Moderation, like a natural death, is what most thinking people roll toward, if only because extremism requires too much energy: Extreme points of view are hard to hold without a certain amount of self-delusion, and the brighter you are, the harder your self-deluder has to work.
The best tonearm I ever heard was a second-generation Mission Mechanic, ca 1986. It was mounted on a Roksan Xerxes turntable, and I spent several happy hours listening to records on that combination (with a low-compliance EMT cartridge) in two very different systems: one with solid-state amplification from DNM and Roksan's own dynamic Darius loudspeakers, and the other—my home system of the time—using tube amplification from Conrad-Johnson and a borrowed pair of Stax electrostatic speakers.
We were having trouble with the power in our home—the wall current, I mean, not the dynamics of our marriage—so I called the local utility. While the technician was here, he let me watch what he was doing. I had a chance to look inside our meter box, which is the junction between the utility's power lines and the circuit-breaker box in the cellar.
Back in 1984, when I still had all my hair and began listening to digital audio (wait a minute...), I was disappointed with the compact disc. Most of that disappointment came from the format's musical performance, which was poor, but a portion of my dismay came from realizing that my days as a hands-on hobbyist were numbered: I was used to selecting and setting up my own turntable, tonearm, and cartridge, but a CD player defied such involvement. Plugging it in and playing it were all that I or most anyone else could do.
If I wrote a column for a car magazine and I learned that the magazine's readers were using their cars to run over kittens, I would be deeply troubled. I would beg them to stop. Failing that, I would find another line of work.
Oh, I talk a good game when it comes to the whole music-lover-vs-audiophile thing. But I admit that when it comes to record players, I'm just another hardware junkie. I love turntables and tonearms for more than the musical enjoyment they give me. Turntables and tonearms are my favorite toys.
Consider the coelacanth. In 1938, a healthy specimen of this Paul Simon-sized fish was pulled from the Indian Ocean, not far from the mouth of South Africa's Chalumna River. But prior to that happy event (depending on your perspective, of course: the sight of the coelacanth's long, fleshy fins probably made for some very unhappy creationists), the scientific community believed the animal in question was extinct, and had been for 65 million years.
Modern hi-fi is little more than a way of getting electricity to pretend that it's music. Of course, good source components remain all-important, and even if loudspeakers are imperfect, most of us can find one or two that suit our tastes, if not our rooms and the rest of our gear.
Even poor people fly. You see them getting on and off planes with their NASCAR hats and their poor friends and their poor relatives waving to them at the gate. Flying is what everybody does nowadays, but it used to be just for the rich. It's hard to remember a time when the phrase jet set was charged with something other than irony.