The Acoustical Standard (with follow-up) Letters

Letters on this subject appeared in April 1989, Vol.12 No.4

Mellow out!
Editor: I am highly annoyed with certain elitist snobs among your readers whose attitude toward rock & roll can only be described as ugly. Some have likened listening to rock through Apogees to hauling lumber with a BMW, and claim only classical music is appropriate for their high-end equipment. This attitude seems to begin with the reasonable idea that audio equipment is best judged by its ability to reproduce acoustical instruments. There then follows a mystical leap to insisting that classical music is the best test for an audio component, and that playing other than classical music on such exquisite equipment is a travesty. I wish to point out that classical music does not have the monopoly on acoustical instruments, and that, in fact, recordings which have no natural acoustic sources are in the extreme minority.

It should be clear, then, that classical music is not the only "appropriate" source for auditioning high-end audio equipment. There are, for example, a number of rock & roll songs in which real drums, real acoustic guitars, real pianos, and real human voices are used to great effect and thus provide good material for auditioning. It should also be clear that the wonderful effect high-end equipment has on classical music benefits any kind of music. The transparency, imaging, clarity, accuracy, etc. of fine audio components do not vanish when rock & roll or other nonclassical music is played through them.

As you may have guessed by now, I do play rock music through my Apogees, and, in fact, it does sound significantly better this way than when played through the kind of low-end system the classical-music snobs have deemed most suitable and appropriate for my preferred music. That some people prefer classical music to rock & roll neither surprises nor offends me, but I am exceedingly offended by the intolerant, judgmental, "only-classical-music-is-valid" attitude. Calling rock & roll "childish and frivolous" and equating classical music with "maturity" betrays ignorance and bigotry. Don't confuse taste with truth; don't succumb to the Hegelian error of building your value system on your personal preferences. To any such snob I offer some post-modern advice: Rein in your ego and try to keep in mind that you are a piece of the puzzle, not king of the mountain. Or, in the language of rock & roll, "Mellow out!"
Thomas C. Willett, Atlanta, GA

Highbrow readers
Editor: My complaint concerns Stereophile's "Record Review" section. You reviewed 27 classical releases. I know I am in the minority of your highbrow readers, but Classical music to me is a lot of disjointed noise. In addition, these old-fart composers have been dead for 200 years. Still, every day of every year countless nondescript orchestras record and record and re-record these old dirges over and over again. Jesus Christ, how can you differentiate between 15 recordings of the same composition? But I guess people still buy them, and with the introduction of CDs these old chestnuts are transcribed onto the new medium in addition to new ones being made daily.

The main source of my chagrin was the fact that you reviewed only one (1) jazz release—and that was by Grover Washington. Surely not the best and foremost jazz release since your last issue. Go figure.
E. J. Bernardini, Titusville, FL

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