from his vintage vinyl recordings which he was arguably hearing for the first time. 

So, is all analog bad? No. Is all vinyl bad? No. Is all digital bad? No. Ultimately good sound is an intensely personal decision impacted by a multitude of factors leading to sonic bliss…  

AR-AudiophileEyesZenBuddha225.jpgCircling back to the original confrontation, I guess the key takeaway here is if somebody has an audiophile opinion different than yours, don’t glare at them. Its better to hear them out and try to understand where they are coming from than to hammer them over the head with your perspectives. Hammering confrontationally often turns off most people… 

Consider being a little more zen about how you preach your passions and you might get some good karmic returns as you march merrily forward down the golden road to audio nirvana. 


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