Saturday, 5 December 2020

MUSINGS: "People, please, you want to grow our industry?" - Comments on Jonathan Scull's Stereophile article and what is "High End" audio good for?

Make sure to consult this site if you see anyone ever consumer one of these mushrooms BTW... :-)

As you can see, I have a picture of George Carlin (from 2008, RIP), known for the quoted comment beside some arguably "pretty" Amanita mushrooms above. These pictures represent some ideas I'll be talking about in today's post. The mushrooms by the way grow around these parts of Southwestern British Columbia and Pacific Northwest US. They look quite pretty in the wild, but these are toxic if consumed. They're bad for ya... Of course, there are many things (and people) in life that look good on the surface, but ultimately unwise to be enmeshed with, pretty mushrooms are just an innocuous example. :-)

When I say that those mushrooms are actually "bad for ya", I trust nobody would disagree, right? After all, it's easy to say that as humans, since these mushrooms will damage our health, we can easily judge them to be "bad" and should simply avoid getting near.

I could not help thinking about this a week back when I read Jonathan Scull's article "Something's Coming" in Stereophile.

In the article, he speaks about the "deadly serious" nature of "high-end audio" for those passionate. He talks about "some measurement types defend their turf without thought - without mercy". He doesn't say who these "measurement types" are and seems to want to ascribe foul intent to these "types" of audio people. He's unhappy that "subjectivists, like (him)" get derided but gives no specific example of what derision he's referring to (is this article then an example of such derision?). He then claims that objectivists "say if you can't measure it, then it doesn't exist". Again, no example, no links, nothing to explain what he's referring to or whom; is it ever that simple? Is this not a beautiful example of an audiophile magazine writer trying hard to construct a cookie-cutter image of the "measurement types"?! Is this a mature way to conduct meaningful dialogue or debate?

Then he drags up the "ferociousness" of the debates "especially regarding cables" - sure. Here's a good example of why cables can be contentious: check out this supposedly-great "JCAT Signature Lan" 1 meter ethernet cable for a mere US$1000. Apparently according to the subjective author: "Keep in mind this cable is directional. When flipped the other way, the sound is denser, softer, and warmer – but trades resolution, detail, and depth." Thank you sir, duly noted.

As one who has been writing about audio for a few years as a hobbyist, I believe I'm rather passionate about this stuff (but not necessarily "deadly serious" since this is still a hobby, right?). As a passionate hobbyist who enjoys sharing ideas with fellow travelers on this journey, I wonder how Mr. Scull expects me and others disgusted by the "High-End" industry to respond to blatant falsehoods such as those cables above?

While thankfully those JCAT cables are not being reviewed in the pages of Stereophile, is it not reasonable that the "struggle continues to this day" with arguments among audiophiles exactly because the Industry/magazines/reviewers seem to be complicit in their silence against such fraud? If magazines like Stereophile had the balls to stand up and say that stuff like those and much of Synergistic Research's product line (obvious example) at least "appear to be BS, folks", then maybe there's no need for emotions to be elevated by those of us who see these products as highly suspect. Instead, we see that accessories like the Synergistic Atmosphere (+ Red ATM [Automated Teller Machine for Synergistic to get cash from audiophiles?]) and bizarre HFTs get the nod in the Fall 2020 Recommended Components list. In fact, check out the description and marvel at Stereophile repeating speculations about "low-frequency dither to overpower a listening room's ambient fields of ... (RFI and EMI)" which as far as I am aware has not been demonstrated and seem more like "lead designer" Ted Denney's flights of fancy.

With this background, the fact that Mr. Scull's next paragraph starts with:

"People, please, you want to grow our industry?"

Was simply laughable!

What industry is Scull talking about? The audio industry where already plenty of music lovers are buying affordable, reasonably-priced, and excellent DACs from Topping, SMSL, Schiit, realistically priced ELAC speakers, reasonable Emotiva amplifiers and basically best-of-the-best quality Benchmark amplifier for US$3000? Or is he talking about the "High-End" industry with back-breaking 5-figure speakers, exotic and typically costly tweaks, fancy dressed-up cables, $20,000+ DACs, and amplifiers that cost "$500 per watt" or something like that?

Seriously, I enjoy fancy looks, exquisite workmanship, and expensive materials can indeed be very nice. Yes, these things cost money. Sports cars cost money. Great wines cost money. Jewelry costs money. Some of these things I enjoy and own as well for what they are and for esthetic reasons. The problem when it comes to audio is that the purveyors insist that these products sound better typically with no evidence or plausible rationale. Simply put, much of this stuff just doesn't seem to provide "higher fidelity" which usually is the primary selling point aimed at audiophiles. So, when a guy comes along and offers a piece of ethernet wire that has magical properties claiming that it sounds better and has other properties like "directionality" for best quality at an insane price, isn't that striking at the heart of the passionate audiophile? Suddenly, he/she is confronted by such unusual ideas that do not resonate with the rest of life or behave like any other engineered product!

When Scull then claims that emotional debates "drive music lovers away from a potential joy of a lifetime", is he serious? Does he actually not think that so many of the products reviewed in Stereophile would simply scare music lovers by the price tag coupled with often obviously bizarre beliefs? As I've said in the past, I believe "music lovers" are not the same as "hardware audiophiles". Many a music lover would just look at the ridiculous products being peddled and walk away, intuitively recognizing that there's a very deep, perhaps dangerous, "bad for ya" rabbit hole here that's not worth exploring!

As for more affordable gear, he mentions Steve Guttenberg's YouTube channel which I think is okay in some ways although there are clearly questionable parts given his associations and past work. I'm not so sure about Herb Reichert's idiosyncratic ways and at times unusual philosophies. If you want a more down-to-earth YouTube channel that's quite balanced, I would suggest checking out the highly accessible Andrew Robinson or the new Erin's Audio Corner (very cool that he's an '80s music guy as well) - these guys are by no means "kids", but it's nice to see younger people taking audio in different directions from the "old guard". I don't think there's anything wrong physiologically to suggest that "Golden Ears" do have a shelf-life and there is a time when old male audiophiles simply should retire especially from subjective-only reviewing. By the way, what does it mean when Scull talks about "affordable systems that make music the high-end way"?

There's no point arguing about every item Scull tried to make in the rest of that article because his train of thought meanders here and everywhere (like Harley's a few weeks back). Comments like "Dealers, retailers, please realize that these people are out there and need their music..." seems to be referring to stores which sell music - what does this have to do with "high-end" hardware? People can access and enjoy music just fine. The part about "I made the mistake of telling one audiophile what I thought of his system, and he nearly killed me. Even his wife insulted me, saying that my system sounded too big" has nothing to do with objective/subjective debates nor do limp white asparagus or ugly children. He suggests that "It would be great if objectivists would just withhold prejudgment and listen to a high-end system built with sound in mind" with again no specifics or examples whatsoever! Come on man, don't leave us in suspense, who are you talking about?

Despite his allegations, can we not accept that "objectivists" do listen as well? Objectivists do go to audio shows, they visit dealers, they might be curious and check out cable demos. Heck, even some borrow relatively expensive cables to listen to and test, even Synergistics ;-).

Again, who's engaged in: "Mark your turf, defend at all costs, us against them, never even listen to those on the other side (that's so ridiculous)"? Hang on, Mr. Scull, didn't you just stereotype the "measurement types" above? Isn't that a little hypocritical to now say "us against them" when you just literally did this moments earlier? How inconsistent, even within the same article!

Consider this, who seems to have the upper hand in this debate when it comes to having a good understanding of reality? Is it the objective-leaning folks who actually respect science and will run their own measurements and do listen to the gear as well (we too are music lovers!)? Or is it the pure subjectivist who supposedly hears all kinds of things but questions objective testing, are unable to run their own technical measurements, and typically are critical of controlled listening including blind testing to minimize psychological biases? Suppose this is truly a "deadly serious" (to use Scull's own words) matter like say curing an illness, which type of thinking would be more likely to lead to a worthwhile treatment? 

The rest of the the article seems to be some plea to get businesses going again amongst dealerships, audio shows, and playing one's kids' music so they might be interested (in spending money on audio hardware?). Sure, OK. We can certainly enjoy music now and hopefully soon businesses will get past the pandemic. [I actually hope next year's Pacific Audio Fest happens in Seattle, I might do a little trip down with friends.]

To me then, after reading this article, thinking about "growth", about the little growing patch of Amanita mushrooms along my jogging trail... I think the questions that need to be asked of a "subjective audiophile" apologist like Scull are simply:
1. What is "High-End" audio?

2. What does "High-End" audio provide to high-fidelity enthusiasts?
You see, I cannot answer these questions. The only people that presumably can would be someone like Jonathan Scull himself, or maybe Robert Harley, perhaps others in Stereophile and TAS. Indeed we can look at the Wikipedia page for "High-end audio" and see a rather paltry entry suggesting stuff like "high price or quality", "esoteric or novel sound reproduction technologies", and "the subjective or objective quality of sound reproduction" as hallmarks. With regards to that last item, it doesn't seem that Scull is advocating for objectivity as being the "high-end way".

As for myself, being more interested in high-fidelity as a core philosophy, I'm not sure that "High-End audio" adds much if anything of value.

Therefore, when Scull asks: "People, please, you want to grow our industry?", I suppose I could simply answer in all honesty: "No, let's not grow the Hi-End industry as it stands today."

Why would audiophiles enthusiastically sign up to help "grow" something that is this poorly defined? Don't you think some of the products in the "High-End" simply look pretty on the outside like those Amanita mushrooms, but at the end of the day could actually be bad for you? I might feel better if "High-End" magazines actually did a good job with separating snake oil from worthwhile but expensive goods and actually helped consumers determine the value of products. Instead, even if we casually thumb through an issue of any audiophile magazine, it's quite routine to see unusual ideas about what is claimed to be subjectively audible. We can look at the reviewers' "Associated Equipment" list and notice strange items in the listening room. Do you not think that silly beliefs in $1000 ethernet cables, "quantum" products, "Resonance Synchronizers"$640 LAN switches, or even blindly believing in nonsense like the almost universally-loved MQA among "High-End" magazines might actually also be harmful to the hobby because these are simply dishonest schemes; to put it bluntly, scams? IMO, these exist just to extract dollars from the audiophile/music lover, nothing more.

Let's simply allow customers to have access to great sounding, high-fidelity gear at rational prices! That's the kind of "industry" I hope grows.

The fact that "objectivists" hold such passionate disdain, at times emotionally charged during discussions, is not a bad thing. It's simply a reflection of a need to insist at times that there be balance between factual truths and subjective opinions.

Remember dear readers, the power is always with the consumer. It is not up to the Industry to demand anything. They do not have any "right" to growth, this must be fought for by convincing customers that the Industry is of value in some way and companies are able to compete within themselves to be successful and gain the trust of those in the market. The consumers are the ones who ultimately decide and have the power and right to accept or reject the offers. Writers like Scull need to work harder but not on this kind of messaging. Why not work harder to actually show readers why "Hi-End" products make a difference and are worthwhile? If this article is a reminder to us that the "Hi-End" might be an ailing Industry, the sickness in all likelihood began before the pandemic.

To close off, let's consider a concrete example of a product that I assume would be classified as "High-End", that's not a cable, and not some "tweaky" accessory. Check out this Stereophile review by Kal Rubinson of the Pink Faun 2.16x music streamer.

It's an 8-core Ryzen computer, has 32GB of RAM, is fanless (good), and appears to be overbuilt with expensive linear power supplies, and custom OCXO clocks (but has no DAC). For more details, you can see this older article, it looks like Pink Faun used the ASRock Fatal1ty X370 motherboard back then at least. It runs Linux, and for all the power under the hood, you need to buy a Roon subscription to take advantage of that. Furthermore, the price "starts at" €12,000 (>US$14,000!). This thing is supplied with only 256GB SSD which means it can't store a decent sized music library unless you add drives. As it is, who's this product targeted to? Does this not seem like an insane amount of money for what's basically a Ryzen 7 computer in a huge, heavy fanless case? Even with all the power supplies and low-latency RAM and tuned Linux and OCXO clock, there is nothing here to suggest your music will sound any different compared to a low-power Raspberry Pi connected to the same modern USB DAC. Heck, it wouldn't even be tough to argue that the Raspberry Pi is superior with lower potential for EMI/RF.

Furthermore, based on our survey here earlier this year, since >60% of respondent say they have <2TB of audio data, surely for the asking price, Pink Faun could have included a decent 4TB Samsung SSD drive for around $400 that would have at least given the user some local storage given the size of the box and expense. Even with a 4TB SSD, the profit margin would surely remain healthy for the company!

Feel free to read the quasitechnical nonsense about turning buffers off and such on their web page. Where is there any evidence that such a thing is true? A warning to those at risk of taking this stuff seriously... It's bad for ya. (BTW, we discussed the computer audio mythos awhile back with a related type of product.)

To end off, while this article is highly critical of the "High-End", to a large part, it's because the definition is so vague that I think it actually has become a catch-all such that Audiophile High-End = Expensive Stuff + Crazy Stuff. Maybe the audiophile magazines need to rebrand a better category that actually reflects highest performance, and yes, expensive, but make sure they disqualify Crazy Stuff. I'm not sure if this is even possible any more with most of these "high-end" brands because I suspect evidence-based analysis would rather quickly exclude a massive number of the names that currently consider themselves to be members of any elite "class".


Well, it's amazing that we're down to the last month of 2020!

Truly a rollercoaster year in so many ways. While it certainly won't be at the same level of family festivities here at Chez Archimago over Christmas, I don't think there's anything wrong with celebrating the season with silent nights and restful contemplation.

Despite the absence of long-distance family visits, ironically, this December will probably be busier than most on account of Zoom conferences and meetings, plus getting some research work in. Just in case I don't get to post much over the next little bit, I hope you're all having a great December...

Enjoy the music.


  1. I thought precisely as you did when reading the article and was going to write a reply to Scull in the comment section. But reading your take-down of his rather strangely reasoned, and somewhat passive-aggressive article, was cathartic.

    1. Thanks for the note Vaal...

      Yeah, the article basically wrote itself. The ideas expressed in Stereophile simply didn't make much sense.

  2. Replies
    1. Hi Jonas,
      I am relaxed man. You should see me when I'm pissed. :-)

      I hope it's not anger that come through, but rather, hopefully, rational criticism coming from a different perspective in hopes that other hobbyists also see the major issues expressed.

  3. Hey Arch,
    I am not shore that these articles still deserve your comment - probably yes, since there are still a lot of people believing this BS.

    As a side comment, you said in one of the previous comments to remind you to test optical out of a TV when music is playing from external USB :-)

    1. Hi Goran,
      Yeah, lots of people I suspect will always "believe". As I noted before, there is much "faith" here:

      Belief is a hard thing to turn especially when there are emotional and social/cultural elements attached to them. To "belong" to the elite group of "High-End Audiophiles" is maybe something that some people feel is a part of their identity; their "tribe" perhaps.

      That in itself isn't a bad thing so long as there are clear benefits and the products are good rather than "scammish".

      I checked out TV which is a 75" 4K Vizio M series from 2016/2017 and unfortunately it doesn't look like it will do lossless FLAC playback. My other TVs here at home also not capable of this so alas, will have to wait until I get a device in with USB audio playback and optical digital out before I can test...

    2. Thanks for trying :-)
      Otherwise, no problem. I bought the TV (Philips Android), it plays flac and all video formats, it shows album covers, I can turn off the screen and just listen to music, remote has a mic for google and youtube, and the sound through optical on my active speakers is indistinguishable compared to CD player, so I think I nailed it with absolutely minimalistic setup fith (finally!) Only one remote.

      Anyhow, I just don't belive that jitter can be any worse than -40dB which for me is inaudible :-)

  4. Arch - this type of thinking often reminds me of this sketch

    1. Ha - searching for that lead me to this... you don’t see hi-Fi comedy very often :-)

    2. Great stuff Giraffe,
      Love the classic humor! Yeah, we don't see hi-fi comedy these days. Maybe another reflection of how small the market is in the eyes of consumers these days?

      I can certainly think of some very funny skits that could be done with modern products for those of us still "in the know" with current brands and devices; but I don't think would be funny for the general public any more. It'd be like making fun of some bizarre cult most of us have never heard of and come across as just "obvious" rather than witty...

  5. Hahaaa, great laugh on sunday evening, thanks for that!

  6. It's no surprise to me that Andrew Robison's YouTube channel has quickly surpassed 120,000 subscribers. It shows me there are quite a few of us music lovers that are interested in high-fidelity, but are tired of the fantasy of the high-end perpetuated by so many publications. From his assertion that speaker break-in is a myth, to telling his viewers to go ahead and use the RCA interconnect cables that come with their equipment (he only recommends better but still inexpensive interconnects because they are slightly stiffer and easier to route), he is a breath of fresh air. Myself, I have purposely stopped visiting sites like TAS, Positive Feedback, Part-Time Audiophile, and others sites like them. They don't deserve my support (clicks).

    1. Hey Joe,
      I am glad that YouTube has provided an avenue for some audio reviewers and writers to do work and hopefully have their productions monetized given the time and efforts.

      That is the only way to at least attempt to maintain independence. Have enough viewers so that companies are compelled to send products for an honest review, and have the reviewer's thoughts be meaningful because the person is respected by his/her viewers.

      Of course, a reviewer could still be highly influence by getting "free" gear (because often the companies will not want their stuff back), but at least he/she will be beholden to the viewers in a way that's more tangible than Industry-supported ad revenue.

  7. Once people realise that "high end audio" is not about sound-waves, but business, all seems to be clearer.

    and business, like a living organism, will strive, fight, cheat, manipulate, obfuscate and assert itself in order to prosper.

    happy festive season to all!

    1. Hey Turrican,
      Happy holidays!

      Yeah, I think this was part of the thesis behind the documentary "The Corporation" (2003):

      The idea of corporations, industries willing to engage in "antisocial" traits ("fight, cheat, manipulate, obfuscate...") which we as individuals would not do because of personal ethics and conscience.

      This is what makes the scams so disgusting and the individuals behind them IMO shameful.

  8. Here's an interesting reading for Mr Scull

    This is straight in line with Archimago findings.

    1. Yup... Good 'ol Peter Aczel. Thanks for sharing DColby.

  9. Years ago I decided that it was healthy to totally ignore the High End Subjective BS and to concentrate on quality equipment that was objectively measured or whose design was founded on actual research instead of megalomaniac rants. This lead me to brands such as Benchmark, Adcom in the 1990's, Topping, Hypex and now onto DIY speaker designs by Siegfried Linkwitz from 2002 on.

    So now my music resides on a SSD in a laptop and is transmitted via USB to a Topping D10 DAC which acts as a USB bridge and outputs to miniDSP 2x4HD units that act as active crossovers and EQ for the analog signals they send to a multichannel Hypex nCore amp. From this amp, the music goes to Linkwitz Lab LXmini speakers with Linkwitz Orion dipole bass modules. All of the above is interconnected with garden variety cables.

    All of the above costs a fraction of a $20K R2R DAC that the subjectivists drool over. I am more concerned with the speaker interaction with my room as the best way to strive for increased fidelity and a better listening experience. I find more wisdom on this blog and ASR then I have read in 50 years of looking at TAS or Stereophile. When I want a laugh, I just go to Audio Asylum or other like websites.

    1. Thanks for the note Unknown!

      I see in your story the evolution of what I think this hobby in many ways should be about. IMO, it's not supposed to be just a "study" in commercialization of products and just buying or "hoarding" of things ("late stage capitalism" I think another reader said) but more a personal journey in understanding, applying knowledge and yes, achieving "wisdom".

      Some of us might end up wading through the DIY world. Some of us might reach a point where we "know enough" about the hardware that we can seek out worthy companies and focus on our rooms and set-ups, enjoying music. Others might focus on writing or making videos to teach...

      However way we each branch off into the various trajectories, I hope we always end up respecting the science that went into these engineered products. And expressing ourselves in ways that can be supported with reason and even better, evidence.

  10. You have to understand that Stereophile is a business. It purports to be a journal for audiophiles, but it is a business. Its business is selling advertising, and to a lesser degree, selling subscriptions. The subscriptions are important because they determine the ad rates. The business promotes the advertiser's product. The job of the writers is to create demand for the product. Through the years Stereophile has created demand for products. With the growth of the internet, sites have appeared that question the need for and the veracity of claims made by these products. Stereophile is discovering that they are not the arbiter of audiophile demand any more. What Mr. Scull is saying is: "Please, we need to be the arbiter of what the audiophile needs".
    There is a new paradigm and Stereophile is no longer the arbiter of what the audiophile needs.

    1. Well said KO,
      While there are lots of "bad" things that people have been subjected to and misinformation to be found on the Internet, that freedom has I think (I hope) been a good thing for historically sheltered topics like audiophilia.

      While not all articles or all writers are as poor as the Scull article in Stereophile, they indeed are no longer one of maybe just a handful of major publications that hobbyists read or watch or listen to as a captive audience.

      Stereophile still may have a prominent position in promoting the news and introducing products, the idea of a writer being automatically granted respect because an article shows up in a "major trade magazine" needs to be tested.

      Again, there are no "High Priests" in the audiophile world!

    2. I was fortunate enough to get an education in the magazine business long ago and it's served me well.

      Long ago and far away I spent $1,000's of dollars a month on magazine ads for products I manufactured, in high end magazines aimed at a niche audience. These were top of the line magazines in their field, very respected. The editors made it very clear that reviews were payback for ad money, and after I'd spent enough I'd get some reviews.

      After I while I pressured the editor and he agreed to a featured review and gave me the contact info for their high profile first-line reviewer that had been with them for 20 years. I called the reviewer and started discussing how to arrange shipping to him. He quickly cut me off with "hell kid, I ain't got time for that kind of crap, just send me some pretty pictures and I'll take care of writing the review." A magazine's job is to sell advertising. Subscribers / readers are what they use to justify charging what they charge for ads, that's all, their income comes from ads, not readers per se.

      It's kind of like the classic conundrum, ask anyone if they've ever been involved in something that was reported on by the media. Almost everyone has, then ask them how accurate the reporting was. 99 percnt of the time they say it was awful. Then ask them why they believe the other stories they read / listen to?

    3. Yeah, most reviews should be taken with a truck load of salt IMO...
      Damn the bastards with that kind of attitude!

  11. The problem as I see it is that we have no way to evaluate audio. An automobile can be evaluated by top speed, acceleration, g-forces in the corner, mileage or many other parameters. Audio on the other hand may have frequency response or distortion, but no real possibility to equate these to sound quality.
    This, in my view is the fault of the audio press - but also those who want to be spoon fed about what to buy. It does not matter if we take Harry Pearson, Julian Hirsch, Michael Fremer or Srajan Ebaen, they only work for the advertisers, not the audiophile. I consider their reviews to be more comedy than anything else.
    Archi, thank you for your frank stand on the industry and product!

    1. Hi Rowuk,
      You're right, it would be nice to have easily appreciated measured properties like top speed, acceleration, mileage, etc... These things in a vehicle we can easily attribute a certain value to and a certain desirability to (it's cool to have the fastest car among friends).

      The problem with audio IMO is that it's simply not hard to achieve "way more than good enough for human hearing" with many of the products already. We don't need flatter frequency response from a DAC, decent amplifiers already are very linear for normal speakers of fine sensitivity, distortion is no longer an issue. We can still do with better speakers, fuller frequency response, maybe features like DSP correction however.

      With little for often small boutique companies to innovate (they're often small enough not to have much R&D resources for true high-tech development), little for magazines to write about, and prices dropping for excellent performance, I can certainly appreciate why they open their arms to questionable products like >$10k computers, supposedly-unobtanium cables. Sometimes they hype up real phenomena that makes little difference (jitter, DAC impulse responses).

      In many product categories, I simply think they've run out of real innovations that matter or can be tangibly experienced (like say acceleration!).

      Until the next major evolution in audio (the last I think being the jump from physical media to computer-based data files and all the accessibility benefits, hi-res, access to DACs, wireless mobility), I suspect the years ahead in audio will be very much a time of consolidation as we await the "next big thing" if there is to be one!

    2. The next big thing in my mind will be spatial audio in headphones. Audio is increasingly mobile and to the extent we can simulate surround sound and hrtf that will open a new avenue for people without the ability to have a dedicated listening room or home theater to have a similar experience. It won't be perfect as you won't feel the bass, but I think it will be close enough for most.

      The thing is that I expect that technology to come out of big firms like Apple, Facebook or Microsoft with large R&D budgets versus smaller firms.

    3. I think Mr Hirsch would roll over in his grave to be mentioned as belonging to a category containing the other three you mention.

  12. I wish I could have FGTH rerecord this is with HIGH END, what is it good for?! Absolutely nothing, say it again!

    1. LOL.

      "What is it good for? WAR!"

      Merry Christmas Jack.

  13. Scull et al. are on the ropes and they know it. It's too easy nowadays to fact check the fanciful claims of high end aficionados.

    "We've got to protect our phony-baloney jobs, gentlemen!" That's a quote from 'Blazing Saddles'. But I suspect it applies here.

    1. Oh man Steven.

      This also brings me to the book - Bullshit Jobs: A Theory:

      Here's the author's essay from 2013:

      A lot of "phony-baloney jobs" out there these days and I think we all know it even if it's hard to talk about sometimes.

  14. The late Peter Aczel's final post is a good guide for the rational audio enthusiast:

  15. Archimago, thanks for the plug. I appreciate the support. And, yes, 80's music is my life blood! Keep fighting the good fight.

    - Erin @ Erin's Audio Corner

    1. Great stuff you have there Erin! Have a great holiday season...

  16. Hi Archimago. I noticed you intervened in the latest objective/subjective Jim Austin paper in Stereophile. I love reading the comments this click-bait always generates...The most funny one was from this guy Jack L. that says he relies on Physics ( to justify a 125K$ 17W/ch tube amp) while repeating the falsehood about digital being little square waves! I think the explanatory video should be required viewing for self-respecting audiophiles.

    1. Hey Gilles,
      Nice hearing from you and hope you and yours are doing well!

      Yeah. More clickbait stuff and again, I'm not exactly sure what the point is... BTW, I spoke about "truthiness" back in 2015 already and how so much of the audiophile industry tries to sell us "truthy"-sounding attributions of why their products might sound better without presenting any evidence to the consumer:

      Austin reminds us that he is a physicist by training and feels that the best position to take is one of being "skeptical, in a good-humored way". Sounds good so I hope we all hold him to this position in the days ahead when we run into whatever "creative" ways companies might want to sell us more snake-oil with no evidence of benefit.

      Well, at least we can still leave comments on Stereophile :-).

      Cheers and Happy Holidays...

    2. One more thing.

      Remember that NOS DACs do still play back "little square waves". So while for the most part with 'orthodox' converters, sine waves are smooth and not jagged, there will be times where some audiophiles for some reason prefer unfiltered digital!

      Bizarre isn't it that it's actually in the audiophile world where on the one hand there's this misinformation that "digital = jagged waveforms" yet certain "well regarded" companies purposely aim to have those jagged waveforms coming out of their CD/DACs (here's looking at AudioNote and their "1X oversampling" priced at a premium).

      Something very wrong with this... Almost like a form of "gaslighting" where audiophiles end up confused in this crazy relationship with an Industry that doesn't stick to facts nor apparently want the hobbyist to "know" basic truths.

      Further discussions and images here:


    Good read about real-life music production. Note the mix of analog and digital, such as the use of tape to get a specific sound which is then mixed digitally. IMHO it is useful to understand how music is produced as that frequently determines how good or bad it will sound on our equipment.

  18. I have always steered as clear of ads as possible, as they are all made to sell dreams, not merchandise. I feel the same way with people like Mr. Scull, because in my humble opinion, any business that is not able to maintain a solid balance, quality- and money-wise, is doomed to disappear. This is a natural law, which is governed by the sensible acting (or not) by the consumers. And it is as it should be.

    A company that sells snake-oil products, or insanely expensive products no better than most other more reasonably priced ones, or even worse, has no right to exist in my world. And why should we care what happens to an industry that exists on the base of an argument, that no one can explain: High End.

    It's a sales argument, no less, and it isn't worth the ink it takes to print it. We are in this audiophile hobby or whatever it is to us, simply because we love music, and wants it to sound as real to us as we can, given our limits to achieve this goal. Who cares if it's HiFi or HiEnd?

    I am willing to admit this much, with the limitations that exist in my experiences with audio: I have never owned equipment that could be categorized as High End before I retired, and then only equipment in the very low end of this category. But I find it to sound better and more "natural" to me, than any of my previous equipment did. That is surely due to the higher quality in the manufacturing processes, the higher quality in the parts, and meticulously well made building of these products. And such endeavors cost money. Lots of money, and thus it's called High End, only to justify the higher prices, and make us believe we get something we truly wish for our hard earned cash. Sometimes we do, thank God, but sometimes we don't. That's the crux of the biscuit if you ask me.

  19. As always late to the comments.
    Thanks Arch for providing me a moniker I've been searching for for years,
    "Hardware Audiophile". Brilliant

  20. Thanks for the great blog, been getting into hi-fi recently and some of the stuff I read on forums is baffling, and sometimes I don't know what to believe. People like you help me save money and focus on the important stuff.

    However, as an annoying pedant, I wanna point out something irrelevant. Amanita mushrooms are easily detoxified, have cultural / religious significance, and I wouldn't be surprised if therapeutic uses for it were scientifically proven when more research is done. I haven't eaten any and I'm not a "psychonaut" but it's interesting, and I'm that annoying person who would make such an off topic comment on someones blog....

    "A 2008 paper by food historian William Rubel and mycologist David Arora gives a history of consumption of A. muscaria as a food and describes detoxification methods. They advocate that Amanita muscaria be described in field guides as an edible mushroom, though accompanied by a description on how to detoxify it. The authors state that the widespread descriptions in field guides of this mushroom as poisonous is a reflection of cultural bias, as several other popular edible species, notably morels, are toxic unless properly cooked.[62]"

    If interested, I recommend watching the full episode of this

    Now I'll go back to reading your blog. Thanks and apologies!

    1. Thanks for the note jabberstroker,
      Welcome to the hi-fi hobby and hope you achieve great sounds without too much money and definitely without money going towards highly irrelevant products.

      Interesting comment on the Amanita and I'll check out the links. Not a "psychonaut" myself but I know work is being done in the psychedelic substances again for therapeutic purposes.

      All the best!