The Revolution That Never Was Letters

A letter in response appeared in Vol.5 No.7:

The NonRevolution

Editor: It was with interest—and moderate sympathy—that I read the editorial, "The Revolution That Never Was," in your Vol.5 No.4. Particularly intriguing was the figure of 273% for distortion. A little research revealed that —273 degrees Celsius is the (rounded) figure for Absolute Zero. Perhaps, then, 273% is the figure for absolute distortion. Maybe it could be the name for a new magazine.

I was less sympathetic to your criticism regarding the listening public. A quarter-century of a wide variety of acoustical consulting activities has convinced me that: 1) Yes, they do hear it; and 2) Yes, they do care. However, individuals have priorities. While poor sound and deleterious noise are pet gripes, most people's experiences have suggested to them that little can be done. The result is a low priority for action. Therein lies our task.—Daniel Queen

A stute person! You alone among all our subscribers, Mr. Queen, caught the significance of the 273%. Have a cigar. We have not had the experience of an acoustical consulting business on which to base observations about the audio awareness of the general public, but have been in public places often enough, in the presence of absolutely abominable reproduced sound, to observe that others present do not even seen aware that it is present. Only when that sound is, for some reason, abruptly terminated in mid-chord do they become aware that something has happened, and the blank, bewildered looks on their faces is a sign that the only thing they noticed is that something in their environment changed. Few seem able even to figure out what did change.

As for those of us who are aware of sound, please be apprised that the reason for bad sound in public places is that the management is either unaware that it is bad or, if aware, is convinced that the public does not care. One polite complaint to the management will accomplish little, but if everyone who is bothered by it registers his disapproval, you can be sure that something will be done about it. There is an old saw that says "The squeaky wheel gets oiled." This has its inverse, which says "The non-squeaky wheel may never get oiled." Go thou forth then into the land, and squeak.—J. Gordon Holt