Seeing Red

Although inclined to mood swings bordering on the manic-depressive, I am generally a very patient, tolerant person, willing to accept and overlook the foibles of those less perfect than myself. But even my incredible equanimity has its limits, beyond which the milk of my human kindness curdles, becoming as lumpy as last month's yogurt.

Perhaps I have just grown tired of certain kinds of mindless idiocy. Perhaps I am, in fact, growing shorter in tolerance as I grow longer-sighted. But if, perchance, you should engage me in casual conversation or intense technical or philosophical discourse, or happen to be a manufacturer planning to send me your latest Earthshaking Breakthrough Product, here are some of the things that cause me to see red:

Things that Don't Fit
This category includes all unmatable items: undersized RCA jacks, oversized speaker-cable lugs, misspaced "dual" banana jacks, off-sized phono cartridge pins, oversized platter spindles, undersized record holes, and amplifier top covers whose screws won't screw back in once they're removed. And let's not forget record inner sleeves that won't release the disc unless you slit them open or grab the edge of the record with pliers.

Self-Righteous Audiophiles Who Never Go to Concerts
Frequently the ones who make the biggest fuss about "realism" and "accuracy," these know-nothings cause my red vision to fluoresce! If live, unamplified music is but a vague, amorphous recollection wafting around in your subconscious, you are no more qualified to judge the fidelity of reproduced sound than I am to judge your moral fiber. Tell me what "sounds good to you," but don't try to tell me what's accurate. You don't know from nothin'.

Musical Fundamentalists
People who feel that all music since Guido of Arezzo is brash, blatant, overblown, and tasteless have no need for Infinity RS-1B loudspeakers and 200-watt Krell power amplifiers. If you're not into Grand Opera, Mahler, or John Williams or Ralph Vaughan Williams, don't ask me what's the best amplifier or preamp or speakers or cartridge or turntable. Or tonearm. Buy a Fisher stereo.

Meter Worshippers
These folks dogmatically assert that Product A sounds better than Product B because its low-end 3dB-down point is 2Hz greater, yet remain serenely oblivious to any horrific distortion they can't attach a number to.

Many of them write for Stereo Review.

Rock Record Jacket Notes, The Total Absence Thereof
If I enjoy the music, I want to know something about it, the composers, or the performers. Most rock jackets are clearly aimed at illiterates: gaudy pictures, maybe the nicknames of the performers spelled out foneticly, and nothing else. Nihilistic nullifidianism!

Audio Mysticism
As an agnostic, I have no more patience with those who see sound reproduction as an amalgam of auras and astral planes than I do with those who walk in front of trailer trucks assuming that, if they get splayed out like a throw rug, it was God's will.

This category includes little black boxes—and their promoters—which restore trashed sound to its original pristine state by laving it with energy drawn from the earth's ethereal resonance.

Digital Bigots
I don't care whether you like digital sound or not. That's your business. But don't try and tell me you can hear all those little bits or samples or error corrections until it has been proven to me that those things are actually audible, and that the imperfections we hear are not—as I remain convinced they are—just deficient converters and bad analog circuitry.

In fact, hand me another abstruse reason why digital can't work at all and I'll ignore you. I've heard it before.

Shrink-Fit Packing Cartons
An exclusive province of loudspeaker manufacturers, these boxes are such a tight fit that you have to turn them upside down and shake them to get the speakers out. (Try that with a pair of 150-pounders!). The alternative is to slit open one corner and peel off the cardboard like old linoleum. I have visions of a 200lb packing person sitting on top of the speaker to get it into the box.

Repacking the speaker takes half a roll of sealing tape, and the manufacturer complains because the box "fell apart" on its return trip (heh, heh, heh!).