DON'T TURST ANY ADVICE YOU GET ABOUT AUDIO GEAR
UNTIL YOU HAVE TESTED YOURSELF!
Any advice you get about what kind of audio equipment to buy is nonsense, including mine. The search for musical ecstasy can only be sucessful if you are clear this is all about 99% imagination and 1% equipment. Until you have first discovered some important musical truths about yourself you are a lost musical puppy in a hurricane. Want me to give you some advice about who you should marry, or what your profession should be? Want me to give you some advice about what flavor food you should enjoy?
How do you know you are a gifted listener? You think because you like music that give you the right to ascend to the highest levels of music pleasure? Ecstasy is not a democratic rights...it is earned, and it is never experienced by the evil Almost Dead White Audio Professors Who Cant Dance, who have until their recent demiss because of the Internet dominated the thinking in the audio industry.
Until you become a real man and put yourself to the test and discover the truth...Are you a gifted listener or a music wimp (who always accumulates equipment as a facade for music passion)...you should continue to buy $169 Sony receivers and $29 Radio Shack speakers.
Lets be real...Every time a man gets on a motorcycle he risks everything...he risks his life so he can experience the ecstasy of the open road. Motorcyclists can never fake it, and that is why motorcycling is such an ecstatic experience.
Are you ready to discover if you have the right music stuff. Sadly, most think that by accumulating gaggles of expensive audio equipment that they are in a righteous relationship to the corpus mysticum of music...they are armchair motorcycles. If you need someone to feed you audio equipment Pablem, get back into your diaper, and crawl into your audio crib.
If this piece is sucessful there will absolutely no audio authorities in your life, and you will be the master of your music destiny...your musical soul will soar with Beethoven as he turns the page on his latest symphony, The Blue Suede Symphony in G.
DONT CONFUSE PLAYBOY MAGAZINE WITH AN AUDIO SYSTEM
Numbers matter, right? Without numbers how can we know who is the number one team in the NFL, or how big mamaries are, or how fast our cars go from 0-60? (Mine goes 0-60, in minus 2 seconds) Too bad; numbers to describe audio systems are an evil conscripacy by Almost Dead White Audio Professors Who Cant Dance, and explains why they are all in audio Hell will listen to a skipping Barry White CD for all eternity.
FACT: There is only one definition of an audio system, and not one element can be removed and it still be an audio system; (1) YOU; this is the most important element, and music only exists between your ears and in your body. Music has no external existence outside of you, and its quality has never been and will never be measured. Test signals, which are noise, measured by computers, are as good at measuring musical quality as they are at measuring the quality of a movie or painting. (2) Inputs/software/hardware: no one has a clue about the "objective" quality of the inputs hardware and software (3) amplifier: it better mate properly to your speakers or turds rather than roses will appear in your living room. It is impossible to characterise the quality of an amplifiers performance separae from a specific speaker and room. (4) Speaker: every speakers performance is completely dependent on its interaction with the speaker and room. Never believe those graphs that show nice smooth frequency response...LIES. A speaker is also a generator, an active component..a microphone..and sends a musical signal back into your amplifier because (5) Your room: is a big active filter and is modifying your entire upstream system, and (sit down)...as this entire system, which includes you, is playing it is constantly changing both electricaly, mechanicaly and perceptual because all music systems are inherently unstable...thank God.
This is why I recommend using those audio review that analyze a single piece of audio equipment as your best substitute when you run out Tucks.
Is this bad news or good news? For the gifted listener, if you are one, it doesnt matter, if you are a music wimp, you will be getting an eye twitch.
PUT YOURSELF TO THE TEST
1. Are you just listening to music?
2. Do you dance naked in your listening room?
3. Have you walked over fire coals?
4. Do you know the sound of one triode clapping?
5. Do you like to make love to music?
6. What is the aroma of music?
7. How many times have you died and been reborn?.
8. Do you know the test of real music?
SOME BONES TO CHEW ON
MAN AS ART: Because we can not, unfortunately, return to the days when we wore feathers, animals skins, wore the heads of fierce animals as hats, wore bright shiny armor, or participate in sacred pagan rituals, we must find new ways to be truthful about our essential artful nature: man is art. In fact the common wisdom is that modern civilization began when we created the first art about 40,000 years ago. Every man is a unique work of art that must struggle to express itself. Clearly culture plays a large role in this expression, but this core notion of man as art, appears in every culture throughout history.
The reason you should take the audio arts seriously is because we find here the most cost effective tools for fulfilling our responsibility to express the artful in our Wholey being. The reason that we take the audio arts seriously (as seriously as the man who defines himself through fishing, who must take all of his dry flies seriously) is because fun is always the most fun when you take it seriously.
The reason that most journalists in this field committ a terrible existential lie, and act as if they are Almost Dead White Audio Professors Who Cant Dance is because they still live with their mothers who will spank them if they talk about the pleasure, eroticism and mystical dimensions of the audio arts. The audio arts is all about hot juicy deep moist primal pagan musical pleasure. In an uptight puritanical American culture where pure hot pleasure is taboo it is very tough to be honest about hedonism as truth. Yes, it is true, art, pleasure, truth and meaning are at the bedrock of our masculinity so why lie about it?
99% IMAGINATION: If you compare a live music event to what is happening our living rooms, in the most literal sense, (which is called THE SCHOOL OF ACCURACY), you are comparing a rose to a turd, and the turd wins. No one can ever get close to creating a living music event in their home unless their living room is Alice Tulley Hall. The pursuit of accuracy is an important development stage to pass through, if and only if you understand this ABSOLUTE TRUTH: this sport is about your imagination and your imaginationis hunting for ecstasy....the highest of highs. The audio arts are 99% imagination. Let me say this another way: the way we know great audio equipment is the way in which it creates music in our home that expands our musical imagination; the way it stimulates our brain to open to deeper levels of musical mystery that is in each of us. Which explains why directly heated triodes are now so popular.
The greatest bow in the world will not make you a great archer, and the finest Fender guitar will not make you a great musicians, and the finest audio gear will not induce mysterious dimensions of hot musical pleasure. Your imaginative commitment is the key to channeling your genius through your gizmos. Without your musical imagination in DRIVE you are doomed to music desperation, which is manifested in compulsive buying, hoping that some magical purchase will open your door. You are the door, the knob, and the magic is in you.
But let me warn you about imagination: Imagination has a twin that is inseparable from it, and it is called MORE. Imagination can not be stopped. If it could we would not have Beethovens 3rd symphony, but only his first. This truth is your truth; once your let your hot bitch imagination out of its closet she is going to do her thing and nothing you do can stop her, and that is a good thing, because she is your salvation.
Which his why I remind you all that DREAMS HAVE POWER. If you can imagine it you and create it, which explains my excitement about the audio arts. We are entering a brave new era where we are being offered expressive possibilities that never existed before. Just check out what is happening with tubes!
THE FREEDOM OF YOUR HOME AURAL MATRIX: Call it your canvas if you want. I call it The Home Aural Matrix because, as a typical aural artist I am artifying that space in exactly the manner that pleases me. I am decorating this space with exactly the kind of music metaphor that triggers the deepest physical response to music...and that is a completely unique and personal experience. My home aural matrix is my musical signature. As you know every signature is completely unique. I have also noted how my style of artifying my home aural matrix has changed over time, just like Picassos style changed over time.
Let me put this another way: your home aural matrix is really your gourmet style of cooking with music. Some prefer Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, each has its own textures, colorations, tonalities and spices. Your job is to develop your own unique style of musical cooking, because only you know what would satisfying your eccentric cravings...and they are changing and evolving.
Why is this work so important? If you get your home aural matrix right then you will have created a "SPACE TELE-TRANSPORTER", which is just like the one of that you have seen in a Grade D science fiction movie: you know the type: you get in it, push the button and your are transported to another time and place. That is exactly what happens, when after considerable struggle you get your aural matrix right....you push play, and up, up and away Space Ranger. Dont be confused by your body in your favorite listening chair. That is only your physical shell. Your true being is now in outer music space.
HEARING IS CULTURE: The way we hear is culturally determined, and cant be separated from the unique character of different languages. Gifted men like you can enjoy many different musical cultures. The American audio press is not yet matured to the point where they can discuss this obvious truth. Hearing, like language, food, music and the graphics arts as well as religion is culturally determined. This simple idea is very difficult to grasp and it is a paradox. Lets fill a concert hall with men from all over the world, from the Brazilian rain forest, to the Mongolian steppes, and play Bachs Goldbergs Variations...we would all be hearing the same thing and we would be hearing it through very powerful cultural filters. There is distinct Japanese, Italian, French, German and American music, each with its own distinct style, yet we can be moved by all of it.
But what I prefer in the audio arts will probably be very different than my Japanese brother because of the unique way we each hear music. There is no absolute music perception, there is no absolute musical truth, and all music perception is ingrained in cultural priorities.
My crusade over the years has been to introduce American men to other audio cultures because I want to expand choices. Dont we like to eat Chinese, Japanese or Mexican food while we consume billions of hamburgers and French fries? With growing musical sensitivity you may discover that the audio arts from other cultures are more satisfying. Because of your advanced artistic sensitivity you love English sports cars, Italian shoes, Cuban cigars, French wines. Trust me, it is the same in the audio arts, and it is sign of audio weeniness that the American audio press is afraid of exploring the audio masters of other cultures.
As you know I write about Japanese audiomaniacs a great deal because I believe they have the most advanced attitudes towards the audio arts, and it reflects the Japanese attitude towards the world: go out into the world and scoop up the best that each culture has to offer. While they Japanese are highly nationalistic and love their own culture, they are ego secure enough to want the best of the worlds audio arts and readily consume the best from America, and Europe. The Japanese audiomaniacs highest expression is boasting of the great American, British, Italian, and French art, both old and new that stands next to his Japanese gear. This man is a connoisseur of audio culture and art and trembles in the beauty of a Marantz 8B, a Garrard 301, JBL and Tannoy speakers, Western Electric tubes, and Wadia digital.
The Internet has destroyed the parochial vision of the American audio press, and today the only limits to your choices is the intensity of your curiosity.
As you will discover from my own personal system it is a goulash of audio art from around the world and it perfectly fits my taste.
MUSIC IS A MULTI-DIMENSIONAL MUSIC EXPERIENCE: My article MUSIC TABOOS" explores this subject in detail. The music experience is intrinsically, by its very nature, intended to get us out of our "normal" modes of perception and into deep physical union with music, which is about as close as we can get to sexual union, only it is better and it wont kill us. Those who describe, in the most analytical terms the characteristic of music they are experiencing in their home, just dont get. The audio arts is doing its job when you need to rip your clothes off your body and dance naked in your living room. If you are comparing micro-dynamics to macro-dynamics then your audio system is not working properly and you should start all over. Or ask yourself this question...can you smell the aroma of the music, or can you smell the fires burning in your loins when everything is just right?
HEARING EVOLVES: Everything about you is always evolving, and that means that your sensitivity to what you love is becoming more intense...and that is especially true for you musical sensitivity. What sounds great today may annoy you tomorrow. Cant be helped.
PASSIVE VS. AGGRESSIVE RELATIONSHIP TO MUSIC: There is nothing wrong with being a musical couch potato, and there is nothing wrong with buying a Honda motorcycle. Yet there is an ancient truth that applies to all human endeavors...if you want the most, if you want to experience the edge...you have to make a commitment to be actively involved. Your home music system is your instrument and you have to learn to tune it. This is as easy as knowing the difference between what flavor of food you like, or what cigars you prefer or what kind of women turns you on. All that you have to do is relax and let your body tell you how it (you) are feeling. What feels best for you? This is no different that finding the perfect nine iron, or tuning for your Hawg motor..no pain, no gain. I like to think of a music system as a perfectly ripe mango that needs to be squeezed.
THE LISTENER AS ARTIST: The gifts of listening are not equally distributed. None of this will make sense to you if you are not a gifted listener. But let us pause for a moment... men who have gifted tongues are insulted unless the finest vintage wines are in their mouth. That is the way I feel about my ears. I am insulted by anything less than the finest music, and I dont mind drinking a fine $4 bottle of wine. If you are born with above average listening gifts then you must express the creative energy implicit in your gift for listening.
THE EMPEROR IS WEARING NO CLOTHES: This is probably the most tender vulnerability in the world wide audio community that most hate to talk about. There really isnt any such thing audio engineering, there is only quasi/faux audio engineering, and in my about to be published book UNDERSTANDING TUBE ELECTRONICS II, I will make this obvious. All of audio engineering uses distortion measurements of both simple and complex noise signal to make value judgments about audio equipment, which is like judging the flavor of food based on its color. Firstly, no one knows what the relationship is between a test noise signal and music other than that there are so dissimilar that no scientist has ever been able to calculate a correlation. Measuring music quality, even if a music signal could be measured, (and it never has), is akin to measuring the quality of love, because judgments of music quality are judgments about beauty and passion and as I asserted before this is not only culturally determined but very personal, and not possible to measure with electronic devices.
I a recent speech I gave about this subject someone in audience asked if I thought such a goal could ever be achieved...I assured them that 24 hours after we measured the quality of Mona Lisas smile we would be able measure the quality of a music signal.
While it is necessary to use conventional test procedures and sophisticated test equipment when designing audio equipment, the creating of significant audio gizmos is still an art. And let me remind you that the Pyramids were built without an formal engineering.
This whole process is also complicated by the "lie" that it is possible to make quality judgment about a single piece of equipment. How can any single piece of audio equipment be judged unless it is an entire audio system? How can we separate the contribution one piece of equipment is making when all of the elements of the system, including the room acoustics are interacting with each other? The savants know that there is an organic unity to every audio system, but choose not to discuss this subject for fear of scaring away customers. Yet, we all know this reality in everything we do.
What is the point of all of this...audio engineering is about 10% engineering and about 90% art, and there is nothing wrong with that because long before audio engineering existed we acquired the skill to differentiate between a rose and a turd. Remember all of the great music instruments were developed without one piece of electronic test equipment, and no technology yet exists that equals the ears refinement to discern quality.
HOW TO USE MAGAZINE REVIEWS: WHO DRESSES YOU IN THE MORNING? At some point in our life we learn how to dress ourselves and then slowly over time we develop our own unique style of dressing, like wearing kilts and making an asshole out of oneself. When we are young we need authority and someone elses order to guide us, but we then must break free and discover our own truth. So it is with audio reviews. And I remind you that I am an audio reviewer for three magazines.
Because you are evolving you are now ready to establish your own authority over your own experience of music. Yes, it is true that there is a vast difference in audio equipment, but the notion that anyone else, including me, knows whats best for you is absurd. Yet over and over again I am confronted by the paradox of universal music culture...all over the world music lovers in diverse cultures gravitate towards certain patterns. The current world wide craze with directly heated triode tubes is an example of this.
Remember that an audio magazines business agenda is not your artistic agenda, so just be true to yourself, and be sure to use the world wide web to get as much feedback as possible before you commit to any serious purchase. Your fellow audiomaniacs can give you better advice than any magazine reviewer.
And here is another HI-IQ suggestion: Use the web to find someone in your town who has the kind of equipment you are interested in, and convince him to tell you come to his home to check out the sound. This is much better than any audition you can have in a store.
Creating an audio system is a very pieous task and must be taken seriously. Dont move to fast, and check out the equipment in a home.
TRANSPORTATION AND TRANSFORMATION; Every morning I meditate on the banks of Ganges river, and especially enjoy having lunch at Birdland in 1954. After dinner I usually travel to the Nth Dimension of Music Hyper-Space. How is this all possible? A properly tuned audio system will transport you where ever you need to go. It is why we spend the effort tuning our systems, and it is worth the trouble because we save a considerable fortune on airplane tickets, hotel accommodations, vaccinations and we can still walk the dog and take out the garbage.
SPEND TIME ON THE WEB: This is the best place to get a good education.
Anything worthwhile, is worthwhile because it gives us exactly the right combination of pleasure and pain to discover who we are...so right on, ride on, and write on.
e-mail Dr. Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg: firstname.lastname@example.org
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