Men listening to fleas that break wind.

The wobble has been a catalyst for self-indulgence and arguments beyond the call of good manners. This isn’t a new observation; most people blame the inherent pseudo-anonymity of message boards and blogs for this development. Mostly it’s ironically funny to observe in a statesman-gets-mauled-with-nation-landmark sort of way. Less amusing are the dire straights ordinary people are going through trying to have a chat about their hobbies. This is very apparent in “High Fidelity” discussions where technocrats meet them voodoo people.

I admit it: I used to be part of the issue. Just check rec.audio.high-end for confirmation. Whenever somebody showed up asking about a manufacturer’s outlandish marketing claims or, worse, actively rhapsodising on the merits of technically broken equipment, well, there we were. Links were sent hither and tither, ham-fisted measurements exchanged, and after something like ten postings the general tone of the argument went south. South of heaven, to be more precise.

And it’s pretty much the same today. One army peddling questionable explanations for an overpriced piece of hardware’s justification to exist. The other going on and on about diagrams, narrow-minded arguments, and implied fraud. Both sides claim to know the Truth™, both sides won’t move an inch. And after a day or so, the artillery called ad hominem is put in place and used copiously.

What most parties in such discussions fail to accept is that it’s mainly an issue of confirmation bias: You’ll subconsciously look for explanations that confirm your predetermined conclusions. If you’re not careful, you’ll fall victim to what I like to call Creeping Bullshit: Tiny bits of confirming information will bring you, through adding up, to the brink of psychotic delusion. “Well, that’s obvious. This makes sense to me, too. Oh, and in the light of what I already know, this next step sounds reasonable.” In the end, you start explaining the better sound of SACD either with “humans react to frequencies they can’t hear, just think of being microwaved” or “mainstream recording quality measurably is dropping, hence the content industry obviously invests more money into the production of SACD so their cronies can sell more expensive hardware”.

Apart from it being quite silly wasting loads of time on pointless arguments both sides miss the real point of the discussion:

Listening to music. Not audio.

If you’re more interested in being able to hear a flea’s fart – and to explain why exactly speaker A reproduces it perfectly, while speaker B makes it sound like an elephant’s gas production – stop and reconsider. It’s a meta-discussion at best and won’t sway either you or your opponent. It just wastes time on both sides; time better used for actually listening to that damn Lady Gaga record.

Oh, wait …

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