Is audio's "lunatic fringe" good or bad for the hobby?

Is audio's "lunatic fringe" good or bad for the hobby?
It's a good thing
30% (50 votes)
It's a bad thing
35% (58 votes)
A little of both
35% (57 votes)
Total votes: 165

Innovation can often come from unexpected places, but "thinking different" can also engender ridicule. Is audio's "lunatic fringe" good or bad for the hobby?

M.  Frog's picture

Thinking different is how real advancements are made. Ridicule is the weapon of those who refuse to advance in their own thinking. And ridicule is nothing to be scared of.

Walter Woody's picture

I'll have to say that it is in the eyes (um, sorry, ears) of the beholder! I know I have been guilty of a bit of left-field stunts in my pursuit of audio satisfaction. I abandoned whatever I did if the results were not better than expected. Much of the time it was worth it!

Jim Austin ;-)'s picture

Innovation doesn't come from the lunatic fringe.

djl's picture

Depends on how extreme or ludicrous the ideas are! Some are just plain off the wall, while others are quite plausible! So it can be both good and bad, depending on your particular point of view.

Ted's picture

It's a good thing. That's how change happens. Vacuum tubes and holding onto vinyl were once "loony."

Noah Bickart's picture

When cables are said to effect a "night & day" difference, the MP3 crowd laughs (and rightly so)—and doesn't know what they are missing

Terry Borchard's picture

More choices are always better for the consumer, if not more confusing. Try it, you might like it.'s picture

Both! It is good because it can bring innovation and it also fosters enthusiasts, which is also a good thing. But, by the same token, if they have too high a profile, then they'll only serve to turn the mass market away.

Faded Jeans's picture

Can't do without it, if we're to be open to new things. But, yes, the fringe is a bit weird.

Stephen Scharf's picture

Most audiophiles are viewed by the general public and press as a bit odd or nut cases when you consider how odd it must look to regular folks seeing audiophiles elevate their cables using Dark Field foam blocks that cost $200 or that little myrtle blocks and golden ratios are the cure for all their ills. No wonder the "snake oil" term gets thrown around so much.

Mikael Johnsson, Norway's picture

Contrary to popular belief, there is no connection between creativity and lunacy. What really makes fools out of us is the snake oil aspect of hi-fi. Some magazines are worse than others, I can't help but think of a better use of space than cable-matching reviewers' cables. LOL. Of course, then you see who is buying ad space in a typical audiomag, cable-matching makes perfect sense. A proof of my theory can be seen in pro audio mags—those guys don't use $1000/m cables.

KBK's picture

Vital, absolutely vital. For all the right reasons. Censorship, whether self- or externally inflicted, is a dangerous thing. The vast majority of people possess a "middling" mental state and prefer to be in comfortable spaces. When I say that, I mean that they prefer, to the point of arguing energetically against others, to have their world be comfortable or structured, so that nothing outside of their comfort zone intrudes. Sometimes, there are groups with financial and personal-control issues that align with those in the "middle" comfort zone. Human nature being as poorly understood as it is by the average human soul, this means that the larger middle-of-the-road group can be run by a small clique of people with low empathy and low acceptance of "differences." The subject is deep—and many (hah!) tend to lose interest in the proper explanation if it conflicts with their world view and their acceptance created by their inner desire for comfort. All innovation comes from outside of textbooks and outside of the acceptance level of any given "middle herd group." Textbooks are for bringing you up to speed, so you can be dumped from the end of the moving vehicle of "science" and run on your own—to become something more than the textbook and move beyond it. Textbooks are not dogma, but too many people treat them as if they are. Religion as science is vile beyond belief. All innovation that is paradigm-changing inherently comes from outside the accepted parameters, from outside of those textbooks. This is true, no matter how much it may make some uncomfortable. No lunatic fringe—and you've got no change of any lasting value, and then you have anchored mankind in the self-created emotionally based lies of its past. The very idea of calling it the "lunatic fringe" arises out of the emotions, which is not logical at all. It is an internally created act of passing judgment upon others for the purposes of self-comfort. It's a form of social fascism of the worst kind. This is how wars are manipulated into existence. Sadly, the scientific types, and those who pundify science, rarely achieve any real sort of awareness of their own point of understanding—that their logical processes are actually created in the depths of the mind that are controlled by emotions. Thus, emotions control and direct their very expression of logic and scientific creation. Einstein (paraphrasing) said that the shame of academia is that it is more political and controlled by emotionally based standards than any political or governmental concern that you may have ever known or come across. Max Planck said, "science advances—funeral by funeral." When the old stalwarts who refuse to understand the new and control the situation finally die, then we can at last have the new science. It is man—in all of his myriad and complex ways—who holds himself back, not the exploring the edge. Cursing the outer edges, or the lunatic fringe, is the very act that can and does kill us all. Science is a roiling act of moving evolution, it is not static and immutable. All theories of sciences are bound to be overthrown or radically altered in the future, this has been the way of it since long before the current state of science as it stands today and it will be so in the future. Discrediting and destroying it only kills the messengers of the emergent truth. In essence, if one does not like the lunatic fringe, then one has severe psychosis and is dangerous to the advancement of mankind. The lunatic fringe is where the action is: always has been—and always will be.

nunh's picture

Let the beatings begin. LOL—I really like the strong opinions, the whining, the heavy comments, the crazy forum posts, and, of course, geniuses usually have a screw loose.'s picture

A little thinking outside the box is always good. What I hate is that high-end audio has gone from a industry to a hobby. Too many small fish who just want to be the biggest fish in a puddle.

Doug Bowker's picture

Bad thing, as it keeps away many otherwise curious takers. I've never seen the real "out there" stuff ever make it into the mainstream, nor work, for that matter.

Sherwood's picture

We need those nut-cases asking "what if."

bpw's picture

It's a very good thing. Sure, there are some snake oil nonsense products out there, but most people figure that out for themselves. It's better to have stuff that makes us expand our horizons than be confined to the lowest common denominator someone else sets for us. There's too much dumbing-down going on. Anybody can get an iPod, but to really appreciate the full performance and emotion demands more. Box movers be damned! Support those who take the time to set up, explain and demonstrate better music systems and provide customer support after the sale, which you don't get from the box movers.

mook's picture

Every hobby has a lunatic fringe. They keep the manufacturers on their toes. The rest of us get by happily on 80-90% of the sound and 90-99% of the music for 50% of the money.

A.E.  Freeman's picture

The most fundamental problem with the "lunatic fringe" is their basic and inherent lack of familiarity with the sound of live, unamplified music; a problem frequently noted by the late Gordon Holt. The "lunatic fringe" has devised a vocabulary in which it compares one component to another with no absolute reference standard; use hyperbole to identify and promote seemingly "gigantic" differences; and fail to recognize that both components could be equally wrong—but in different directions—in terms of tonal accuracy, lack of coloration, and overall transparency.

Mike's picture

So many useful ideas from this so-called fringe, although sometimes it takes too long to develop. It preserves them, for now.

Nosmo King's picture

It is always good to experiment and try something new. But sometimes it appears to go too far. Like the Statement TT—totally cool and very impressive, but for the cost of a couple Mercedes Benzes? Makes me wonder what some people think.

ArtR's picture

The lunatics, including some Stereophile writers, have essentially killed off the "hobby" as it was originally envisioned. Most "audiophiles" today are not interested in reproducing the source material without distortion, but want the music they hear to sound "good," even if the original was poorly recorded. Almost everyone else is satisfied with good enough. Buying the supposedly high-end equipment recommended by Stereophile and others is unaffordable and not worth bothering with for most people.

AJSchmidt's picture

If Bob Moog and MartinLogan never existed, I would have never become an audiophile. It's the crazy-brilliant people responsible for all innovation, and perhaps the tight-wads working for them that have and will change the world. And now the guy responsible for the MP3 is making a "Laser Mic?" Wow! Just proves you'll never know what's next.

Paul Basinski's picture

Today's lunatic fringe often becomes tomorrow's next big thing. Innovate!

Godzilla's picture

The problem is that people listen with their eyes and not their ears. If you like the looks of something, then you will want to like its sound.

Paul J.  Stiles, Mtn.  View, CA's picture

Definitely both. There are a lot of strange ideas out there and products that reflect these ideas, but every once in a while, someone comes up with something that is the real deal and sells for a reasonable price.

Doug's picture

Don't forget that Ivor Tiefenbrun (Linn), Julian Vereker (Naim), Gayle Sanders (MartinLogan), and Tim de Paravicini (EAR), amongst others, were once considered members of the lunatic fringe!

Johannes Turunen, Sweden's picture

Who are we to judge if something makes someone happy? Why not just enjoy the the good spirit in the "ridiculous" design or sound? The lunatics help keep the development going on.

C.  Healthgut, M.D., FACS's picture

All audiophiles, myself included, are lunatics. It's part and parcel of our obsessive quest for perfect sound (not forever) reproduction.

OvenMaster's picture

It's a good thing. Sometimes you just gotta think outside of the box.