Is a piece of HiFi just a piece of HiFi? Can we reduce the value of a given thing down to those items listed in the accompanying spec sheet?
Clearly, some people believe just that — measured performance über alles. Back when I was still looking at hifi forums and reading comments on hifi websites that still have ’em, there was a clear preponderance of people voicing this very opinion — the best measure of value for any piece of hifi kit is its measured performance. I’ve barked against this approach for decades, finding that it falls woefully short of capturing the truth of the matter. And that truth is — people care about other things, too.
If you follow Twittering Machines on Instagram, you will see some of this other on full parade nearly every day where we celebrate the birth days of people throughout history who have helped shape our world or world view. Just imagine how much less interesting this feed would be if we were to limit those listed to people in hifi. From my point of view, it would be stifling. While I love hifi, and have devoted years of my full-time energies to writing about it, hifi does not inform the rest of my life. The rest of my life informs my approach to hifi.
This is why I find all of the angst and invective that is so prevalent in hifi forums and comments to be displaced. And I mean this in the strictest psychological sense where people re-direct their anger that’s rooted in intensely uncomfortable experiences toward a less threatening target than the original triggering target. Yea, my boss berates me on a daily basis but how dare you claim that DAC sounds good!
My friend and colleague John Darko recently removed comments from his YouTube channel and some of the responses he received objecting to this decision are so over-the-top nasty, you have wonder what’s really bugging these unhappy souls. John wrote about some of these responses in his post, Letters To The Editor. Here are a few of the spicier responses:
Besides, the majority of reviewers are audiophools with limited knowledge of audio production.
If indeed your only concern is the next dollar & viewers are simply your means to an end then surely a simple ‘This is an advert’ warning before viewers are given a carefully crafted sales pitch is the least you can do.
WTF? What are you? A fascist?
Emotional Attachments Are Healthy
I learned this very morning from Wavelength Audio’s Gordon Rankin that the Wavelength Junior Integrated Amplifier I recently wrote about is very likely the exact same unit that Art Dudley used for his review in Listener Magazine. This knowledge made me feel even more connected to Art and his experience with Junior, adding another level of emotional attachment to this wonderful little amp. You could say, I now like it even more. It’s become even more special.
Of course these feelings have nothing at all to do with Junior’s performance, but they enrich my experience beyond use-value, beyond matters strictly related to some narrow sense of hifi’s value, and extend into my day-to-day life and personal history. This kind of connection is something that extends well beyond Junior, as I very much value the company, people, and story beyond every piece of hifi I write about and choose to own. That’s why I include, and enjoy, the Portraits in HiFi Polaroids I take at shows in the TM sidebar. It’s a not so subtle reminder that hifi is also about the people who make it, which explains why different DACs, for example, sound different.
To answer the opening questions I posed, my thoughts on this subject are obvious — of course hifi is also part of our lives outside of hifi. It’s no wonder that artificially inflating the value of specifications over humanness results in so many anonymous online critics tilting at windmills.