BLOG #59. 12 Audiophile Steps of Stairway to Heaven

George Barten once wrote the following:

“Remember this. The true measure of a man (meaning mankind, men and women), is not their position in life, how much money they have, the cloths they wear, or the mark they leave on the world.

The true measure of a man is what it takes to discourage him. Keep your eye on the prize with perseverance and you will achieve your goal!

The first thing you must do is to acquire a vision. A vision is a clearly articulated picture of the future you intend to create for yourself. In other words, it's a dream. However, if the dream does not have direction, it will never become a reality. That vision should create a passion within you, a love for what you do and the benefit it brings others as well as yourself. Make sure the vision is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and tangible.

Once you have that vision, you will need a mentor to help you develop a road map with short term objectives leading to the overall goal… It will take some research, but you most likely have some ideas already. Follow them through, look at the nature of the field, the everyday routine, the required education, …and the related fields.

When [an occupation] sparks an interest, try to shadow an individual who is actually doing what you think you would like to do. You can pick up valuable information this way”.

In full accordance with the above, below are the main ideas/steps, which are defined specifically for High End Audio.

Which are the ones that you should be fully aware of, and, according to my own personal experience, that awareness is the only way which would allow you to thread a correct road map through complete appreciation of a role of each of these steps to arrive at the best possible sonic achievements.

This road map, in my opinion, will allow everyone, who really wants it, to climb at “The Highest Peaks of Audio”.

1. “Awareness”

A clear-cut awareness of “why I need all of this” is the main recipe for success:

2. “There Is No Such Thing As A Free Information”

If уou don't pay for an information, then somebody else does.

Those “somebody else’” interests can be not only completely different from yours, but, as a rule, can go completely against them.

3. “The More You Try To Penetrate Into The Specialized Knowledge, The Worse For You”

As the level of competence “at the input” will define the sonic results “at the output”, then the conclusion is obvious.

There is no substitute for time and effort spent to achieve a true competence in a certain field. Which you can compete with only after you have been devoting all your life to the same occupation. Besides, for truly outstanding results you do need some special talents, a specialized education and an extensive personal experience in this particular area of knowledge.

The main criterion of application of this principle, as all the ones below, is your core occupation, and if it’s not directly linked to audio, then you should have no hesitations to read further.

4. “Internet Forums Are Not Sites For Discussions”

A catch phrase by a Russian Parliament speaker Boris Gryslov - that “The Parliaments are not the sites for discussions”, which he said in 2007, is fully applicable to the audio Internet forums.

The same way as The Russian State Duma, seems, to serve any purposes except for to discuss its electorate’s concerns (a point, to which Gryzlov possibly had referred to in his quote, however unconsciously), the same way the specialized Internet forums are “tuned” to anything but to defend its participants’ interests.

That is why the forums are appropriate only to get rid of the “old”, but are completely useless in terms of obtaining anything “new”. Especially, if we would talk about obtaining some new knowledge. Due to various reasons, to stagnate at various specialized forums is the least effective way to spend your time and effort.

5. “Specialized Audio Shows Are Double-Edge Swords”

The same way as to heal the pain from hemorrhoid doesn’t assume visiting medical trade shows, the same way visiting some professional audio shows can only prevent to heal “the hemorrhoid pain” of buying some new audio equipment.

The situation at these events would remind us a situation in a movie theatre when you would try to judge an image quality at the screen while the projectionist have forgotten to turn off the light.

That is why the quality of sonic evaluations at such shows, when they are taken out of the context of accounting for all the rest of “steps” described hereby, would only lead to falling off our “Stairway To Heaven”.

Correspondingly, the only benefit from visiting the specialized audio show is to fill your personal “awareness gap” with chances of direct human interactions, which can, for an example, to help you to find a right - for your particular personal needs - “doctor”.

6. “The Question Should Be Not “What To Buy”, But “Where To Buy”

Alternatively, the title of this section can be read as “The Question Should Be Not “What To Buy”, but “From Whom””.

A concrete brand or a concrete model can be, with no doubt, an important condition to facilitate a sonic success, but a direct human interaction with appropriate experts, who are sincerely interested in defending your interests and helping you, and who are fully qualified, is a much more important factor to achieve your personal goals in audio.

The same experts will not only help to realize the full potential of your hardware, but, also, they will be indispensable to maintain and to support the equipment in future.

That is why the main issue is to find such appropriate guiding experts whose reliable opinion at “the input” of your project would define the whole end result “at its output”.

As Andy Singer, the venerable owner of a very famous but now defunct “Sound by Singer” audio salon in New York, told me in my interview with him a few years ago, “The worst thing that have ever happened to High End Audio is that we had delegated the choice of the gear to the customers”.

7. “A Chain From A Manufacturer To A Consumer”

If you would allow it to stabilize in time, a “chain” from a manufacturer to a consumer (via all the intermediaries in between: the distributors, the dealers, the sales force, the installers, etc.) will always be formed according to a match between the inner qualities of a product and “the inner human qualities” of all the “links” in it.

The same chain in the opposite direction will eventually close the feedback loop to the manufacturer with a new demand.

As they say, “an apple doesn’t fall far from an apple-tree”, that is all along the chain, either “some embezzlers short change the embezzlers”, or “some devoted passionates serve some devoted passionates”.

There is no middle ground in such a scheme of things, as if a truth is a logical “one”, and a lie is a logical “zero”, then just a single “lie” from just one of the links in the chain, even multiplied by all the “ones” in the rest of it, still would yield a “zero”.

8. “You Reap What You Sow”

A thoughtful planning via interaction with some honest experts, a hard determination and a lot of stamina – are all the recipes for success in any undertaking.

Therefore, any hiccups from inability to resist to temptations to spend as fast as possible some money that burns your pocket, or a failure to resist an anticipation “buzz” for a new toy will always lead to a complete failure.

A good planning is always directly linked to a correct list of priorities.

For instance, In terms of contribution to the overall sound quality, the biggest contribution always comes from a fundamental awareness regarding “why I need this” and from the awareness about all the steps you should climb on the way to a sonic Heaven.

The second most important contribution to the overall sound quality are the properties of a given acoustic environment.

The third one comes from making a choice between “an active” or “a passive” configuration of an audio system and from the selection of some corresponding means of its tuning and its adjustment.

The fourth one are the properties of the chosen acoustic transducers and the properties of their positioning within the given acoustic environment.

The fifth one comes from the properties of the selected amplifiers.

The sixth one comes from the properties of the sound source components.

And only after all the above is taken care of, there comes the much smaller contributions from all the rest of the hardware and some auxiliary equipment, therefore, only after making all the more significant decisions we should decide on some less significant - the seventh, the eighth, etc. - ones (the infamous cable ware included).

Any attempt “to put the cart before the horse” will always lead to a complete disaster.

9. “Your Material Success Is Directly Proportional Not To The Benefit You Bring To The Society, But, On The Opposite, It’s Directly Proportional To The Harm You Inflict On It”

This statement is a direct logical conclusion from a liberal ideological doctrine, currently dominating in the “Western” civilization (to support it you should look no further than to evaluate a conformity of validity of some passages from the George Barten’s quote above to the contemporary context).

There is no doubt that the statement in the title of this “step” is slightly over exaggerating. But if you choose a certain bifurcation point for financial income in a particular region, then you would, probably, agree, that, if individuals earning below that income level bring more benefit to the society than inflict harm on it, then the ones “earning” above it, for sure, inflict more harm on the society than they benefit it.

That is why, any audio products that I saw the most of a meaning in and the most of a depth in, have been never in demand on the market, but all the products that “I wouldn’t personally touch with a long stick” is exactly what I have been physically surviving on through all my years in audio business.

Moreover, this is the exact reason why I’ve never been surprised that all the attempts to embody “the soul’s noble bursts” in High End Audio, that is the products built to benefit others, had always failed commercially.  

As I see it, the vast majority of people can only judge others for themselves; therefore, if some of them would make a living by deceiving others twenty-four hours a day, then from their own personal experience they would tend to conclude that the rest of us are busy doing the same.

Because of this, to people with some genuinely good intentions to break through such a prejudice becomes, as a rule, more and more difficult.

10. “The Bigger The Company, The Less Chances It Would Come Up With An Absolute Quality Product”

From the previous section it follows that a level of material success of an audio product can be an indicator of intentions behind it.

Which creates a context for your decision-making: if you treat yourself as being a more-or-less “ordinary” consumer it should guide you in one direction, but if you see yourself pretending on “the best it can be”, it would guide you in a totally opposite one.

With one reservation, though.

A small size of a company is just a necessary condition to come up with an absolute quality of a product. The sufficient one can be a combination of appropriate competence in the field, an access to all the required technologies, strong determination, high resilience, and so on, where a good luck – to be at the right time at the right place – is one of the most important conditions to realize a vision in a completely finished commercial product).

11. “The Matter Is Not To Make A Right Decision, The Matter Is To Make A Decision Which Later Should Be Made Right”

Both endless sporadic “swaps of a piece of soap for an awl”, and constant bouts of sweet anticipation “buzz” procrastinations, would lead to nowhere.

Actually, if you have climbed the previous awareness “steps” described above, you should be already in full capacity to make all the right decisions.

But however “right” they might be, to fully realize the complete potential of all the technologies “on board”, you would still need to take some numerous subsequent “right” decisions, let alone, you would still need to do quite a few of some “right” deeds.

12. “No Pain – No Gain”

There is no denial that this is my favorite “step”.

In the context of Consumer Electronics industry, any additional efforts on the customer’s side are treated as an anathema. That’s why the quality of all the commercial products is limited not only by the full capabilities of the applied audio technologies, the most of which reached their saturation point a long time ago, but also by an inability of the industry to “disturb” their consumers with asking them to be “a little more” involved.

If we would estimate the capability of a certain commercial audio product in a percentage of the full potential of all the technologies used in it, then in the vast majority of the commercial cases we would, probably, speak about less than fifty percent. Because of it, to realize the rest of the potential we have no choice but to ask the customers to be engaged.

That is we have to ask the customers that strive for “the best it can be”, in total disregard of the Consumer Electronics industry’s paradigm, to be fully aware that to move any forward they need to invest their own additional personal effort.

So, the more determined the latter crowd would be, and the more content it would become with replacing the “100%-comfort” mantras with their revision, the more of a “dormant” potential of the current audio technologies they will be able to realize.

And the more sonic gains they will be able to capitalize on along the way to harness “The Highest Peaks of Audio”.

I would like to conclude this with a quote from “Dreams of Amethyst” by Yuni:

“[Why achieve?]

Big question!!!!

I would say, to grow in life, but in 100 years from now all of us are going to be dead, so what's the point?

Then maybe, grow spiritually? But unless you believe in something like reincarnation or resurrection and that involves preserving your memories and past experiences, (which is kind of difficult to believe, since we have diseases like Alzheimer's that take away brain function even during life).

I think the real answer would be: Know yourself”.

This last quote clearly justifies all the efforts spent on any significant achievement because it points in the direction of obtaining a state of an individual happiness: after all, to be happy, first, you need to know yourself, and, second, you need to live your life in full accordance with that knowledge.

And that’s why “A Stairway To Heaven” can be with audiophile “steps” too.

13.02.2019 // Author:  (Bigmisha) // Number of views:  362

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