Audiophile virtues


I’m as obsessed with the Quest for the Absolute Sound as anyone else on this site (well, almost anyone; that’s not an accolade I aspire to anyway). But I’m almost as often troubled by my own obsession as I am gratified by it. I’ve never been what used to be called a gadget freak; just as I use computers as tools for research and writing, not as ends in themselves, for most of my life stereo equipment has been a means to the end of listening to the music I love. But now that I can finally afford really good equipment—things I’ve lusted after since college, more than 40 years ago—I’m dismayed at the extent to which my love of music has morphed into a love of music reproduction. So this little rant is a chance to vent frustration, and to see if there are others out there who may feel the same way. The rant takes a specific form: a book review.

Robert Harley’s The Complete Guide to High-End Audio has been praised on this forum as a kind of bible for audiophiles. It’s certainly as massive a tome at the Bible. And, depending on your religious views, it is perhaps almost as full of Revealed Truth or tendentious myth (take your pick). Moreover, I’ll concede that Mr. Harley frequently reminds us, after going into great detail about some aspect of music reproduction technology, that the last thing the reader should do when listening is to focus on the details he’s just described—that we’re all in it for the music, not for the equipment. Yes, he says this frequently (he says everything frequently). And yet…

The book, in its Fourth Edition, is 529 pages long (the Table of Contents alone is 9 pages long). They’re big pages, too. Some of them—for the most part, the best of them, in my opinion—are “technical,” explaining the theory of acoustics, “Sound and Hearing,” basic facts about the physics of electricity, and so forth. Harley writes clearly, but evidently has a mind that is organized like the architecture of a Gothic cathedral, displaying the analytical excesses and mania for hierarchies of Medieval Scholasticism. Like a lawyer, Harley seems to think that every particular detail must be made explicit, even in situations where symmetry (e.g., left and right speaker terminals) make half of those specifics clear without actually specifying them. This habit gives very little credit to the reader’s intelligence and makes Harley’s prose tedious. There are chapters (each with multiple sub-headings) on Choosing a System; Preamps, Power amps and Integrated amps; Speakers; Disc Players, Transports and DACs; Music Servers; Turntables, Tonearms and Cartridges; Tuners and various kinds of internet radio; Cables and Interconnects; Home Theater; Multichannel Audio; Setup “Secrets” (in two separate chapters, one of these covering “Audiophile Accessories”—i.e., tweaks); Specifications and Measurements—and, of course, Appendices (A-C) on various topics not, presumably, already covered. Need I say that there’s also a Glossary? Harley leaves no stone unturned. And yet…

I find the book exasperating, and a manifestation of many of the problems with audiophilia in general that lead music lovers down rabbit holes of fetish. Here are a few specific problems.

Let me begin by repeating myself, thereby following Harley’s example. Everything Harley says, he says again and again, first in “introductory” chapters, then in the pages of chapters devoted to the topic at issue (where the basic points are repeated several times), then again in “Summaries” of those chapters, and then yet again in subsequent chapters where the topic that had already been discussed to death might possibly be construed as relevant. But maybe “discussed to death” is undue praise, since mere repetition of the same points is not, after all, a way of exhaustively examining any question. If ever there was a book that could more profitably be read quickly and cursorily than carefully, this is that book; it would be far more useful if it were less than half as long. And, besides the chapters on technical matters I’ve already referred to, there is really very little in it that goes much beyond common sense.

Indeed, the theoretical sophistication evident in the technical sections rarely seems to be much in evidence in the evaluations or recommendations of particular choices facing the would-be purchaser. And “purchaser” is the operative term here: again and again, I have the feeling that Harley is a shill for the audio equipment industry—not for any particular company, mind you, but of the industry as a whole, since his book rarely discourages any possible equipment purchase. This is not to say that he doesn’t tailor his advice for one sort of listener or another; you’ll find plenty to confirm your choice of vinyl over digital (or vice versa), of tubes over solid state (or vice versa), of SET amplifiers, or Class A, or Class D, or expensive cables or power cords, without reference to particular manufacturers. If you want to BUY, there will be pages in Harley’s book that will encourage you to do so.

But this enthusiast’s all-in attitude runs into various rhetorical problems, as it must. To cite just one example: superlatives like “extraordinary,” “outstanding,” “significant,” “spectacular” are used so often, at every stage of the music reproduction process, that it becomes impossible to know what sort of weight to give them in any particular context. If power cords can create a “spectacular” improvement—but so can interconnects, and speaker cables, and power conditioners, and well-made racks—it’s hard to know how much weight to give big-ticket items like amplifiers and speakers and other basic elements of one’s system, not to mention undeniably important elements like room acoustics and proper speaker placement. According to Harley, they’re all capable of making “spectacular” or “significant” improvements to sound quality. But “spectacular” is a strong word; there aren’t many that are stronger. If an AC power cord can create such an effect, it’s hard to know what adjective to choose in order to distinguish a boom box or an MP3 on cheap ear buds from an uncompromising rig that costs tens of thousands of dollars. That might perhaps be described as a “spectacular” difference—although even here, such a superlative is in questionable taste. I know plenty of talented musicians and passionate music lovers who can enjoy even difficult to reproduce music on cheap ear buds almost as much as they would on a system most of us would call “spectacular.”

And then, despite his analytical care and thoroughness, Harley often contradicts himself, both in the specific recommendations he makes, and even in his own application of his knowledge of audio science in particular circumstances. For instance, in discussing bi-wiring, Harley offers a (possibly) plausible explanation of how and why it makes a beneficial difference—and then declares that “no one knows how or why” bi-wiring works! Here is the relevant passage: “In a bi-wired system, the power amplifier ‘sees’ a higher impedance on the tweeter cable at low frequencies and a lower impedance at high frequencies. The opposite is true in the woofer-half of the bi-wired pair. This causes the signal to be split up, with high frequencies traveling mostly in the pair driving the loudspeaker’s tweeter circuit and low frequencies conducted by the pair connected to the loudspeaker’s woofer circuit. This frequency splitting…reduces magnetic interactions in the cable, resulting in better sound. The large magnetic fields set up around the conductors by low-frequency energy can’t affect the transfer of treble energy. No one knows exactly how or why bi-wiring works [wait a minute! Didn’t he just explain “how” and “why” bi-wiring works?], but on nearly all loudspeakers with bi-wiring provisions, it makes a big improvement in the sound. Whatever your cable budget, you should bi-wire if your loudspeaker has bi-wired inputs, even if it means buying two runs of less expensive cables.”

Even on its own terms, The Complete Guide to High-End Audio is self-defeating. Most of the “audiophile values” Harley identifies and cherishes are subjective, not objective, and so not the kinds of things one can hope to demonstrate or prove. At the very outset of the book, he quotes the Hungarian-born scientist and philosopher Michael Polanyi (also recently mentioned by our own Mahgister); that got my attention, as I studied Polanyi’s work with one of his disciples at the University of Chicago when I was a grad student. But Harley doesn’t seem to take to heart Polanyi’s main contribution to the philosophy of science: that objective facts cannot account for what is most valuable in human culture. Rather, it is not science, but art—poetry, music, myth, religion, and other “acts of imagination”—that can provide the foundation of meaning in life. Harley’s attempt at a systematic compendium of objective facts, although it fails even to be this, more conspicuously betrays his own many pleas that the reader not heed measurements, statistics, and other facts but return to the music.

Just as Wine Spectator is wine porn, and Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, and (gasp!) Audiogon are audio porn, Harley’s book will find its enthusiasts. Harley speaks of “audiophile values,” and pays lip service to the music repeatedly, but perhaps it’s time to think in terms of “audiophile virtues” instead. Don’t get me wrong: I’m no prude, and audiophilia is a relatively victimless vice, if you can afford it and your wife can tolerate it. But the analogy is not gratuitous. Didn’t we all get “into audio” because we love music? Shouldn’t a healthy love of music recognize that, although endless purchasing and tweaking may bring slight improvements in sound quality, the false promise of that ever-elusive fantasy Object of Desire is a distraction from a reality which is, for all of us audiophiles, already far sexy enough? I can’t speak for you, obviously, but speaking for myself, it’s high time to get back to the music!


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You are right Harley is a shill for the high end, just as all reviewers in the absolute sound magazine are.

Ignore them and listen to other audiophile friends systems, and them make your own choices we al have different tastes in equipment and sound quality.

Hartley,s book is very basic. He is not an EE, and it shows.


For years I tried to figure out the answer to the  apparent contradictions of  the world of Audiophiles.

Audiophiles are people who are obvious intelligent,  financially successful,  and well educated, who, when they talk about audio gear, say and apparently believe, the most  preposterous and ridiculous things you can imagine concerning stereo gear. 

The answer was right in front of me all the time.  It's not a secret, and freely admitted by all.  I just never gave it it's proper importance.  The answer to all things strange in the Audiophile world is to remember that to audiophiles this is a HOBBY!!!

Once you realize this, all is perfectly clear and understandable.

In a Hobby, you are never done!  You never want to be done.  Being done, ends the fun.

Cheers
Agree with most of what you say. I bought it on some of the recommendations here and found it quite pedestrian and lacking the depth I hoped to find. 
The core of my hobby is exulting in orchestral string tone, inspired interpretations, and getting lost in the sheer emotion that music, all music, can deliver. I want the music to take me places, to different corners of the universe and different corners of my brain. To me, the hardware is a necessary, if sometimes admittedly alluring, evil.
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Repetition is a teaching tool some of us just need more than others. Maybe read a few more times, eventually some of it might sink in?
Never felt the need to read Harley’s book; nor, any other book attempting to “teach” me how to listen. All seems pretty obvious to me, but that’s just me. Strike your own personal balance between your love of music and quest for better sound.

**** —that we’re all in it for the music, not for the equipment. ****

Actually, that is not true at all and perhaps says something about Harley’s book in general.

As much as some (many?) are reluctant to admit it, it is NOT (mostly) about the music for them. Some love the gear most, the process of assembling a system and the constant churning of gear. For others still, it is about the buying and selling of equipment and “the deal”.

When you find your “values” drifting too much in the direction of the gear, go hear a great live concert of some interesting music new to you and reboot.





Very energetic take-down of Harley. I think you might prefer Jim Smith’s "Get Better Sound."
Harley’s book is like an encyclopedia for me, not a bible. I’m an enthusiast not because it is "porn," but because it contains facts, explanations. Lots of facts. That’s why I use it.

I’m into audio because I love sound. I love music too. They only become opposed when I’m unable to decide my purpose for listening. Solving that tension is my burden, and not Harley’s or Stereophile's or anyone else's.

Somewhere, there is someone who just loves music and is happy with a cheap table radio.
There is also someone tweaking every little detail of their soundstage.
Let 1000 flowers bloom.
I'll admit - I have only skimmed the Post...I have trouble reading owners manuals for my equipment

Life is journey and we all (hopefully) evolve and reach the best version of ourselves.

I really just want to be able to relax and enjoy the music.  And better quality sound has increased that joy.

And being introduced to different genres and artists is something I really appreciate.
Anyone is capable of listening in more than one way. I can listen as audiophile and as music lover. I'm obsessive about my main system, since reaching most of my sound quality destination a couple years ago, listen purely in music lover mode.  Listening exclusively in audiophile mode gets tiring, reason for the obsessiveness is to improve system to be able to get to music lover mode all the time. I can still listen in analytical mode, nothing ever perfect, but inevitably sink back into music lover mode without noticing.


With my work and car listening, I always listen in pure music lover mode, no need to analyze sound quality, not trying to attain higher level of sound quality.  Analytical modes induce stress, not good emotion for analytical listening, this is viscous circle.  Over time, and as my system evolved into allowing music lover mode for more lengthy time, I learned to relax into session, letting the music lover mode take over with analytical mode running only in  background. This required long listening sessions, slight mind relaxing substances, such as bourbon, and only writing down sound quality evaluations at end of listening session. Listening like this allowed me to be both music lover and analyze my system for incremental improvements.

I don't think any one book could have told me how to do all this, just sort of happened organically over time and with knowledge gained from many sources. Having said that, Jim Smith's book, what I've seen of it,appears to be very valuable for the audiophile.
I’m glad I am probably only about 20% audiophile, 80% music lover even on my worst days. Just enough to synthesize enough useful information out of all the noise and technical aspects to get good sounding music out of most any room and not pay much un-necessary attention to those on the fringe except as another sonic reference point. It’s all about the music!  Headphones rule for simplicity and taking much of the variability out of the equation.
Insightful post.

The "absolute sound" will not be found here or anywhere.

Determining what your own ears like, and figuring how to get there with a good thread is a start.

What resides here, is experience/wisdom mixed up with chest pounding  know it all's, who have all the answers as if they're some audio messiah/guru.

Bizarro world mixed with practical /solid advice.

Keep your filter clean, learn when to tap out.
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Hartley,s book is very basic. He is not an EE, and it shows
  And neither are most who post here.
The book is a guide. Seriously. There's a clue in the title. A guide is not a novel. Also it is a guide to high end audio. Not a comprehensive treatise on amps, speakers, etc. Just all the info you need to get your bearings on the subject of high end audio, all in one reasonably sized book. So embarrassing having to explain, kind of reminds me of the story how the one room school house kids learned more than today's high school grads. 

The best illustration of just how great a job Harley does is hinted at in jerryg123's post above. Time and time again all day long people ask questions Harley has already answered in his guide. Then we have to read the "answers" provided by others who we wish had read the book before answering. 

Still, all of this I can take in stride. What takes the cake is a take-down of the Gold Standard of High-End Audio writing by one of its most eminent and accomplished reviewers- oh no wait, it was by some guy who doesn't even know the meaning of "guide". Never mind.
i like harley’s book, he tries to be complete and he repeats what he sees as important points - it is meant to be a reference book of sorts, so maybe not to be read cover to cover in a few sittings, but to be available to go into chapters/subjects that are of particular interest to a reader at any given time

i was already into hifi for quite a few years before the first edition of his book came out - as i went through it when i first got it, i still learned quite a few things, and could not find fault with any of his substantive beliefs -- to be sure, he capitalized on his reviewer status at the time to publish the book and have a market ready to buy it, which was ok with me... he had some modicum of credibility as such, even if he was a not a scientist or engineer by formal training

there are other good guide books for those who find books like these a good way for them to learn and make wise decisions while getting into this hobby

paul mcgowan has put out a more straight forward guide, with a set up cd, quite recently - i would think that is good as well, and the idea of supplying test tracks along with instructions in that guide, to set up a system, for example, is a wonderful idea that aids in applicability and impact for the willing user

just like we all hear music differently, we learn and gather info differently too, so having several different styles of guidebooks, with varying degrees of detail and specificity, and associated tools, is a good thing for the pursuit, those in it, and those eager to enter and enjoy
Way too much information is sometimes not that helpful. All you really need is an understanding of physics so you know what is believable and what is not.

Don't get fooled by ignorant influencers who'd have you believe they know better than others - it's just a bluff and a conn. They're just modern versions of snake oil scammers.

Oh, and don't get fooled by snake oil comments by people of low intellect.
I still obsess about my sound from time to time but I am starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel by this simple fact:
I no longer solely pull out one of my hundred or so reference LP to test my system because I have heard them so many times, their music no longer provides me the enjoyment it used to no matter how great they sound. Rather I find myself listening to any of the other 2,000 vinyl or 400 CDs I have and enjoy a lot more hearing what those have to offer even so they are not audiophile quality. And that to me, is a huge step towards sanity. 
Sink in?
More like swirl down the drain.
At least the library has it.
For me it's simple.  A great system is way more about what it makes me feel than what I have to listen for.  With a great system, I have a hard time trying to listen for all the boring audiophile attributes and get lost in the feelings and pictures the music paints.
@fuzztone
Sink in, as in brainwashing maybe?  ;)
High fidelity systems, like wines, cameras and lenses, and wrist watches, "enjoy" decreasing returns to price. Double the price, and the discernible quality goes up 50 percent. Double the price again, and the discernible quality goes up 10 percent. Double the price again, and the discernible quality goes up 1 percent.

I’ll agree with previous poster who said he has never read the book, nor does he desire to do so. Listening is not the same as hearing. Listening takes practice and concentration. Once mastered, then one can make a more clear and educated decision on how or what to improve in his or her system. There does come a point in one’s life or journey whereas they come to realize that the pursuit of perfection Is fruitless and never fully achieved. It is then that one learns to be content with what he or she has managed to achieve and aquire. Only then is it possible to actually listen to and enjoy the music....exhale....

Maybe there should be an audiophilia anonymous with mandatory weekly meetings....part of the treatment would include requiring the attendee to listen to a cheap mp3 player using some drug store coby earbuds.....better yet, listening to today’s crapily recorded so called "music" through the aforementioned cheap gear...
Like you, my love of music led to my search for perfection in the reproduction of said music. The search became all-encompassing until the search for reproductive perfection supplanted the music itself. It has now progressed to a point where I no longer listen to music at all. Instead, I have purchased a tone generator. 
I have only recently begun my audiophiliac journey with many miles to go before I sleep, I hope.  However, I am really enjoying the trip now,  as I slowly build my system, trying to place the musical performances before me and my listeners as to be astounded by the musical artistry, as well as the gorgeously engineered reproduction.  That's right, I said, "astound".  Because when it's good, that's how it feels to me.  I now really listen to music. All kinds, from all sources, not just my intense rig.  Wherever I hear it, I lean in.  I have become a spirit-brother of listeners.  I try to be still, centered,  and let the sound flow.  When its good it's just wonderful.  When it's not so good, I try to work out why. What's going on with that piece?  Is it the artist, the recording/mixing, the  equipment, the room?   I use my Audiogonolgy when I can, and  I try to learn from those bad ones. But really, it's not as easy to identify what's "Good" or "Bad" as I would have thought before I got into this "hobby".  A lot of music sounds okay, even over very mediocre systems, or by so-so artists.  But when it's better than average, or better than that, and everything is clicking...well, there is just no substitute.  I'll never stop pursuing better quality music and equipment to play it because the payoff of hearing music that just melts me is so, so worth it.
OP's post is nearly as long as the book.
You didn't like the book.  So what?
I suspect the book is mostly for people like me. New to the hobby with very little knowledge. I’ve been enjoying reading it very much. 
Also +1 millercarbon. I need the repetition the book uses to help it sink in 

happy listening ! 
I recently read that our appreciation for Art is the search for Beauty. Sometimes our search for the best sound is far from that. Can the rich man get into heaven? How about the pompous man or the proud? Harley's book is not a guide to meaning; just a manual to turning on  glorified radios. 
@audiodidact

thanks for making your comments, i enjoyed reading them

so nice to have someone new to all this reflect enthusiasm and express their joy gained from the pursuit


  

SNILF said:  “But now that I can finally afford really good equipment—things I’ve lusted after since college, more than 40 years ago—I’m dismayed at the extent to which my love of music has morphed into a love of music reproduction. So this little rant is a chance to vent frustration, and to see if there are others out there who may feel the same way.”

Addressing the above only, over the years, like yourself, I was able to assemble a high end audio system which I enjoy greatly. Relative to your post above, there are two truths that require further distillation, as it pertains to the perceived dichotomy between the sound of your ultimate stereo Vs the love of music.

The first is, on a given piece of music, there are times I prefer the reproduction of that piece on my stereo, as opposed to the live performance of that same music in a suitable concert hall.

In the first case, the music “takes me there” to a greater extent than the live performance. Note in both cases, it is still all about the music and ones emotional response to it, not as you say, “the love of music reproduction”.

The second truth is, when you attend a live concert (referring primarily to unamplified music), you are listening to the concert hall’s ability to render the instruments and their intonation, ie the music, to a satisfying degree.  

In a sense, there is no difference between that and hearing the sound on your stereo. It’s just that, in the science of acoustics, we accept the live version as the reference we strive for. And yes, in most cases it is impossible to reproduce that accurately. But is that really what you prefer, the live version? That is the question (and an enormous credit to the efforts of the recording industry ).

Where you sit in the concert hall, and the very nature of the concert hall itself has a huge impact on the sound and ultimately one’s enjoyment of the music, in much the same way as the technology behind your ultimate stereo. So your query, applies as much to the live concert setting as it does to your home stereo.

In either case, it is always about one’s enjoyment of music whether reproduced or live. There is no dichotomy between one’s appreciation of the “sound” coming from your ultimate stereo, or the concert hall and the “love of music”.

All of this, IMHO.



Well OP, what do your ears say about biwiring ?

 

I read wine spectator for the color descriptions only.....

a cruel irony for many of us of modest backgrounds, is that by the time we are rich enough to own high-end gear, a lot of us are pretty old, and our hearing is not in as ready a state to enjoy the high-end sound, as it was when we were young and broke. 

...it's better than old and broke...

@snilf

I’m as "obsessed" with the Quest for the Absolute Sound as anyone else on this site 

Could be an "addictive" behavior habit pattern. If so, best to take a complete break, then reassess if and how much to re-engage. 

@audiodidact Exactly. The best part is when your system gets so good in that all music sounds wonderful. 

Let me preface this, with saying, that I am a music first audiophile. It is my love of music, that got me into audio in the first place.

During my serious, music listening sessions, I pay no attention to the gear.

With that being said, that does not mean there are times, maybe a coupld hours a week, where I love playing "audiophile", and just listening to the gear. And even listening to music that I may not love, but they are on the "audiophile aproved recordings" list, just to show off my system.

The enjoyment of audio gear, does not have to be black and white.

 

@millercarbon yes I have his guide and have read it. Yes it is a very basic guide and I understand why you like it so much. It uses layman’s terms and does not go into the engineering weeds.

When I need to go into the weeds I call  on people that have an EE and are involved in this passion of ours. Have a few in our company.

Best $14.00 I spent @ the Kindle store.

 

When I need to go into the weeds I call  on people that have an EE

Sometimes one little detail and all of a sudden everything falls into place.

It's bad jounalism seeking to camoflage that with all the vogor in the world - by proclaiming it's a textbook (with all the dryness, stolidness & intentionally banal aspects not just firmly intact but celebrated as worthy in & of themselves).  One not designated required reading by any official teacher on the subject, but rather the author conspicuously leveraging his postion in the audio reviewing world to promote his book. Which he goes out of his way to strongly imply is a text w/o coming out & explicitly saying so. This sounds a little sleazy because it is. snilf, a Physics grad (& likely more then that) makes that very legitimate point.  Then he goes on to point out the sleaziness is not as absent as it nearly ought to be elsewhere. The intellectual & moral honesty of the book is questionable in spots as he relates.  That Harley tries not at all to be eloquent, witty or even especially perceptive is just plain cynicism regarding his predessessor's (Harry Pearson's) legacy  - while vehemently trying to milk it for all its worth, to sell this pretend text he refuses to call that.  4 editions worth so far with constant shilling of it in the magazine he edits. Pecularly self aggrandizing & in the respects snilf carefully & validly details. It needs to be asked whether it does not degrade whatever sacredness is in  the pursuit of audio excellence.  That it pretentiously does a little good as well (but less then other books mentioned here by commentors) does not somehow, magically cancel out the corruption/sleaziness mentioned here or by snilf. It both insidiously & not so insidiously browbeats readers with eternal obviousness while cheerfully breaking all the rules of even mediocre, highish quality journalism. What would Harry Pearson say of it? - is an incredibly (hardly too strong a word) important question to ask?  The more you like audio & value any integrity & artistry in the pursuit of it (including in the professional writing of it by its official exemplars) thisal needs to be carefully considered & to ask: How shameless is this book in racing down these dead ends? Zero, a little bit more or somewhat more still?  Rationalize as you like but please do not conflate forgiving with excusing.  The stakes are a little higher then trivializing it that way.

Ok here is the real deal-

we call ourselves Audiophiles

the title allows us to buy stuff 

and more stuff "ad nauseum "

"audiophile" should be classified as an

illness which is not curable or even treatable because 

it's enjoyable!

I just love gadgets whether they produce music, take

photos or go 150 mph! 
 

oops- got to run and spray a vol control- it's just past it's 30 hour tune up!

all kidding aside I have met some great peeps as a function of these hobbies and would not trade it for anything!

 

 

 

I'll bet very few even understand

the decibel 

hearing sensitivity

loudness growth

logarithms

Frequency  

and that is the short list 

 

 

And how hearing loss alters auditory perception 

Chuck everything, buy 901s'

actually a 996 or better unless you like the slow lane....or worse lapped by the Ferrari club....

Have to have apple before you can polish it @tomic601 having the fastest car on paper don't  mean crap if you can’t drive. Learned that at the VW club.

I’ve gradually come to the conclusion that music and the love of sound don't have to be mutually exclusive. But the music MUST COME FIRST. After that the sound can be thoroughly enjoyed for what it is.

i DONT believe (as some evidently do) that every little tweak brings you closer to the music.

@rvpiano 

I’ve gradually come to the conclusion that music and the love of sound don't have to be mutually exclusive. But the music MUST COME FIRST. After that the sound can be thoroughly enjoyed for what it is.

i DONT believe (as some evidently do) that every little tweak brings you closer to the music.

The truth of this observation became self evident for myself after just a few months of lurking on this esteemed forum.  I'll say this just once - I learnt piano and violin at school in my pre-teen and teen years.

That is something I didn't appreciate at the time.  However perhaps it is always a reason why I struggle to understand the cacophony of adjectives invented by audiophiles to describe what they hear.  Some advocate "learning" to hear, which is I guess like learning a new language - it ain't easy for a lot of good folk.

As for Mr Harley's words - I always encourage reading, so they are alright for budding enthusiasts who may be overwhelmed by the esoteric garb that audiophiles have learnt to clothe themselves with to distance themselves from mere mortals, and if you are pre-disposed to forgive the many sins so eloquantly described by a few contributers here. 

I've read other patronising books (sometimes they use the word ültimate, rather than complete, in the title), and they need a publisher with the fortitude to tell them a few truths.

@john1 

4 editions worth so far with constant shilling of it in the magazine he edits.

The fifth edition became available in 2015.  In a few months that will be seven years.  Some will be looking forward to a sixth edition anytime now - I'm sure it will be announced on these pages of authority.

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