We Don't Get No Respect

There are all sorts of ways of having fun, and just as many ways of spending money. Most of the time, spending money is necessary to have fun; whether it's going to a movie, having dinner out, scrapbooking, playing video games, whatever—nothin's free.

Some people like fancy watches. I like to look at Rolexes and Patek Phillippes—but the idea of wearing something costing 20 grand or more, maybe a lot more, at the end of my simian arm where I can bang it to bits on a doorframe, strikes me as insane. Oh, well; I don't badmouth people who buy or wear such things, just because I choose not to. The prices might make me gasp in disbelief, but that happens with a lot of things.

Speaking of which: what about that Hermes bag recently shown in a Hong Kong shop window—priced at the equivalent of $70,000 US? Is it more functional than a $70 bag? Likely not. Is it stunningly, heart-stoppingly beautiful? Ehh, not to me. Does the material or worksmanship justify the price? Not so much. I don't get it, but I don't hate someone who buys and carries such a bag—unless she happens to be a Kardashian.

What about cars? Almost everybody loves cars. Unless it's horrifically whorified like the Beebs' leopard-print Audi R8, no one abuses the buyer of an expensive or exotic car, even ones which cost millions. There might be a head-shake or a "Really??", but reactions to expensive cars generally tend towards admiration or amusement—not violent rage.

Enter the audiophile. Short of announcing that you're an officer in NAMBLA, you've just gotten back from bow-hunting baby seals with Ted Nugent, and you've decided to cast Grandma adrift on an ice-floe in the "time-honored" way—almost nothing you can do will guarantee a shit-storm of abuse like referring to yourself as "an audiophile."

Granted, anything ending in "-phile" tends to sound a tad precious and twee; how many wine-lovers refer to themselves as "oenophiles" without irony? But it's not just that damned pretentious word. It's...it's...well, what is it?

Music is everywhere. The iPod makes it possible for anyone to carry a zillion songs they might've liked once, anyway, everywhere they go. Fine. Carrying a 'Pod, wearing headphones—even around the neck—is acceptable. In certain circles, it's almost mandatory.

So why is it unacceptable, weird, even, to have a bunch of music at home, along with the gear needed to listen in a social environment where the pleasure of listening can be shared? Wouldn't you think that sharing music in one's home would be more socially acceptable than the act of walking around in public, isolated from others by piped-in sound?

Is it that collecting thousands of LPs and CDs smells a bit of hoarding? Or that monolithic speakers speak to overcompensation of personal shortcomings? Or that We don't get no respect! Or that those who indulge in either are occasionally, shall we say, deficient in areas pertaining to personal style, fitness, and hygiene?

I don't know, and I don't get it—but there is no abuse greater than that cast upon audiophiles. Take a look at the comments following recent articles about audio enthusiasts on the New York Times and Wall Street Journal websites. You'd think that the subjects had held Girl Scouts captive in their cellars, rather than inviting people into their homes for a pleasant evening listening to music.

I like listening to music. I even like the equipment I use to do that. "Is that so wrong??"

ChrisS's picture

We've been here before, Georgie, again and again.

Look outside your head... Whether from RadioShed or high-end boutiques, how do people shop and use audio products?



GeorgeHolland's picture

The Audio Critic , when the owner was younger measured anything and everything.


Click on "Audio Measurement" at the bottom of the following article and read the entire page Plenty of links to check out.


I'm sure though you will find something "wrong" with every website that actually does something other than smear cream on a tone arm.

So you think Hydrogenaudio has their science all wrong? cheeky Go there and set them straight or better yet give us all here examples how they are doing it wrong. You seem to be the "science" expert here or all you all bluff?  It's easy to say they are doing it "wrong" and leave it at that.  Will be waiting.

ChrisS's picture

In Peter Aczel's last article on "The Audio Critic" site, where he reviews the Benchmark DAC2 HGC, he writes...

"my 87-year-old ears are certainly not as sensitive..."

"Despite 16 LED status indicators on the unit’s front panel, you can’t tell whether the DAC2 HGC is in standby mode or totally shut off..."

"I am switching from the DAC1 HDR (EVEN THOUGH IT SOUNDS THE SAME) to the DAC2 HGC!"   (My emphasis)

So Peter Aczel looks at this DAC and can't figure out the lights, measures the DAC and compares the stats to an older model of the same DAC, and he can't hear the difference!! He doesn't even indicate that he even used it in his stereo system.

You call that a review?

Georgie, you have a good nose (eye? which measures better?) for bad science and wonderfully un-enlightening reviews!

ChrisS's picture

Any college student who has taken a Research Methodology course can take apart the "science" in any of the sites you refer to.

[flame deleted by John Atkinson]

(We're going over this same ground, Georgie, over and over again.)

ChrisS's picture

...is a statement at the beginning of the article...

"But RMAA has many limitations and potential problems. And a lot of people use it incorrectly and, often unknowingly, publish misleading RMAA results..."

...and also the very last comment on that NwAvGuy blog site!

"Sorry disturbing your extremely interesting discussion. But I do not even get RMAA 6.x running on none of my PCs or Noteboosks (XP/Win7) after installation. It immediately crashes due to application errors..."

Please, please, Georgie, no more!

It's worse than the Comfy Chair (even with the cup of coffee at eleven)!

You're expecting these kinds of articles will bring more "respect" to what we all do with our music systems??

You're torturing us with this "science"...Call Amnesty International, Ack!


Don't you think the title of Bill Leebens' post just below is quite appropriate?

GeorgeHolland's picture

Reading comprehension is so important [flame deleted by John Atkinson].

That wasn't even the article I wanted to talk about , just the only way to get to the page I wanted you to see.

I told you what link to click on at the bottom of the article to take you to the page I wanted you to see. I tried directly linking but since it was part of a search link it would not apper correctly here on Stereophile's "wonderful" forum.

So what about the article you quoted? He is trying to show you how people can take any piece of software and use it incorrectly and then shows you HOW to use it as it should be. [flame deleted by John Atkinson]

[flame deleted by John Atkinson] you have failed again to show anyone at all what is wrong with the science of the websites. I think it's because they make you uncomfortable with your own preconceived notions of "how things work". if you can't show us why the science is bad then why keep bringing it up? Maybe if you chant "Sighted bias is just a myth" long enough, all the icky real science will just go away.

You are not worth my time anymore. Nor is this website.

GeorgeHolland's picture

"Any college student who has taken a Research Methodology course can take apart the "science" in any of the sites you refer to.

[flame deleted by John Atkinson]"

Yeah but you sure can't "take apart the science" so you just make silly quotes like above. I figured you would back off and take the safe route instead of manning up and showing us all how smart you are. [flame deleted by John Atkinson]

I did go to college, had a 4.0 average and have worked in the audio business for over 30 years. I used to repair audio components and have seen the insides of more amps than you ever will. I know the real world of audio and what works and what is bull shit. Now if you can't show us what is wrong with the science of the websites you like to slag off then please don't bother saying that anymore. [flame deleted by John Atkinson]

GeorgeHolland's picture

[flame deleted by John Atkinson] He did say he couldn't hear a differnce and that's exactly how Sterophile does "testing", just listening. Now you are saying that isn't good enough? Make up your mind.If you wish to ignore the rest of the website then that is your loss. Plenty more info in there [flame deleted by John Atkinson]. I did say when he was younger. [flame deleted by John Atkinson].

I respect him more than any other person in the review business. He's not successful in making money from it but then again he doesn't kiss any ass either doing it. He tells you what he thinks and doesn't pull any punches. None of that "Well maybe you should try it for yourself and see" mamby pamby bull shit.

ChrisS's picture

So, Peter Aczel buys a $1995 DAC that has lights that confused and annoyed him and didn't make any difference to the sound of his system.... Why?

GeorgeHolland's picture

[flame deleted by John Atkinson - and as you have been repeatedly warned about posting flames, GeorgeHolland, we are blocking your account]

ChrisS's picture

...out there, Georgie. It's not that scary.

SergioLangstrom's picture

After reading through your responses I can see who is serious and who isn't about learning and it sure isn't yourself. Take your own advice and try reading other forums other than Stereophile.

ChrisS's picture

Your karma is still bad...

John Atkinson's picture

GeorgeHolland wrote:
Why does that matter?

Because if you were a subscriber, I would give your continued demands that we make changes to Stereophile's policies and methodology greater weight. As you are not, I don't.

GeorgeHolland wrote:
posting as "Stereoeditor" isn't using your correct name on those forums, please start identifying yourself properly.

Every post I make to this site and to every other is clearly identified with my full name.

GeorgeHolland wrote:
Anyone including myself can set up an email using whatever name I wish...

Of course, but as the banned posters used different names for their email accounts, it is more probable that that name is likely to be real. You might still argue otherwise, but it seems unilkely that your claim that "JohnnyR" is someone's real name is correct.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

GeorgeHolland's picture

[flame deleted by John Atkinson]

[I have warned you about continung to post insulting and derogatory comments, GeorgeHolland. Please stop now. - John Atkinson]

andy_c's picture

C'mon, how can anybody talk about "the PWB Cream" with a straight face? [flame deleted by John Atkinson]

"LOL. As PWB has never advertised in any magazine, as far as I know, this seems a ridiculous hypothesis. Perhaps I know more about this subject than you do, andy-c."

The word "potential" in "potential advertisers" was not chosen accidentally, though it doesn't surprise me to see that you've deliberately ignored that and argue against a position that's not actually being taken. [flame deleted by John Atkinson]

Regarding comments, I'd suggest that, [flame deleted by John Atkinson] you disable them. This causes potential problems of course. There is a need to have posts from a fawning audience of deluded cranks that make up your readership, so it makes sense to preserve those. At the same time, you want to give the appearance of actual meaningful discussion, so some disagreement must be allowed. But what about people who actually have your number? Tough call.

Bill Leebens's picture

Louis: the video is amusing, and while I understand that an unquestioning mind may allow one to be more indifferent towards the world-- I think indifference is, in itself, far more alienating than being a geek. 

I think the middle path is awareness coupled with acceptance--which obviously requires a level of Zen mastery far beyond my abilities!

Ladyfingers: I have found through the years that "science" is often a smug label for dogmatism. I'm well-acquainted with the curricula of physics and engineering programs, and note with a certain degree of satisfaction the struggles these fields have with uncertainty. How much of physics has been rewritten in the last 40 years without anyone ever saying, "oh, we were WRONG-- it looks like THIS is the case."

Nope: they move from one hierarchical framework to the next, totally invested in the new order.

This is a long way around of saying, yes, there are some questionable things out there in audio, some in terms of marketing, some in "science". On the other hand--there really has been very little serious investigation into the interaction of low-level EMF as it pertains to audio, or in a million other areas just ripe for inquiry. The problem is, there's no prospect for financial gain in these fields, so little is done.

And thats a damn shame.

Ladyfingers's picture

Science is a method of testing, that's all. If a product is tested scientifically (Double Blind), any merits should be apparent. regardless of the manufacturer's technique or beliefs.

dalethorn's picture

As far as I know DBT requires fully conscious selection, eliminating subliminals. Our human senses are extremely limited in conscious mode, but expand quite a bit when the subconscious is absorbing additional information. But "strictly scientific" testing can't address any of that as far as I know. 

Louis Motek's picture

...without anyone ever saying, "oh, we were WRONG-- it looks like THIS is the case."

Bill, in the evolution of scientific inquiry, the wrongness gets less and less as the theories get more and more accurate. 

I recommend this short essay, one of the best about this very issue:



Louis Motek

andy_c's picture

That's a good link, Louis. The first time I read that was when following a link from another good article called "Science Was Wrong Before".

dalethorn's picture

You should differentiate between 'science' and The Scientific Method. Too often people are led into bad science by failing to distinguish these.

Louis Motek's picture

Bill, I think what you are disappointed with is how big business has been recently "rewriting science" to suit their bottom lines. Such as: Milk is good for you! Milk is bad for you, drink Almond Milk! Eggs are great for your health! Eggs contain cholesterol, they're bad for you! You need vitamin x, y and z! Fish contain mercury, eat chicken instead!


If you follow all of this silliness all the way down to the core, there is always a marketing team behind each and every one of those statements and none of them come from a purely scientific inquiry. 


At a campfire one relaxing evening, I found myself, over beers, talking to a seasoned surgeon. I love the way these guys talk when "not in uniform". When his heart opened up he said "People eat whatever they want and the body takes from that input whatever it needs. You can't control that with any special formula, pill, or potion, it's all mostly bullshit. There is a 30% success rate effectiveness of every drug ever tested which turned out to be a placebo. It's in all the white papers."


Louis Motek

jimtavegia's picture

I think we are more akin to the Salem Witches and would rather we all be disposed of the old fashioned way...with fire.  What we hear, or try to hear, and then try and share with others is just, plain scarry stuff. We are told we think we hear things that aren't there as the mp3 carries all the info.  I hear voices, but when they start arguing I just leave the room. MP3 lovers should do the same. 

dalethorn's picture

I would love to have friends and relatives who are audiophiles - people whom I could visit with frequently and listen to their premium loudspeakers (I don't have that option in my small apartment) and peruse their music collection etc. But I don't know any audiophiles locally, or don't have sufficient rapport with them to be invited to share in their music enjoyment. When I did have a good system with loudspeakers (Stereophile Recommended) 30 years ago, I did know a couple of such audiophiles that I did visit occasionally, and those sessions were rewarding. I would have to speculate on what the factors are that separate me from that type of experience today, but there are many factors, not the least of which are the lack of local high end audio stores that accomodate audiophiles meeting there to listen to the gear, have a coffee, and share experiences and music. The audio shows like the one in Newport Beach don't facilitate meeting local people who can share their 'stuff' on an ongoing basis in local venues.

Scaena's picture

Hi Bill,

I have studied this conundrum at great lengths, in the interest of self-preservation. Hate to disappoint, I have the answer and you have a larger point. This does not end well, but read on.

Even the most primitive marketers have known that if a product requires social acceptance, then all energies must first be spent on creating the trend, and not the product. Blue Cheese gives us the perfect example....

A person finds a putrid, moldy piece of cheese in a cave; every instinct tell him its a bad deal, but he is starving so he decides to eat it anyway. Then figures out a way to convince others- most important! More so than making the cheese appealing. Lets be candid, its nose is indistinguishable from toe-cheese. Till today, centuries later, there is no one who tries blue cheese for the first time is won over- also true of cigarettes. Clearly it is not sold on first impressions. Its taken a massive 'village effort' to build a culture around the most unappealing of commodities. Its even got the full backing of the French law.

Now imagine if Blue Cheese was promoted only through shows that resembled a Star Trek convention; as our shows do; where one was being asked to develop a palate solely on first impressions, at these conventions no less. Therein lies the problem in our trade, we have done less to build a culture than blue cheese. We dont even have a single consortium in the high-end industry, where we promote as a group. (it was briefly attempted and failed due to lacking of wider support) contrast that with the fact that Roquefort cannot be produced without royalties to the Roquefort Société. A Swiss movement watch is sold only after millions have been spent convincing the world that a Swiss Movement is essential.

We have that very problem, good gear is not necessary to enjoy music, we want the market to believe otherwise, but have done little if anything to drive the culture our way. We have driven culture away from it by being insular and clannish. Here is a simple test; in any doctor's waiting room, one will find a magazine promoting the culture of a Swiss movement watch or that handbag you described. Where other than the halls of audio shows will you find free copies of an audio magazine.

The Swiss say it best; its not the grass, its not the milk, but the bars of chocolate in the airport. Without which noting else matters.

Bill Leebens's picture

Louis: you have more confidence in a self-improving, self-correcting model of science than I have. I know far too many researchers whose work has come to a dead halt because it is politically unpopular, and their funding has vaporized.  America right now is frighteningly anti-intellectual. Thanks for the link, though.

And as the son of a surgeon, I recognize the pragmatic attitude. Indeed, people will do what they will do, and their genes and their luck will determine the outcome. Not fatalistic--just realistic.

Jim: what can I tell you? This ain't no party; this ain't no disco. We have to deal with reality.

Dale: so... are we proposing Audiophile Match.com ? Now THERE'S a scary thought.

"Hi, I'm Bob-- I live with mom, I ride the bus but I have $20k in My System...oh yeah, and I'm obsessed with Diana Krall..."

Sorry. That was harsh.

I think one of the consequences of the disappearance of local dealerships is that the social networking has become neglected. While there is a lot of online activity--well, it's not the same, and there's that pesky issue of monikers and concealed identities.

Clearly: audio-evangelism is tough to do if we can't even find or hang with Our Own Kind. An excellent point, and I'll have to mull over WTF to do about it. There are some very strong audio societies that do a good job of introducing newbies, but it's a big wide country with a lot of territory left uncovered.


Bill Leebens's picture

Hi Sunny/Scaena-- We've discussed this many times through the years; the audio industry has done a pretty poor job of making its case to the public. As a result, we find ourselves as a  low priority in most households--in the US, anyway.

Historically, attempts to form an audio industry association have either gotten nowhere or have died soon after their inception. There are two primary problems with organization, both related to the industry largely being composed of small companies, which are led by, umm, independent individuals:

1. No consensus. Anyone who's ever tried to get a group together for lunch or dinner at an audio show knows how tough that is...well, imagine trying to determine the course of an industry with those same folks. Herding cats is simple, by comparison.

2. No money. Let's face it: consumer electronics in the US may be a $230 B/year industry, as the Consumer Electronics Association says, but the audio biz is about 1/2 of 1% of it. Small companies are concerned more with immediate ROI than overall industry growth.

I applaud the outreach of local audio societies and headphone/personal listening groups. They're making the effort, and given how few local dealers there are these days, we need to help out with the evangelism, as well. The questions are: how do we do that, and how do we pay for it?

andy_c's picture

"I don't know, and I don't get it—but there is no abuse greater than that cast upon audiophiles."

Hmmm, I assume you meant something along the lines of, "compared to the other groups mentioned, there is no abuse greater..." The quoted statement trivializes actual persecution suffered by people of various ethnic groups, religions and so on. Is there an editor in the house?

Rick Tomaszewicz's picture

If it's approval and status we want, maybe we should collect something else. Collecting machines that put small holes in things at a distance seems to be more acceptable than collecting music or the machines used to reproduce it.


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