Joined on 04-23-2006
Church, Vegas & Invisible Sound
What happens when we say "Yeah man, that's what I said, the sound of your system sucks"?
What makes people so sensitive to criticism of their decisions regarding audio?
What makes audio different than other realms open to criticism?
Here are some thoughts :
It has to do with THE KNOWING that one has acted in a non-rational manner, which I guess with the exception of what goes on in church and in a Las Vegas casino is something our society just does not respect.
The guy who makes an “audio decision” had to make that decision based on what? More often than not, based on a not-so-solid base.
And why is it not-so-solid?
While most everything else we evaluate can be observed via more than one sense, in audio, the only thing to evaluate is sound, and one can only HEAR sound.
We are it would seem primarily a visually-oriented society... Ask most people what sense they would give up last, and most would say their sight.
And so it goes that only the blind make truly good use of their hearing. I don’t know why it is, but the rest of us would rather trust our eyes (I would be very interested in the work of blind audio manufacturers/reviewers).
So when an individual with more than a passing interest in audio makes a decision, and this could be either an audio consumer (purchasing), an audio manufacturer (design), or a reviewer (“declaration”), unless that person is blind, there is a very good chance that the decision was made based on what is basically an underdeveloped sense.
Combine this with the typically narrow base of references (see my previous posts in this thread) and you start to get the picture.
Here's a visually analogous scenario :
Imagine someone who absolutely wants the color pure orange, but at the same time is not quite sure he is capable of recognizing a truly pure orange, as he may have never seen it. People who can’t see color know of their deficiency, so naturally this person will consult others, possibly enlisting the help of an expert. Now imagine that nearly everyone is colorblind, but that there are some who, like fortune tellers claiming an ability to see the future, claim to be able to see color, and have turned the situation into a profession. These are the recognized experts.
Nobody is really sure these experts can in fact see color, but then they do seem quite sure of themselves, and that goes a very long way in reassuring the unsure.
And so the unsure audio decision maker eventually takes what is basically a leap of faith.
I will ignore the whole obsessive-compulsive/desperation aspect, a mark born by almost all with "an interest" in audio, and one which really catalyzes the whole sequence.
This leap usually represents a substantial investment. For consumers it is simply hard-earned cash; for component designers it means time, and finally the commitment to a design. For reviewers it's thier reputation that's at stake.
In cases of individuals having inadequate references it involves sweat. Reading of the tea leaves, chicken entrails, what have you... shoring up a certain uncertainty... Finally the investment/decision/declaration is made.
These people are not complete morons (not completely)... They are well aware that their investment was ill-informed but the decision "needed" to be made, so it gets made based on varying degrees of heebeejeebee.
Getting to this point involved a fair amount of navigation of the less than obvious. So, when somebody comes along and says, “dude, that sucks”, it is not so much the equipment that is under attack; the remark is likely processed as a direct attack on that person’s ability act rationally. I suppose we are in effect calling them a moron...
This situation exists because sound reproduction via audio playback does not permit an exact replica of sonic reality... We have to, and are willing to accept a reinterpretation... If people could hear a system that faithfully reproduced the original source, I suspect they would recognize it, and the fog would instantly lift. Even with our underdeveloped sense of hearing, it is easy to recognize sameness in sound, just as it is easy to recognize technical competence of an illustrator “my god, it looks so real”... On the other hand, what’s the point?... We have cameras for that... I’m not real sure, but what might be more interesting (once the possibility to faithfully reproduce sonic reality has been acquired) would be the intelligent reinterpretation of that reality; the subtle “pushing out” and “holding back” of certain elements, as might be done by a good illustrator or photographer...
Bottom line :
The audio guy is super sensitive to criticism ONLY WHEN HE KNOWS HE AHS ACTED IRRATIONALLY. Again, I can think of only two places where our society really respects irrational behavior : Church and Las Vegas...
Ever wonder why the Consumer Electronics Show happens in Las Vegas...
How to short-circuit evolution: Enshrine mediocrity.