April 1, 2008
Challenging Long-Held Beliefs
Have you ever worked somewhere that was resistant to change, even when that change might benefit everyone? Its funny how human nature works: "Weve always done it like that" is the common reply, and seemingly smart people offer such an excuse even when it offers no good reason not to look at new ways of doing things that just might be better.
Audiophiles can be like that too, and Im no exception. Tying oneself to only tubes or solid-state, to only first-order crossovers or horn-loaded speakers, to only analog or digital, is antiquated thinking. Maybe the old way is the best way, maybe not. An unwillingness to branch out and explore other potential routes to audio nirvana can be a roadblock on your way to fulfilling your audiophile dreams.
Although Ive been in the wont-change-my-ways camp at certain times, lately Ive been experimenting with music reproduction in some new and exciting ways: a computer-based source that has replaced my CD player; very-high-end subwoofers with sophisticated processing to help them integrate with my room and the rest of my system (see this months "The Worlds Best Audio System"); and, perhaps most shocking to my previous audiophile sensibilities, room correction via an Anthem D2 audio/video processor.
You read that right: At the risk of losing my audiophile street cred, Im exploring, and will soon write about, replacing my high-end D/A converter and five-figure preamplifier with a component that typically serves as the heart of a home-theater system. The Anthem D2 has advanced features, such as a built-in crossover and phase settings for integrating subwoofers into a system. It also includes the new ARC-1 room-correction software, developed by Anthems engineers at their Advanced Research Facility. So far, the results have been remarkable; youll read about them in detail in the next few months.
Ive told other audiophiles about all this and have gotten some interesting reactions. One fellow stated flat out that because the Anthem D2 costs "only $7500," it therefore "couldnt be that good." Another guy told me that hed never use a processor in his system, nor would he even consider hooking up his pricy speakers to a component with an active crossover.
The key word in that last proclamation is consider; it reveals a resistance to change: "I havent considered it, therefore I wont consider it," seems to be the line of thinking. Whether the underlying reason for this resistance is because the product doesnt cost enough, or because it doesnt fit the common system model, is unimportant. What strikes me as profoundly sad is the closed-mindedness it reveals -- a closed-mindedness that would preclude one from even entertaining new ideas that might prove to be advancements.
I challenge the resistant-to-change crowd -- of which Ive sometimes been a member -- to think outside the box. It doesnt mean we have to throw out everything weve come to believe in. It doesnt even mean that we have to try anything new. It does mean that we should consider the possibility that something other than what we think is best might actually be better. Once weve crossed that bridge, maybe well enter a new world of discovery.
And if youre already way ahead of me -- Im certainly not the first to try some of these newfangled audio toys -- then thank you for leading the way. My latest tinkerings are teaching me a lot about audio reproduction, and in the process, Im learning a lot about my own audiophile preconceptions.
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