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New Yorker piece on audiophiles

pozz

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#1
https://www.newyorker.com/culture/c...forever-an-expensive-new-years-shopping-guide

Long, very long, article on audiophilia. Skillful writing. The more skillful the writing, the more difficult it is to extract the underlying prejudices and so forth given how natural it seems, and how well all the ideas fit together.

I've never written a "letter to the editor" before. Maybe I'll try that here. Who knows if they would even accept it, given that the piece is from 2018? It would be terrible if the literary types (of which I am one) find this piece a convincing description of listening and audio gear.

Writers make good propagandists, especially if they think they are somewhat removed what's actually going on (the author of the piece treated himself as a kind of observer) and consider their perspective free from influence. Unsure how to organize your daily life into a comforting, cohesive worldview? Want to justify your choices and soothe uncertainty? Find a skilled writer, preferably one who tends towards reflection and expressiveness, and uses a lot of commas.
 

rdenney

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#2
Here's a hint of bias: "(not cut off, as it is in most digital recordings)" when describing recorded piano decay.

More that is unsubstantiated: "Years ago, many refused to believe in the LP, but, really, anyone with a decent setup could have proved this to you: a well-recorded LP was warmer, more natural, more musical than a compact disk." Followed by the assertion that the solution to the CD "problem" was DSD, SACD, etc.--basically higher resolution digital.

Then he makes the point that MP3 was the distortion kids grew up with, not recognizing that vinyl LP's were the distortion that he grew up with.

But then he gets it partly right: "Or maybe it’s about backing away from corporate culture and salesmanship. Vinyl offers the joys of possessorship: if you go to a store, talk to other music lovers, and buy a record, you are committing to your taste, to your favorite group, to your friends." Of course, this statement equally applies to CD's.

Sounds like the usual stuff to me, so far.

Rick "got this far for now" Denney
 
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David Harper

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#3
I bought a new Project TT and a bunch of new vinyl (all my old vinyl is LONG gone). After setting it up with all the old B.S. that I remembered (tonearm adj., cartridge adj.) I spent a few weeks listening to vinyl. It was cool and nostalgic. And the sound quality was very good. But ultimately I got sick of all the screwing around with cleaning the vinyl, etc. The TT is now collecting dust in an upstairs closet.
 
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pozz

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Thread Starter #4
Here's a hint of bias: "(not cut off, as it is in most digital recordings)" when describing recorded piano decay.

More that is unsubstantiated: "Years ago, many refused to believe in the LP, but, really, anyone with a decent setup could have proved this to you: a well-recorded LP was warmer, more natural, more musical than a compact disk." Followed by the assertion that the solution to the CD "problem" was DSD, SACD, etc.--basically higher resolution digital.

Then he makes the point that MP3 was the distortion kids grew up with, not recognizing that vinyl LP's were the distortion that he grew up with.

But then he gets it partly right: "Or maybe it’s about backing away from corporate culture and salesmanship. Vinyl offers the joys of possessorship: if you go to a store, talk to other music lovers, and buy a record, you are committing to your taste, to your favorite group, to your friends." Of course, this statement equally applies to CD's.

Sounds like the usual stuff to me, so far.

Rick "got this for for now" Denney
What was interesting to me wasn't the content, which is par for the course in the audio world, but that this article was in the New Yorker. It's a different crowd reading and digesting that content, and it's irritating that these views and are being passed to them.
 

rdenney

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#5
And here we have the you-aren't-one-of-the-cool-kids-unless-you've-spent-well-into-the-five-or-six-figures statement: "A decent “high performance” turntable by VPI or Rega starts at about eight hundred and fifty dollars. For twenty-two hundred dollars, you can get the excellent VPI Prime Scout. For four thousand dollars, the superb VPI Prime (cartridge extra), with its full-bodied sound. You can also get something called the TechDAS Air Force One, made in Japan, which weighs a hundred and seventy-four pounds and uses a vacuum pump to clamp the record to the platter. It costs a hundred and five thousand dollars. I have not heard it. Those who have, including Michael Fremer, Stereophile’s expert in all things analog, say that it is … very good."

He goes on to talk about headphones, and how they can be cool (more product placement) and expensive (more product placement) but ultimately they just don't do it for him (actually for reasons that I agree with). But then he adds a fundamental misunderstanding to reinforce that point: "...and your room, providing shelter and resonance, makes music, too." This is the crux of the philosophical confusion, which the author states as settled knowledge. The alternative view (which we would espouse here) is: The room does not make music, it only makes distortion (which I define as a difference between what the microphones heard and what we hear). Music is made by musicians, and it's all downhill from there--a mix of compromises and distortions that we hope to manage favorably to the listening experience. That alternative view gets no voice whatsoever in the article.

What follows is the usual litany of high-end product placement mixed with (entirely subjectively) how it made nice recordings (also listed) sound. The usual stuff.

In terms of propaganda, it's all there to be sure. 1. You must spend a lot. 2. High-end boutique stuff is always better. 3. Vinyl is better than digital (or, digital is inherently bad but can be made tolerable if only [insert high-end expenditure here]). 4. High-end equipment add musical properties to performances. These notions are built in as assumptions, with no discussion of any alternative point of view.

Rick "who just skimmed the final paragraphs" Denney
 
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Tks

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#6
The entire system now cost north of eighty thousand dollars. I couldn’t buy it, but I was happy. I had heard something; a lot of things, actually. All this fussing makes a difference. You may not be able to afford it, but, if you can hear it, and it matters to you musically, then it matters emotionally, too. High-end audio is a luxury-class pursuit, but it’s not a fake, and it has many pleasures, if your ears are open to receiving them.
Not sure if this is a bias for snake-oil audiophile stuff we detest. But the sort of conclusion after all this either demonstrates dishonesty or profound ignorance. Which can be proxy for the sort of bias you may be looking for.

He concludes: "it has many pleasures, if your ears are open to receiving them". When the more apt thing to say is, if your wallet mind is open.
 

gene_stl

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#7
That article was an educational introduction for yuppies who have lots of excess disposable income. Like many other hobbies ours is open to people who have more money than sense. Spending money at the audio salon is imagined to be equivalent to studying acoustics, electronics and music.
It is not. His criticism of early digital makes me think he was one of those people who never heard highs before.
 

StevenEleven

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#9
Looks like the guy used to write for the New Yorker as a film critic, in which field perhaps creative writing and sloppy thinking would be more welcome, or, as I think of it, would it? He has also written a book about American Suckers (dot-com bubble) and written stuff about problems in education as well as a history of Western intellect and thought? Precious. And he went to Stanford and Columbia. Marvelous.

Anyway, it’s from January 2018, a good while back in magazine world, but even so it’s awful, and it does the New Yorker no credit to have run this. It’s clueless and elitist.

I’ve never been able to get along with the New Yorker vibe, and in terms of the vibe this feels par for the course to me, though in substance it’s so poor that I am still both disappointed and surprised.
 
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#10
"High end audio is a luxury class pursuit"

This ending statement tells the story this author is trying to convey, mostly. It's not unlike the New Yorker world view of other matters, as in: you need to be a bit on the elite side to master our understanding of the the universe. Simple ordinary plebes are to be politely pitied, and educated to the degree that our "flowery words and emotion, over meaning" writing might allow.

Sorry, but I find The New Yorker content to often be the epitome of elitist arrogance in their ideological stand. Yes, I'm biased for sure, but they've now just applied this haughtiness to our hobby. Including Fremer could not be a better fit.

(In fairness, the haughtiness is often intrinsic to the "high end" industry, not just this piece, and is its greatest barrier to entry for most)

The beauty of ASR is that Amir and others here prove daily that true high end audio does not have to be a luxury class pursuit. No, not everything matters.
 

Plcamp

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#11
“High end audio is a luxury class pursuit"

Maybe that’s the definition of an audiophile. One who pursues a class. That doesn’t restrict you to sound quality, and brings things like snobbery, fashion and appeal to authority into the picture as more dominant concerns. That would explain the “golden eared” nonsense so many youtubers present while self declaring their audiophileness?
 

SIY

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#12
https://www.newyorker.com/culture/c...forever-an-expensive-new-years-shopping-guide

Long, very long, article on audiophilia. Skillful writing. The more skillful the writing, the more difficult it is to extract the underlying prejudices and so forth given how natural it seems, and how well all the ideas fit together.

I've never written a "letter to the editor" before. Maybe I'll try that here. Who knows if they would even accept it, given that the piece is from 2018? It would be terrible if the literary types (of which I am one) find this piece a convincing description of listening and audio gear.

Writers make good propagandists, especially if they think they are somewhat removed what's actually going on (the author of the piece treated himself as a kind of observer) and consider their perspective free from influence. Unsure how to organize your daily life into a comforting, cohesive worldview? Want to justify your choices and soothe uncertainty? Find a skilled writer, preferably one who tends towards reflection and expressiveness, and uses a lot of commas.
Christ, what an asshole.
 
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#13
It is extremely problematic that the author put forth claims that are essentially presented as obvious truths, when they are in fact not. For instance:

"The essentials of any kind of music came through, but nuance, the subtleties of shading and color, got slighted or lost. "

This isn't right.

"What’s better, a good LP or high-resolution streaming? Sometimes I can tell the difference, sometimes not, which says a lot for high-res, since analog remains the standard. "

Via blind tests, I am sure.

"The backgrounds were utterly quiet in Johnny Hartman’s “For Once in Every Life” album, the trumpet noodling behind Hartman, the sax stealing in over his left shoulder. "

haha, of course they were ;)

"Everything matters. The sound was better with different cables. "

The scary thing is that regular people have no reason to believe this is false information.
 

Sgt. Ear Ache

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#14
haha, I haven't read the article but it sure sounds hilarious. I wonder if this fellow would be able to hear the difference between a vinyl rig with cheap cables and a CD rig with boutique cables. :D Might the different cables off-set the sweet analog superiority? hmmm....
 

Duke

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#15
Want to justify your choices and soothe uncertainty? Find a skilled writer, preferably one who tends towards reflection and expressiveness, and uses a lot of commas.
Laughed my @$$ off!!
 

ahofer

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#16
haha, I haven't read the article but it sure sounds hilarious. I wonder if this fellow would be able to hear the difference between a vinyl rig with cheap cables and a CD rig with boutique cables. :D Might the different cables off-set the sweet analog superiority? hmmm....
No. He wouldn't. That was Fremer whispering in his ear.
 

ahofer

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#19
What does the prototypical New Yorker listen to? Sirens, mostly.

Of course, there -are- other burrows in the city. On Staten Island you can listen to the gulls screech at the garbage dump.
Hey, I resemble that remark. And it is boroughs.

I've been to all those stores and listened to the Sabrinas on the exact same system at Lyric. You can do better for much less. Of course I didn't have Fremer in my ear getting all unscientific.
 

Wes

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#20
Hey, I resemble that remark. And it is boroughs.
Wasn't it Mayor Figgie LaGuardia who united all 5 burrows into one giant Hobbit Habi-trail?

Anyway, I almost made remark about Queens and old ladies of a certain ethnicity screeching but decided not to...

It is quite possible that Fremer's cable change - to much cheaper ones - did change the sound. Spendy cables often eff up the LRC to get that special sound.
 

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