The High End and Glubglub

The High End has had many arguments in which certain types of equipment were and are considered inherently inferior for a variety of reasons: among these the single-ended tube amps which were dismissed by many, single-driver speakers, the ever-popular idler-wheel drives which I espouse, let's not forget tube amps which were practically universally dismissed in the late 60s and through the 70s, and so on. So what was going on in these varoious and ongoing debates? I sumbmit for your perusal the following gem I found in a discussion of logic: "What he (the skeptic) wants it is logically impossible to supply. But doesn't the logical impossibility of the skeptic's demand defeat his cause? If he raises a logically impossible demand, can we be expected to fulfill it? He says we have no evidence, but whatever we adduce he refuses to count as evidence. At least we know what we would count as evidence, and we show him what it is. But he only shakes his head and says it isn't evidence. But then surely he is using the word "evidence" in a very peculiar way (a meaningless way?), so that nothing whatever would count as a case of it...Might he not just as well say, "There is no glubglub?""
Hey, as long as you can hear differences and improvements, then what does it matter what anyone else thinks. Certainly there is ample room in this hobby for skepticism. I used to get the old "double-blind-test-routine," all the time. Personally, I feel double-blind tests themselves are inherently flawed and are not a good tool to discern small differences.

My philosophy is that if I try something and I think it makes an improvement, I keep it; if not, I don't. Beyond that, I don't need to convince anyone or justify my decisions to the rest of the world. Life is just too short and there's too much good music out there to listen to!!!
Making a good argument, like virtue, is its own reward. If your goal is to *convert* someone to your way of thinking (or hearing) and you find yourself frustrated and angry when your subject fails to transform -- that's pretty good evidence that your goal has degraded your enterprise.
By all means, be opinionated and entertaining, be passionate, but in the end -- it's only music. A little perspective is in order. At the end of the day, each of us is entitled to like what we like, hear what we hear, to worship at the alter of whichever audio god we choose. After all, we are all bound by a common love -- of music.
Good response, Plato. Unfortunately, it doesn't go far enough, as designers are influenced by this type of irrational thinking as well. For at least a decade, single-ended amps were universally dismissed in America while the Japanese sat over there enjoying them. So for a decade, perhaps many people missed an experience they would later come to love, while living with designs which simply didn't push their fun buttons. Now the North American market has an embarrasment of riches, and new designs - both of sensitive speakers with an easy load and the delicate and delicious amps to drive them: a Paradigm Shift. It is not an issue if it only concerns convincing others of your findings when you are a simple consumer, it is an issue when this attitude prevents advancement of the art, and deprives consumers of what may be better choices, at least for them. In this case, you would never get the chance to hear something which might have appealed to you. An interesting thought: just how did the single-ended craze start over here? And you are right with respect to double-blind tests, as many of the things various items do are too subtle to be recognized immediately.
Johnnantais, you raise some good points and I think it's great that we have this forum to kick around such ideas.

Basically consumers have no rights as to the type of products the corporate bureaucracy will produce for any particular demographic area. As you know, the corporate machine is driven by greed, not altruism.

Heck, we had the technology years ago to develop a "perfect" recording format and medium. All that's prevented that from happening is these corporate giants trying to protect their piece of the pie, as well as the greed of the recording industry trying to ensure that no one can own music from their artists without them getting their judicious cut. It's really quite a laughable mess when you think about it. Unfortunately it is the consumer who is once again getting short-changed.

Yeah, I was reading another thread today and thinking, well, if I go for SACD there are a handful of SACD releases that I'd like to purchase. And if I go for DVD-A, there's another handful, and wow, a very small percentage of this pool might even be recorded near the resolution level of the respective formats. Whoopie!!!!
Sorry for my rant. I realize that you are generally talking about high-end specialty companies, rather than the corporate behemoths. A lot of the smaller niche companies start out with the best of intentions and put their customers first. Some of them even stay that way. Unfortunately, others do not.

As to the low-powered, high-efficiency debate, I don't really want to get into that one. All I will say is that there are pro's and con's to every scenario and a person has to decide which set of compromises he can best live with. But from an ecological perspective, the low-power, high-efficiency route makes a lot of sense.
It certainly is a laughable mess, Plato, and add to that the new "Copy Protected" CDs, which sound absolutely horrible in my system. Rsbeck, I'm not sure precisely what you're saying, but just in case, I am not pushing single-ended amps, which I do not own, but which, however, I have heard and liked. We are bound by love of music, I submit that if the internet is to have any role/meaning in the present or future, it's in its potential for grass-roots movements, to give the consumer a chance to be heard and answered. If a consumer isn't aware of possibilities due to prejudice dressed up as science - as the above cute quote demonstrates - then the music isn't being served, and THAT is important. This hobby/consumer niche is fun because it has so many aspects: science, engineering, music, philosophy, beliefs...that's why it gets such a hold on us: we can apply concepts to the physical world and hear the results, which sometimes end up in magic: and it's those moments we chase and try to understand. Good old philosophy, an important aspect of a human life. I would like to see this "magic" identified - if it can be -and incorporated into a new understanding/knowledge of component design. As for passion, interesting ideas/results come from changing the angle of our thought, and this requires some shaking up: like a chemistry experiment, where you throw in a new ingredient and stand back to see what happens. That's the purpose of a forum, isn't it? You never know when a future or present designer is listening and getting new ideas. Mitch Cotter's invention of the 3-point suspension belt-drive was the result of such thinking, as well as the Quad 57s, Class-A amps, MC cartridges, and so on. Perspective, maybe, but this is still serious stuff: as they say, "If something's worth doing, it's worth doing it right." But mainly, I just liked that passage, and want to see where it leads.
Methinks the "skeptic" is in a financial conundrum. Plato sez: "Basically consumers have no rights as to the type of products the corporate bureaucracy will produce for any particular demographic area"... - Hmmm, if we're talking mass-market, consumers may not have a *right* but they have power -- the power NOT to buy. In fact, some corps try to use CRM & focus groups to determine what product consumers might want. Which doesn't necessarily mean a good, bad, or useful product; just one that people would buy.
I don't think this applies to our niche hobby, though... it's low volume products & expensive manufacturing & marketing.

Plato, IMO, explains why:
"the corporate machine is driven by greed, not altruism" Even if I substitute the word "profit" for "greed" (to put it in softer terms), single-ended tubes are not really a mass market item that can be easily automated. Moreover, corporations usually tout INNOVATION & tech advances, etc. People often seem to buy into "innovative" -- how innovative LOOKING/SOUNDING is a tube amp, for example, compared to sacd? Remember the stir CD created & the GREAT business opportunities for h/ware & software Cos alike.

Efficiency: remember the 81db (in)efficient speakers that required huge amplification to reach whispering spl's? Those speaker required that we buy huge amps -- another good market opportunity. Nowadays that speakers are more efficient, many of us still buy hi-powered amps -- multi-channel or two-channel, for sonic purposes (headroom, etc). So, there's still a market.

So the skeptic says, "let me try to fulfill my desires, directly" -- and behold, diy, horn-loaded speakers and the like. What corporation would bother?? If we take Tannoy (one corp that bothers) the high price of its Prestige range is quite revealing.

Efficiency revisited: there is legislation in the EU whereby, by 2008, devices will HAVE to be energy "efficient" to conform to EU specs. So where does that leave class A? Probably pay an extra "inefficiency" (deterrant) tax or have circuitry to "circumvent" this legislation?

Sorry for rambling
I'm saying I have absolutely no problem with skeptics -- especially when it comes to high end audio. I wouldn't trust any "movement" which would seek to do away with skepticism. So, I am saying, if you find yourself frustrated when others won't suspend their disbelief and accept your argument or -- gads -- movement -- you're probably trying too hard. IMO, the goal shouldn't be to convert others to your "movement" -- I like to be spared from 99% of the TRUE BELIEVERS in the world --
you can usually count on me to move to the other end of the bar just as the foam starts to collect at the corners of the angry zealot's chops --
long before they start stretching my lapels -- the goal should be to trust your own ears, like what you like, vote with your pocketbook, express your opinion as passionately and entertainingly as possible and let the quality of your argument be your reward, rather than the number of converts one has made. That's my opinion.

I hope that's more clear.
Let's bear in mind that while scepticism is healthy and necessary, the sceptic in the quotation above is an irrational and biased sceptic, and this is not healthy. In the '70s there was a "movement" for pure measurement, which placed such things as intermodulation distortions and such-like at the forefront, thus making the arrogant claim that all that could be identified in the reproduction of music had been identified in labs, end of story. This was a "movement," led by a group of fanatics, which came from somewhere, i.e. the scientific/engineering community, and which negatively affected music reproduction for more than a decade. These were not recognized as fanatics at the time because they were "scientific". It was a "movement" founded in grass roots which said that such measurements did not explain the whole story, thus leading to today's much more liberal approach in which it is recognized that many components which "measure" badly are in fact incredibly musical, while others that measure very well in fact are musical disasters. Eventually this more liberal approach will lead to the identification of the phenomena which are responsible for the good sound, and we will then be able to design them more reliably into future equipment: advancement of the art. So today, measurements are taken with a grain of salt by the entire industry. Does this mean that there are no more problems now and so no more room for improvement? There are many professional reviewers trying to focus our attention on aspects of music reproduction for which they have no precise language, but which they consider important, a Factor X. We should kick this ball around, try to identify Factor X.
Gregm, you make some good points. But it is the big corporations that dictate what recording formats we will listen to, and what players will be available to play them. And a lot of the new technology they develop eventually trickles down to the smaller niche companies, usually starting with specialty companies modifying their existing models (e.g. Modwright or Bolder Cable Co.). In the case of tube electronics, I agree that this is a niche area that the big corporations don't see as a big enough market for them to concern themselves.

And I don't think it is the skeptics who are buying DIY, horn-loaded speakers... The skeptics are buying gear that comes with specifications, pie-charts, graphs, and good ratings in Consumer Reports.

Geeze, I guess I better sell my class-A amps before 2008... either that, or stockpile more of them. :)
The problem with any movement is that eventually it will seek to identify itself as the in group with god or logic on its side and to demonize all others. IMO, replacing one "movement" with another is not the answer.
IMO, the answer is to realize that every ear hears music differently. I get
tired of seeing these little movements and efforts to create "in groups."
Vinyl versus digital, tube versus solid state, measurement versus golden
ears, etc. There was a couple of weeks awhile ago where I saw repeated references to "those who listen to music" versus "those who listen to their systems." IMO, this is all very human, but also very silly. We are talking about the enjoyment of music. The message I get from the
measurement movement isn't that it was the wrong movement, it is that
there should always be a variety of approaches to this hobby and those
within it would do well to express all of their passion, while practicing tolerance. Just my opinion.
What you say is true about people identifying with movements, but we do not live in a vacuum, and movements surround us all the time and at every level: they are just so pervasive we do not see them. Science is a movement which started with Bacon, Galileo & co., but it can be taken too far. Capitalism is a movement, as is democracy and so is the human condition. But new movements bring with them new ideas. Was not the American revival of the Greek idea of democracy called The Great Experiment? Russian Communism was also a movement and an experiment. Our hobby itself is a movement. No getting away from it, as you say, the human condition. In audio we are living in all sorts of movements, and the measurement camp is still very much alive, and does pervade it at various levels and in various ways. It's not all so innocent, as we are often persuaded by our peers and the media into bad decisions, which we then justify in various ways, while being musically unfulfilled (this has economic consequences as well). Movements are necessary, and affect philosophy, how we choose equipment, and design. They also teach us what is possible: one of the first "audiophile" experiences is the discovery that two-channel stereo creates an "image". New movements may, no make that "will", reveal things we do not yet know which will improve future designs for our musical edification. Empirical science was such a movement. Narrowness of thought reduces choice.
Anyone with a healthy dose of skepticism who ignores "experts," movements, peer pressure, prevailing "wisdom" -- who trusts his/her
own ears, likes what he/she likes, and votes with his/her own pocketbook will be okay in this hobby. And -- those are also generally
the types of individuals who develop new ideas.