BLOG #56. RMAF-2018 - The Path of the Least Resistance: Shorting Down a Heavenly Access to the Ground of an Earthly Possession

The RMAF-2018 in Denver is just over.

Hopefully, I wouldn’t sound like a jerk here - as I had to man our own Black Cat/StereoPravda booth at the Denver Marriott Hotel ground floor “Atrium” area - but to visit all the demoes at the show I had to allocate only 10 minutes per floor at the hotel tower and another hour for all the rooms below (CanJam included).

Nevertheless, that time happened to be more than enough to see that the main theme over there.

And as I saw it, it had much more to do with just getting a momentary kick out of “Possession” than it had to do with doing an extensive work of finding an entry point for "Access".

By the "Access", however corny it may sound, I mean here "the Access to the Very Soul of Music".

Which, by the way, is High End Audio's raison d’etre from its very inception, and which, in turn, defines its functionality - to facilitate personal education and inner growth via appreciation of some deep musical meanings.

I could digress here to more strict definition of this functionality (High End Audio as a tool to help to learn a new musical language), and also why I think true “melomans” are not interested at all in the hardware (they don’t need such an external help as they’ve already acquired all the relevant musical “linguistic” templates inside their brains, and they are not interested in any new ones), but I’d rather stay on the course of this story (those interested in more details on this subject can read the BLOG#19 on our website).

Consequently, the appropriate High End Audio “toolware” should be evaluated - first and foremost - from that perspective of its primal functionality, that is from a perspective of its effectiveness to facilitate to gain that “Access”.

On the other hand, by "Possession" I mean here the current audiophile community’s obsession over a personal possession of the very latest “bells” and all the most glittering new “whistles”.

…And even if during the last many similar shows I couldn’t really see too much novelty, both in home audio department, and in its portable “cousin’s” one…

For instance, some new advances I could had seen in home audio could had included some of the new truly effective ways to deal with the most important and the most expensive part of an audio system – the room – but, as always,  I’ve seen (almost) none of it (with a sole exception of a room-correction technology by deqx).

Instead, a typical home audio demo at this last RMAF would remind me of a situation when “…you would come to a movie theater, then you would buy your popcorn, then you would take your seat, then you would embrace your girlfriend, and then, finally, the movie would start… but, unfortunately, the projectionist would had forgotten to turn off the light in the theater…

…And then, everyone in the audience would start to complain about the image quality blaming “wrong” brand of the cables used in the projection booth, and suggesting their own favorite one as a remedy”.

A clear analogy, isn’t it?!

And it’s been exactly like what I heard when, for instance, Paul McGowan of PS Audio demonstrated at this show a truly museum piece, namely, late Arnie Nudell’s (of Infinity and Genesis Loudspeakers) own home system, which Arnie have been using to develop some of his last products.

The same omnipresent “the future in the past” aspect of the current audio technologies’ that have reached their saturation point a long time ago could be also witnessed at the portable section of the RMAF called the CanJam.

At this last CanJam show in Denver there were no real indicators of any kind of substantial technological growth in the industry.

Over there it was the same assortment of “one size fits all”/”100% universal” portable audio transducers (the insignificant variety of those stays practically the same for the last many years), and a complete absence of any substantial technological developments in all the other areas.

Like, for instance, there were no “active” multi-way configurations (preferably with some appropriate adjustments in-band on board) in sight… with a sole exception of us, StereoPravda, as we demonstrated there our own DACCA/SB-7A combo.

Nevertheless, if you need now to choose between two evils, and if you don’t have 10-20K to spend on the room acoustics (and a listening room to spare on top of it), I would never recommend to invest your time, energy and resources in a home version of High Performance Audio.

Because, if you take “the most important and the most expensive audio component – the room” – out of the sonic equation, then for the ten times less money you’d much more likely to find a point of the aforementioned  “Access” via an adequate portable audio system.

Correspondently, direct sonic comparison between the “home” part of this RMAF and its “portable” CanJam section demonstrated the validity of such a conclusion one more time, and with all the certainty.

To conclude this story, here’s how Steven Stone from The Abso!ute Sound magazine summed “The Most Significant” trend at this show in his report from it:

To quote, “…Big boxes are on their way out. Gear is becoming less obtrusive. Everybody wants to share their life with music, but more people don’t want to surrender large amounts of real estate to large shiny metal boxes”.

It’s a trivial remark, and if it were not written by a reporter from, formerly, one of the most adamant audio publication on the planet, of course, I would never even notice it.

But, Steven, what about the laws of physics?!

They are still the same…

You want to share your life with “music”?!

But, then, how did it happen that for 40+ years TAS magazine – the nest of all the stalwarts of the industry - touted those “large shiny metal boxes” as 100% indispensable to get an “Access” to real music, and what do we have now?!

The magazine finally decided that you don’t really need those, and that if “you want to share your [comfortable] life with music” it welcomes that the gear can be easily discarded, am I correct?!

Through all these years, the end result of suchlike audiophile dichotomy has been very obvious at all similar shows, so this one was not an exception: basically, for the last many years they’ve become the demonstrations of how our industry ends up “sitting in between two chairs".

That is, on the one hand, it should be obvious that you can't wear, say, a loudspeaker or a home amplifier on your wrist, so you can show it off to some “less fortunate” folks (albeit I must admit that, in this respect, it’s much easier to exploit status symbol qualities of the portable audio gear).

But, on the other, it should be obvious too, that a piece of an audio jewelry would never ignite your soul with music (the same is also fully applicable to the portable domain).

Nevertheless, the audio industry (and its media – see above) is still trying (in vain) to balance its act in the middle of “those two chairs”…

As a result of this unresolved paradox, the audio industry in general miss both of these two possible scenarios, which is easy to expect as one of them have absolutely nothing to do with the true spirit of High End Audio.

Whatever happens, the torch of High End Audio's old and proven values has been still smoldering at some of the exhibits in Denver.

But, even so, I didn't really feel too optimistic for the current state of our industry, as I didn’t really see there enough “fuel” inside the attendees' community to start - from those rare sparkles - a real fire.

Especially, when a typical show report quote above – from a very reputable source! - doesn’t really help anybody to instigate the process, and to steer it – as the appropriate media did many years ago - in the right direction (at the very least, the direction should not contradict both the principles of some very basic laws of physics, and the most basic ethics code).

Although, the current ubiquitous social atomization, which is cultivated by “powers-that-be” to sow the seeds of mistrust wherever it’s possible, doesn't help either to create some institutes of mentorship, education and convictions.

I am hoping that nobody would ever think reading this, that by “fuel” I would have possibly meant – God forbid! – the “green fuel” of cash…

What I mean here by the word “fuel” is that during this last RMAF show the vast majority of the show attendees – especially the younger ones - seemed to me not even capable of noticing such an "Access to (Musical) Heaven” even when it would open up just in front of their own ears.

Is there a reason for why, do I think, this happens?

I think, there is: simply because the vast majority of the show visitors don’t have enough of that “fuel” of true convictions to do the hard work to prove them.
And because of it, the audiophile community in general is counted on the lack of that “fuel”, not on the excesses of it, and so, that’s why it’s too eager, at the first opportunity, to fall into the path of the least resistance.

There is plenty of such “first opportunities” at audio shows, and – without any true convictions on the reasons why they are engaged in “the game” in the first place – nothing can be easier than to discard something old for the sake of possessing a something new.

And that’s why there is still a lot of people coming to the shows.

That is the vast majority of the visitors come to the audio shows now simply because, instead of obsessively working to gain an "Access to Musical Heaven", the current audiophile community gradually replaced that long work with a short circuit to the ground of being too possessed over such a mundane and down-to-earth deed as an anticipation of a next cycle of not conscious – and that’s why - absolutely meaningless "Possession".

17.10.2018 // Author:  (Bigmisha) // Number of views:  266

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