Doctor's orders

Today's brief editorial follows on the heels of this one. So perhaps revisit that first?

/– intermission –/

The obvious follow-on question is, when is good enough enough?

To my mind, a perfect place to stop is when we have achieved a state of equanimity or balance. Nothing bothers us. Nothing distracts us. There's only enjoyment of listening to music.

Our very human problem is boredom. It's all too easy to get bored by balance and any lack of complications. We might be far more identified with fixing or perfecting things. Leaving them alone creates "I can't just do nothing" anxiety. That stirs up restless "I gotta do something" energies. So upon reading the next review or forum post, this anxious impulse buys us a new hifi something. It's nearly predictable yet entirely self-inflicted that this addition/change shall nix our so carefully curated prior balance. We might change just one thing but because all others connect, we affect the precarious balance of the lot. Of course since we'd grown bored with that, we applaud the upset. It's pushed a new aspect into the foreground to be admired and worshipped. We're in the thrall of recency bias. We've got a crush on the new.

Trouble is, any imbalance has the nasty habit of wearing out its welcome. Eventually it starts rubbing us wrong. If we've done the old sell-to-buy routine, we can't readily go back. We can't reinstate our former balance. That's unless our ego is gracious enough to admit error and lets us buy the very thing again we just sold. How likely is that? Hello curiosity. Even though we could admit to the mistake and easily fix it—we know exactly what caused it—what if?

With that commences our next cycle of balance lost and the chase to reinstate it, perhaps at an even higher level. This mechanism is embedded in the audiophile habit of endless upgrades. The word 'upgrade' should really read 'downgrade' unless it redresses equanimity to cause a listening experience where nothing stands out to vie for attention; where we simply confront a holistic vision.

If we can't cherish balance when achieved—I propose that a vital part of hanging on to it isn't emotional at all but relies on a foundational understanding of the matter and the psychology involved—we must suffer its loss and the resultant repeat of its pursuit. If we're keen on getting out of this race, the ideal point would be when our system has achieved a state of balance. Yes there are higher and lower expressions of balance. But what they all share in common is a sense of ease. That's an absence of complications and concern. In fact it's only when all concerns vanish from our experience that a door to greater depth and self-forgetfulness opens.

Whenever the means to an end recede from awareness to cancel all need to be tended to, the end itself becomes our reward and fullest engagement. And isn't that the whole point; to hit 'play' and simply get on with the luxury of enjoying our favorite tunes?

Knowing when to stop could thus be the most important lesson in all of audiophilia. It's not about specific hardware or technology. It's about maturing the listener so that balance achieved is recognized and rightly treasured to stop the wheel there.

Yes. Spot on. Bravo!

No. Absolutely not.


I propose that doubting this signals lack of understanding; and making the chase more important than the arrival. If we identify as endless fixers and playing doctor, that's perfectly appropriate and as it should be. If we want to become finders and transcend the obsessive search, then not. Now recognizing balance is the golden key so we can know when to stop, really be set for the long haul and call it a day.

New Year's day resolution perhaps? If so, we're ready for this