The Shun Mook Affair Letters Again!

Stereophile Vol.17 No.7, July 1994

Throw Jonathan On the Flames!
In response to Barry Willis's "The Art of the Scientific Illusion" (Vol.17 No.5, p.49): Willis makes the comment that, "In the Dark Ages, Europeans believed in sorcery and alchemy." I must remind him that, in this country, we dealt with heretics in a different way. I suggest taking all the Shun Mook Mpingo disc control devices, piling all of them here in one spot, and setting fire to the whole mess. The red glow could be seen from Santa Fe in the West all the way to Sea Cliff in the East. Then throw Jonathan Scull and John Atkinson on the flames, and listen to the sizzle in both subjective and objective ways.
---Maron Horonzak, Webster Groves, MO

Thanks Again, Jonathan
Just finished my April '94 issue, and I must say that I enjoyed it, as usual. It seems that every couple of years or so, you add a writer who is a character (CG being one example). We now have Jonathan Scull (who admits to being well-heeled, so I guess that makes him eccentric).

I can't figure out whether he comes from the Will Rogers school of tweaks ("I never met a tweak I didn't like"), or Father Flanagan's ("There's no such thing as a bad tweak"). Just when you guys almost convince me to be more open-minded about cables, along comes a guy who smears Italian oil on a CD. (Can a French, Spanish, or Greek version be far behind? And what will they sound like?) Was that a put-on or a real product?

In closing, you keep entertaining and informing me, and I might even go listen to some cables.
---John J. Pluta Wrightstown, NJ

Thanks, Barry
My thanks to Barry Willis for "The Art of the Scientific Illusion" in the May 1994 issue (Vol.17 No.5, p.49). And thanks as well to Stereophile for examining its laundry in public. You publish on one hand a positive, rather grotesquely overwritten review of the Shun Mook Mpingo discs, and on the other, a carefully fashioned essay calling attention to systems of belief and/or thought that allow us to accept, or impel us to reject, a given tweak's virtues. In effect, you treat your readers as sentient beings capable of drawing useful conclusions. In years past, I poked fun at an apparently self-canceling editorial stance. Now I wonder.

Willis is no Shun Mook devotee. That's obvious. And yet he's of sufficient intellectual suppleness to recognize possibilities, while someone like me, who dismisses the pucks as big-buck voodoo for bozos, sees none. But perhaps that wall will begin to erode, bathed by a flow of similarly provocative thought-pieces. Thanks again.
---Mike Silverton, Brooklyn, NY

Save The High End
I am a recent subscriber (seven months), and in every issue I read letters from people concerned about the future of the High End. I built a decent system ($2500) for the first time in the last year, so I assume that I am the kind of person we need to recruit to save the High End. Please allow me to give you my perspective as an inquisitive novice.

After reading enough analog drivel every month, I actually started to wonder if I had made a mistake by selling my LP collection four years ago. So I went down to my favorite hi-fi dealer and compared a $550 Rotel CD player to a much-higher-priced turntable/cartridge combo. The CD front end was vastly superior in detail, dynamics, noise, and overall quality...I also thought it was pretty darn musical too, whatever that may be.

I am constantly bombarded with articles recommending unbelievably expensive wires, interconnects, and, most recently, magic wooden discs. I can't hear a difference in controlled blind tests, and neither can the people who recommend them. But if you don't agree with them, you are some kind of uncultured ignoramus. Isn't it convenient that the differences are supposed to be such unmeasurable things as dynamic bloom?

I guess some people like distortion in their music, and that's why they love those outrageously expensive vacuum-tube amps. I think that the real reason is that a lot of people went over to Grandpa's house as a kid and his stereo glowed in the dark. Now that they have six-figure incomes, they'll be damned if theirs isn't going to glow too! It's a good thing we have those Eastern Bloc 1930s economies to supply us with those 1930s-technology vacuum tubes.

I'm writing Stereophile because it has so many good, useful articles and well-informed readers along with the mystics, romantics, and charlatans. The High End is hurting and attracts almost no women (another frequent lament) because it is dominated by reviewers, retailers, and manufacturers that are either greedy or foolish, and have lost touch with reality. I don't think a lot of you realize how bizarre it looks from the outside.
---Darren Leite, Scottsdale, AZ

jvjessen's picture

Edit: Stuff like this really should require a blind test with multiple staff to give a more credible review.

ishis's picture

It's fun reading these old letters written by foaming-at-the-mouth Nay-Sayers, 26 years later. Other manufacturers of accessories (vibration control, room-tuning discs, etc) that have been proven to work in the years that followed, have gained the respect of Audio Lovers everywhere. People have to be open-minded about new ideas and discoveries of things we were not aware-of before. If you 'dump' on things you do not understand, you just sound stupid later!