Hogwash. Pure, unadulterated hogwash. That's what I think about a lot of what I read on the audio Net. Sorry. When in the world did we audiophiles ascend to such lofty pretensions?
"It's The Music Stupid" read one button seen a few years ago at CES. If that were true, we'd all be listening to our music on portable transistor radios. Remember the kind you used as a kid when you first discovered your deep affection for music? It was mono. It lacked any semblance of dynamics. It was extremely bandwidth-limited and it had horrid resolution. But, somehow, 'twas all we needed to connect with the music. If it really were all about the music and just the music, (I swear, your Honor) then those little radios would be all we'd need. Right?

But no, we are audiophiles. Gasp. Uncomfortable silence. Gnashing teeth. You know what? We need to eliminate both pretense and guilt about that! Most of us are guys. It's a well-known fact that guys have always and will always like toys. Couple that love of toys with a deep affection for music and you get an audiophile: A guy who loves music and toys and has found a way to combine two of his deepest passions. Nothing wrong with that, is there?

What's wrong with the following statement though? "You're not a true music lover if the price of your system exceeded the value of your CD collection." This is another one of those straw men I'm just sick to my stomach reading about.

Think about it. It's as silly as our collective guilt over being audiophiles. The average guy with a life -- you know, job, wife and family? -- has probably 2 hours a day to listen intently to his music. That adds to fourteen hours a week of musical enjoyment. Or, roughly, 14 discs per week. If he owned a $10,000 system (really easy to do for most of us), that would equate to a musical library of 625 discs at an average of $16 per disc. Divide that by his stingy 14 disc-per-week ration. We find that he can only listen to any one of his treasured CDs about once every 45 weeks.

Do you listen to your favorite disc once a year? I don't. I've got my discs put away in a cabinet. My hot stack of 25 or 30 discs [left] that I listen to all the time remains out and close by. As with other aspects of life, success is always found in balance.

And then there's the crap I read, about how commercialism has tainted the review process to make all you ever read into positive reviews - as though writing a negative review somehow bestowed credibility on a reviewer. More hogwash. Negative reviews can be just as deceitful and contrived as positive reviews. The fact of the matter?

Most gear out there really is quite good at achieving its designer's goals within various contexts. Note how I referred to the designer's goals, not necessarily the buyer's needs. Those are not -- nor should they be -- the same by necessity. Consider the vast variety of flavors in speakers, the even wider deviation in rooms and their effects on the sound. Expecting one piece of electronic gear to appeal to one and all is irrational. What's good for the goose may indeed be very wrong for the gander. Throw in that yet more nebulous factor of constantly varying personal taste. The reviewing quagmire grows ever more treacherous. Or does it?

Not in my personal opinion. It's really not that difficult when Job #1 is to report on what we hear rather than how we feel about it. When a product achieves synergy with our tastes, room, and system, the reviewer (being human) certainly can't help but wax poetic. But baring such synergy, rather than pronouncing a product unfit for human consumption-- within certain parameters of course -- the reviewer should just do his job and convey, as best he can, the flavor of the piece in question. Then the component will find its own audience, those who sympathize with its personality. What floats my boat may rain on your parade. Much more important than how a reviewer felt about it? It's how exactly the piece under evaluation sounded to him.

I don't understand how so many readers can comment on whether or not a review was favorable while never getting into the specifics of what, precisely, the reviewer observed. Well, enough about that. I guess I should be saying something about myself now?

First and foremost, I'm a music lover. I've been crazy for music for most of my 40+ years. I've been playing the guitar for well over 25 years and I believe that, still and to this point, I've owned more guitars than speakers. I'm completely self-taught and can't read a lick of music. I play completely by ear. My educational background's in business. Graduating in 1980 with a BS in Accounting and a minor in Economics dropped me smack-dab into one of modern history's worst job markets. I was only then coming to understand how a 9 to 5 desk job wasn't for me. I decided to continue on with the trade I had inadvertently backed into while still in high school: By graduation time, I was pretty much decided on wanting to be a chef. That's where I concentrated my efforts.

Today, I'm the Executive Chef at an East Coast country club. I've been there for over 20 years and love my work. At the time of writing, I've been playing in the deep end that's the high end for over 20 years. I've owned various makes of electronics, both tube and solid state, but most know me as a speaker guy. I've owned a multitude of different brands and at least one model each to represent most of the possible loudspeaker design principles. Right now my two-channel system is as follows:

Preamplifier: Bel Canto Design PRe2P. The best pre I've ever used.

Power amplifiers: 1) The Art Audio Carissa - the one tube amplifier to have when you're not having more than one!

2) The Canary Audio CA-330 monos. These push/pull 300B monos combine tone and power to an exciting degree.

3) The Bel Canto Design e.One Ref1000 monos, high-current high-power analog switching amps based on ICEpower technology.

Speakers: 1) Horning Perikles - Lowther magic with real treble and bass.

2) Tidal Audio Piano - expensive but worth every penny, these German speakers have rewritten for me what to expect from a conventional dynamic box speaker.

3) Ohm Walsh 4 with 4.5.2 driver update. A full-range omni that works.

Analog: Merrill-Scillia Reseach MS2 table, Hadcock GH Export arm, Ortofon Kontrapunkt H cartridge

Digital: Accustic Arts Drive-1 top loader and Audio Aero Prima SE tube DAC. The digital interlink is a Furutech Digi-Reference.

Wires & Cables: JPS Labs Superconductor 3 speaker wires and interconnects.

Power Cords: I feel that power conditioning is the most important and misunderstood tweak one should investigate. JPS Labs Power AC and Digital AC are great cords and great values. I also use their Kaptivators on power amps. Terrific stuff.

Power Conditioner: The BPT BP-3.5 Signature with all the custom trimmings.

Signal Conditioning: "For my money, [the Z-Sleeves from ZCable are] the easiest and most assured way to take your system to the next level. If increased system focus, a smoother and more refined midrange, greater treble purity, a lowered noise floor and an added dose of micro-dynamic finesse appeal to you, they are a great place to start."
Vibration Control: Last but not least? The Vibrapods. I use them everywhere. I place them on a shelf (heeding their warning about fine finishes, of course!), place a custom sheet of glass across the pods and then place the component on the glass. I've been ceremoniously using them for years. They are as effective as they are cheap!

By night, I've been writing about audio since 1996. After an 18-month stint at SMR Home Theater, I joined the SoundStage! Network where, one year later, I was promoted to Senior Contributor. For 4 years, I contributed equipment reviews to SoundStage and sister-site Home Theater & Sound. During those years, I wrote some 75 equipment reviews and contributed additional reviews of multichannel SACD music releases. Of course, the best music is always made better when one shares it with the family. Without the love and support of my wife (and really good sport!) Becca, and my daughters Danielle [left] and Grace, this journey just wouldn't be as much fun. Yeah, I'm a lucky man indeed.

Now, let's have some fun!