Friday, May 13, 2011

What Does This Smell Like To You?

"The Evolution 525 uses a highly stable linear power supply rather than an inferior switching style to ensure more consistent and reliable disc drive operation. Separate power for the drive mechanism, digital circuitry, analog, and video circuitry prevents interference. A custom-wound toroidal power transformer, 10 times larger than those found in typical players, provides tremendous current reserves and assures low-noise analog stage operation. Extensive multi-regulation delivers rock-steady power to all gain stages, ensuring maximum dynamic impact."

If that paragraph aroused you a little bit, you might well be an audiophile. It is the description of the power supply for a CD/DVD player from Krell Industries. It costs $14,000. You are paying $14,000 for something that does nothing more than play CD's and DVD's. Think about that.

I love audio equipment. I have about $3,000 worth of audio/video junk in my living room and add more every year. But at the same time, I have nothing but distaste for the bulk of the "audiophile" world, since it's primarily very expensive snake oil about which men get self-important. I say men, because I don't think that there is a single female audiophile on Earth.

There is a significant amount of substance to audiophile equipment. Anyone who's ever listened to the output of $10,000 amps knows full well that the money is going somewhere. The argument at that point becomes whether there's any difference between a $30,000 amp and a $10,000 amp. I know that there is a difference, but worth thousands of dollars? Not on your life.

So the audiophile equipment makers rely on fancy words to make their shit seem reasonable. It's here that they reveal themselves to be just another watch. Watch? Yes. Men can buy watches that cost millions of dollars. You have not encountered insipid, shallow, self-important blather until you've had an overly-entitled man talk to you about the technology that went into his watch. The watch example is more salient to more people because watches and personal ornamentation are more widespread, but the underlying principle is the same. For the same reason the average person would shoot someone who tried to talk about their Rolex, the average person would shoot someone who wants to talk about their $30,000 amplifier.

Back in the day, there was more substance to audiophile hardware. Alloys were crap, connectors were poor, we didn't understand the technology as well as we do, today. But that was an analog world. There was a waveform that went from the media to the speakers, and every step affected that waveform. Today, there is no waveform. There are ones and zeroes. Those ones and zeroes remain identical at every step. But an audiophile company can't live on amps alone. Oh, no. So it must conjure up products that people will buy more often, like receivers and players, and it must likewise conjure up claptrap to go along with them so you don't feel like you're simply being taken for a ride.

Nothing in the opening paragraph has any substance, and it takes very little analysis to come to that conclusion. It's written like the word spaghetti from an electrical engineers mid-term paper. I asked what it smells like to you, because it smells remarkably like bullshit to me.

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