Written by 4:14 am Audiophile

I Guess It’s In The DNA

Paul Wilson looks at the roots of his Audiophilia…

I read a recent reprint in Stereophile.com about an action the FCC was considering back in the 1970’s to force consumer electronics manufacturers to install filtering components in their products. This action was being considered because of the presumed effects CB radios were, at the time, having on consumer electronics. The point of the Stereophile.com article was to suggest that substituting Wi Fi for CB Radio would likely make things applicable today.

AR-CB.jpgI read this article with amusement because I was quite possibly one of those back in the early 1970’s causing the problem.

When I convinced my Dad to allow me to install an “antenna” on the roof to facilitate better transmission of my CB radio, he had no idea what I had planned. When he got home from work one day, he looked with horror at the twenty-foot mast and ten foot high Astro Plane antenna I had installed. I had guy wires to keep it from towering over and had run a wire down the front of the house connected to a ground rod. I even cut a hole in the hardwood floor in my bedroom to run the coax from outside into my room.

Clearly, this is not what he had agreed to when I asked to put up an antenna. I am sure he envisioned some small little thing like on the family car. My Mom, ever the champion, calmed him down and told him it was just a phase and I’d probably be off on some new tangent next week. Hmm… Probably not.

AR-Astro-Plane.jpgWithout my parents knowledge or consent, and with the help of grass cutting money, I purchased a 500 watt amplifier, replaced a couple of the CB’s crystals for ones with the frequencies used in ham radio (back then they could be easily purchased at Radio Shack, and the piece de resistance, a D104 microphone, the ultimate CB mic at the time.

Soon enough I was talking with CB operators all over the country and ham radio operators in both North and South America. Had my parents known what I was up to I would quite possibly not be around today to even write about it. Needless to say what I was doing was, shall we say, “frowned upon” by the FCC. Hopefully, the statute of limitations has, by now, run out and my Mom won’t be in trouble. Why Mom you ask? Ah, I was a minor at the time! If that makes a difference.

I simply was not satisfied to have the plain ole four-watt CB transmitter and the standard little hand held mic at the end of a curly cord. Nope. I wanted something more. While the illegality of what I did back then is obvious, it also serves to allow me a glimpse into myself and, perhaps, answer a fundamental question – why high end audio?

AR-poor qual.jpgA common, reoccurring theme in luxury sound reproduction centers on the relationship of listeners who are satisfied with low resolution Mp3 vs. those who find mid-fi acceptable, and finally, practitioners of our particular hobby. A central question often asked by audiophiles is how music lovers could willingly accept lower resolution musical reproduction? A central question often asked by non-audiophiles is so what? What’s the big deal? Its just music.

Like many audiophiles, the high-end bug bit me many years ago. While the certainty that it is just music, after all, is unassailable, the fact remains that for me, Mp3 and mid fi is just not an acceptable compromise – particularly when I know for sure that something better exists. I’ve danced around this question for some time without an answer that seems reasonable. Why am I an audiophile?

Perhaps, the Stereophile.com article has provided a possible answer to the question.

I wasn’t happy to just have a CB to talk with my buddies zooming around town and the occasional trucker. I had to amp it up to something in a different sphere. Likewise, it should reasonably follow, therefore, that I would not be satisfied with a less than stellar musical reproduction system.

I have come to believe that the real answer to the question lies not in the debate between Mp3 and high-end audio. It is not about the additional, or lack of enjoyment of a CB rig. Perhaps the real answer lies in the possibility that I’m just pre wired, or predisposed, to want something better – that my level of enjoyment kicks in a notch or two above the norm. If I aspire to something better I can’t see that as a bad thing. Just as being perfectly content with Mp3 is no more wrong or incorrect. We are who we all are. If I am to be allowed to enjoy the highest level of musical reproduction I can both have and afford, I should do so without compromise. If Mp3 or mid fi is the acceptable standard for musical reproduction for someone else, then that also deserves, no, demands equal acceptability.

I was no more happy with the common place, ordinary CB rig then any more than I am today with Mp3 or mid fi. My aspirations for a better CB rig over forty years ago are just as viable as my insistence on a musically superior system is today. Maybe now I have an answer to why all this madness.

Maybe, I guess it’s in the DNA.

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