It’s the time of year for saving money!
If you want to venture into the more contentious and vitriolic side of the audiophile hobby, invest some time in a forum. This is a place where unseen and basically nameless individuals can spout off with any amount of revulsion they choose regarding any position taken by anyone. This is not to say there are not forums, or even contributors to forums, where some sense of decorum is maintained. Obviously, there are.
There seems to be a fine line between a spirited debate, which is perfectly acceptable, and an outright insulting attitude. Anyone who places anything online is not immune. It matters not if the author is someone writing professionally or an individual posting a comment. Fact is, anyone who places any word, phrase or idea about any subject imaginable is potentially subject to harsh and even vile criticism. In audio circles it seems to be more a commonality than isolated occurrence. I was therefore curious if our hobby is ruder and more insensitive than others. So I decided to peruse some forums of several hobbies where one would think class, sophistication and Miss Manners would rule supreme. My sources of inquiry were fine wine, cigars and ultra-expensive, high end watches.
Would you not think wine aficionados would be a civilized lot? Pinkie in the air sort of thing? Yeah, think again. I read any number of forums on the quality of wine glasses, to the pressing methods, to the type of dirt used to grow grapes, to weather, and one very curious discussion on the skins of the grapes. One reader told another they were full of s&#t regarding their outlook on grape skins. Really, this even matters?
Another took one reader completely to task because of their choice of wine glasses. And to show you how much I know about making wine, I have never once considered the skin of a grape when opening a 2012 Opus One Cabernet. I could just as easily drink wine from a paper cup as a Baccarat Massena No. 2. All this other stuff is inconsequential to me. I know only I like the wine. Then again, I do not take the same interest in wine as an oenophile.
Moving on to several cigar forums, I found that like wine, those who enjoy a good Davidoff, Fuente Opus X, or whatever the better cigars actually are, share certain common tenants regarding comments on forums. In short, they can be just as mean spirited as wine and audio folks when it comes to how others are treated. I don’t smoke cigars so I’m not up on what’s best. I don’t know, or don’t really care if the leaf is Cuban or Nicaraguan grown from leaf imported from Cuba. When, however, I read comments like one person who wrote a particularly nasty reply to someone else and finished with – “ridin by on yo high horse,” I begin to wonder if anyone is even capable of something vaguely akin to simple politeness.
Watches. My ace in the hole. Certainly, those who collect fine and expensive timepieces have a refinement about them. I mean, go price a Patek Phillipe and tell me they are not to watches what $100K speaker systems are to audio. Well, whaddya know, it seems those with the requisite disposable income for expensive watches can be quite testy. I read several venomous comments claiming Patek Phillipe were nothing special visually and their movements were not nearly as well made as Breguet and Vacheron. Of course, it is not too very difficult to imagine what those who did not believe in expensive watches thought about those who do. I mean, it should be really easy to visualize, right? Think audio! I read comments like – “you only wear that expensive piece of s$#t because you are showing off.”
Then there was the guy who claimed – “your watch is the car you take into the boardroom. It projects success and financial trust.” If an audiophile were to write something like that about a high performance audio system, can you even begin to envision the wrath of the ensuing comments?
At the end of the day, it is not surprising that there will always be those who are in some way resentful, distrustful, objectionable and simply disagreeable with anything others may like to do or hobbies they enjoy. Audiophilia is not an isolated case when it comes to mean and insulting comments. We endure them, we sometimes respond to them (at times with way too much enthusiasm), other times we ignore them, but for whatever reason, we ALWAYS read them. Call it inane curiosity.
Happily, there are some forums, or perhaps parts of forums, where some measure of civility is practiced among a sea of negativity. There are those comments that offer insight, reasoned opinions, well crafted responses, and yes, even dissention done with a sense of style and class. Like separating wheat from the chaff, it becomes sometimes difficult to weed out the good from the bad. I would like to think anyone who posts a comment on a web site or forum would do so with civility. That, however, has about as much chance as me buying that twenty four million-dollar, Patek Phillipe Henry Graves Supercomplication watch everyone in one particular watch forum seemed jazzed up about.
Sometimes rudeness pervasively seems to rise to the top. And whether the subject is wine, cigars, watches or even our dear old audio systems, taking bad with the good when reading a forum is how the game will likely, and enduringly be played.
Paul, very interesting – and funny – article. I stopped reading online forums a few years ago for the same reason you’ve just pointed out. I actually closed out FB and Twitter for the same reason. Too much hate.
Our classic example is cables. Instead of saying “well, I can’t hear a difference when I tried more expensive cables so I’m not going to spend extra money on them,” it usually comes out as “if you understood basic engineering you wouldn’t be such a fool wasting money on this snake oil.” Likewise, on the flip side, denigrating comments are made about how that person doesn’t have a decent system so they can’t hear the difference.
Now…about those watch prices. For some of the Patek watches, if I didn’t know the brand I would just as easily think they’re a Timex or Seiko. (Are they still in business? I haven’t worn a watch in 20 years.) Some of them look very basic. What do they do differently than a $500 watch? Now if you compare $100K speakers against $500 speakers, then it’s going to be a tremendous difference. But watches?
Thanks for a great read Paul. I hope you have a great weekend!
Hey Michael.Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you liked the piece. As much as any web site tries to keep things civil, ours included, that seldom happens completely. It simply comes with the territory. And yes, cables can spark some interesting comments. As to the watches, I’ll admit, it is sort of a stretch for me to justify a $100K watch. Then again, it might be argued who needs a $100K speaker system!
Great weekend is ahead. Hope yours is also.
Rather not get into the etiquette of the NET as there is none, except in the mind of those who believe they are always right. However, the watch issue is something I would like to comment on, which is apropos to many so called audiophiles who are more involved in the revolving door of equipment, tweaks, etc than in listening to music.
A long time ago, I decided to buy a very expensive Breguet, when they were still an independent company. The retailer was telling me about all the complexities of the watch, how only ONE person works on it, how long it took to make, etc etc. I figured, OK, I am a dope BUT will “justify/rationalize/lie to my wife” that it is an heirloom that will stay in our family for generations.
Happily handing over more money than I ever thought I would be worth growing up on the streets of Brooklyn, I walk out with my new and gorgeous Breguet. I let it “break in” as the guy told me is required. OOHS and ahhs from all who understood. After a month of “breaking in” someone asks me for the time and I tell him and it turns out I’m about 7 minutes off. I start monitoring the watch and see it’s losing more than a minute a day. Surely something must be wrong, a watch worth this much HAS to keep time. I go back to the retailer and tell him my experience.
“Hey you want an heirloom and a gorgeous “piece” that people can only dream of owning, you buy a Breguet, you want to keep time, get a Casio”
I learned a very valuable lesson
I’m sorry, I had to laugh at your very valuable lesson. Seems sort of silly doesn’t it?
Your comment is appreciated.
Yes Paul for me it was indeed a silly experience. I was “warned” but I guess you learn best when it DIRECTLY effects you.
However, I fully understand why people are so into it. For me it is analogous to the turntable thing. Again, I am not putting any one down for loving analogue (or collectable watches) and the workmanship and the semi-religious experience of getting one’s vinyl ready to play, but for me it proved too much and I gave it up years ago. When computer audio came into the marketplace it was a resurrection of the high end. Now I can sit in my “thrown” and listen to my Gobel Aeon Fine, via my MSB Select II and CH M1.1 and I am in heaven.
Lastly, these days I don’t even wear a watch. As I get older I rather ignore the time.
That’s a shame about your Breguet. I own and have owned a wide variety of antique and collectable watches, some pricy, some not. Most kept accurate time. I once sold a mechanical Timex to an English gent at the Arlington Guitar show where I would bring some watches for sale. For the next five years I would see him at the show, he would look at my watches, admire them and then roll up his sleeve and show me the Timex, which was still keeping perfect time, “I’d buy another watch from you, but this one keeps working…” 🙂
Sometimes a person has to know his limitations. I realized pretty quickly I was not a high end watch guy, the first time I had to send it back to NY for “normal servicing” and was told it would be relatively quick at 3-5 months and a price tag of 3K. It’s the cost of owning this kind of thing but for me it was too much of a hassle and just didn’t have the meaning to me that it has to others. I understand why people love these things but it just wasn’t my thing. I have similarly gone through the same thing with cars as well as the whole vinyl experience and tubes versus solid state.
Paul as someone who get blamed for a lot of negativity on audio websites I can only say this I’m going to turn up the volume until mistakes are corrected. You want the audio hobby to survive? Fix the mistakes.
God speaks…and while you’re at it, fix world hunger…
I heard Sunday on the Golf Channel, this is journalism today “Lift, clean and replace.”
I wonder if the demographics of the participants is these forums is relevant. I suspect that it is.
Without leaping to any value-judgements, I would speculate that the makeup of these forums is predominantly male, predominantly older, and predominantly has higher disposable income than average. If that is true, it could be that the personality types that affiliate to high-end forums are constitutionally more assertive and impatient of the opinions of others i.e. “Type A” personalities.
So much of what we write and talk about is clearly in the area of subjective perception and appreciation. Even in those areas where we can apply objective metrics, there is still disagreement about the impact and relevance of the metrics. In many of my conversations with others, it seems like there has to be a “winner” in a given discussion or point of minor disagreement – it is seldom the case that someone will say something like “You’ve got a point! I will have to consider that, too..”. One can only hope for a higher level of acceptance of the perceptions and opinions of others.
I’m just an interested consumer, I know that I pick up tons of “data” that just turns out to be incorrect, and I really benefit from the longer, more nuanced conversations that CAN happen, especially at forums like this one. I appreciate you guys. Thanks!
Thanks Peter. I appreciate your thoughts.
Everything”s fine until you talk about power distribution outlet boxes, interconnects and speaker wire. Audiiophiles must justify their theories and “investments” in these products, although thees subjects are filled with “snake oil”.
Bitter old men
“Sometimes rudeness pervasively seems to rise to the top….”
lol! how appropriate, considering who runs this site. i really enjoy h-t-r and ap-r, and its contributors. but the guy at the top takes the prize for snobbery…