November 27, 2013, 19:12. It’s when the first KIH feature published. Running out of double digits, today’s is the last. Like a Year’s End overview feature, it calls for a conclusion of sorts, a condensation of what came before. We want a distillate so concentrated essence: 252’000 individual petals from about 8’000 rose flowers went in—that might actually approximate the total word count–one 5ml bottle of rose oil comes out. Enjoy.
Perhaps. Whatever I had to say on the wider hi-fi subject I’ve said, often repetitively so. In the end, there’s only so much I can say about it. The rest is all about doing it; or bloody well should be. It’s inexperience and immature insecurity which hope for guidelines to avoid mistakes. Nobody died from bad sound yet I think. Still, wasting money on unsatisfying outcomes is arguably second worst. But what’s bad sound really if simply sound you don’t enjoy? First and last is our personal enjoyment. That’s why we do hi-fi and music playback over appliances beyond mere basics of a mono table radio or throwaway earbuds and generic smartphone. That being the case, what authority other than our own could possibly know what we enjoy? Hello!
It’s that simple. Go to a Baskin Robbins ice cream parlour of 31 flavours. Work your way through the lot. Pick a favourite. End of. Whatever anyone else may prefer matters nought. It’s your tastebuds. Why whine about having to eat so many different icy creams before arriving at the end? If you can’t settle on just one, call it two favourites. Lucky you.
Whinging about doing the same for hi-fi is no different. Listening to music is pure luxury. Even at its audiophile worst it still is that; like last century’s FM radio broadcast crackling in and out of mono reception in our first busted-up jalopy of a car: ‘twas sheer delight and a massive upgrade to riding our bicycle during a windy downpour. Now many years have passed. We can finally afford to fret over fine hi-fi. Champagne problems. Why does hi-fi suddenly seem so complicated?
After 20 years of writing on hi-fi, this I still don’t comprehend. Let’s call a spade a spade. Perception is reality. We each make our own with the particular filters our nervous system, habits and biases insert. What works for us may not work for another. And vice versa. Period. What works for us we can only find out by trying as many things as possible. Period. It’s all kindergarten stuff. If we lack natural incentive born of authentic curiosity and desire, why pretend that we care enough about hi-fi? Just get something we can afford and like the looks of. As long as it makes a sound when we press ‘play’, what more do we need? We obviously don’t care enough to investigate the matter more deeply. We obviously resist collecting more personal experiences about it. The moment we ask another what they think, we’re already lost. When it comes to personal gratification, nobody knows but us. Nobody else matters.
If we don’t live alone, what we put into a shared lounge room will certainly require agreement from our partners. Some compromise is natural. But if audio was so important to us that we wouldn’t be prepared to compromise by even one iota, why haven’t we already secured the necessary circumstances as in not getting married, not moving in together or having a dedicated listening room? There are far too many lame excuses going around and far too little gumption whereby people experiment, make mistakes (how else do any of us learn) and in the process, refine their intimacy with and appreciation of the hobby.
I promised you a distillate of ninety-eight preceding features. You might feel disappointed now but – this was that. Really. There’s nothing wrong with learning from the mistakes of others. There’s nothing wrong with asking for some advice. But the foundation against which all such insights and advice are used is always our personal experience, then decision. Why can’t we trust in our own experience? Should our ears enjoy something which the audiophile police or forum hyenas claim is wrong… how does it matter? Perhaps our wiring is inverted. So what? It’s our wiring. We must live with it. Why can’t we trust our own enjoyment? Should that change over the years, we adapt. We stop buying white wine and start drinking red. It’s not complicated.
In the absence of hi-fi shows to attend and possible lock-down limitations on visiting fellow enthusiasts, there’s always working with a dealer; or directly with a manufacturer via pre-arranged return privilege. So what if the dealer is a 5-hour drive away? Make an appointment to guarantee sufficient time for expert consultancy. Turn the whole thing into a hi-fi getaway. Listen to many different things, mint personal experiences, pay the dealer a fair rate for his time and access to their hardware and premises should you leave empty-handed just more educated. Anyone truly into hi-fi who just starts out doesn’t need people like me to say any of this. They’re already doing it. That’s my point. If you’re not already doing that and all the other perfectly obvious stuff people do when they are passionate about something… then you’re just a pretender who makes sorry excuses. In which case, why not spend your energy, attention and hard-earned money on something which you truly care about?
So you see, there’s no need for Keeping It Honest #100. You’re all perfectly fine on your own. Trust your God-given ears. Prosper. Make it so. Cue the theme song. Cheers.