HiFi Extremists: Fighting The Wrong Fight

Extremism in HiFi?  How can there be such a thing in a hobby whose purpose is the enjoyment of music? The answer, which applies to many cases of modern day extremism? The Internet.

Spend some time on Twitter or YouTube comments and you’ll find it hard to maintain a belief in liberal enlightenment ideals for long. The reality of what we are like when we are given the freedom to say what we like is actually extremely ugly. Public discourse has never been so idiotic, cruel, irrational and utterly pointless in my lifetime as it is now.

That’s Angela Nagle, author of “Kill All Normies”, from an interview in The Economist. I would suggest we can substitute “HiFi forums and comment sections” for “Twitter and YouTube” without the need to change another word.

HiFi Extremists believe they know the correct way to determine what everyone should buy when it comes to hifi. These men, and you know they are all men, actually believe they are in a position to dictate to others how to go about buying a hifi.

Here’s the gist of their position—we need to remove our other senses from the experience and partake in controlled tests in order to remove placebo effect and observer bias from influencing our decision. About what hifi to buy. To listen to music. The most egregious outcome for those people who do not follow the HiFi Extremest Way, is we end up buying whatever we want. And they say this like it’s a bad thing [footnote 1].

This methodology is based on the Blinded Experiment, a commonly used practice in drug studies, as one example. Symphony orchestras employ the Blind Audition so judges won’t be swayed by gender.

While there’s no doubting the efficacy of the blinded experiment, there is no rational explanation as to why use them, nor a feasible means to employ them, when people are shopping for a hifi. There are a number of basic reasons why this is the case—scientifically valid blind tests are not easy to perform, most people looking to buy a hifi are not interested in taking a test, and there is no good reason why a blind test should be enforced for shopping.

there is no good reason why a blind test should be enforced for shopping

That was worth saying twice. All of the rest of the so-called debates, which have been going on and going nowhere in terms of progress for decades, are merely puffery fueled by “the freedom to say what we like” in a ‘public’ forum [footnote 2]. The platform itself, forums and comments sections, giving weight to the weightless.

To my mind, we have more than enough real issues, and real extremists, in our lives already. We certainly don’t need to fight paper tigers before we can enjoy listening to music on the hifi of our choice.


1. I lifted this line from Tom Waits’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech
2. Every so often I find myself compelled to not only read hifi forums and comments sections, but to participate. In so doing, you could say I’ve joined the paper tiger crowd. And I’d have no reasonable argument against this claim. Would you believe me if I told you it was all research for this article?