Enjoy the Music.com

The Absolute Sound

From The Editor...
April / May 2004
By Robert Harley

  The two biggest problems facing the high-performance audio industry today are, first, a general lack of awareness that it exists, and, second, the perception among those who have heard of the high end that this hobby is for the super-wealthy and the super-weird only. The Absolute Sound is committed to overcoming these obstacles to more people enjoying good sound.

To that end, as many of you have noticed, we're reviewing more entry-level and mid-priced gear. While this may be disconcerting to some long-time readers, I'll bet that when they started off with modest systems and built them up over the years. Affordable yet highly musical components are what initially convinced all of us that spending time, money, and intellectual energy on high-performance music-reproduction equipment paid us back in spades in musical enjoyment. Without those vital first rungs on the ladder, this magazine could never hope to share its passion for music and the quality of musical reproduction with a larger audience. We've also introduced some graphic changes to TAS to make what we have to say more appealing and accessible. Our seventeen-page feature on the Consumer Electronics Show in this issue is a good example.

What hasn't changed at TAS, however, is our fundamental belief that because music is important, reproducing it with the highest possible fidelity is important. When I say "highest possible fidelity," I don't mean that only state-of-the-art gear is worthy of consideration. Rather, our goal at TAS is to help readers achieve the highest possible fidelity for their given audio budget.

This statement may strike some as a rejection of the idea of the absolute sound the goal of recreating in our homes the sound of unamplified instruments in a real acoustic space. Entry-level products will obviously fall far short of that goal. But rather than considering entry-level products a rejection of the absolute sound, I see them -- and all true high-end products, no matter their price -- as an expansion of that ideal. If entry-level components come closer to delivering the absolute sound than mass-market ones do, then we need to bring such components to the attention of as many people as possible. And if TAS can catch the young music lover before he buys an audio appliance, and show him a more rewarding path, we've performed a great service not only to him, but to the high-end audio industry and, ultimately, to music and musicians.

To some few, reviews of budget equipment will always seem like an abandonment of what this magazine stands for, as stated in our name. But they are confusing an epistemology with an ideal. Yes, the absolute sound is the ideal that we all strive for, but it's also an epistemology -- a way of discovery and knowing. That way of knowing -- comparing the sound of unamplified instruments in a real acoustic space to its reproduction-gives us insight into the sonic merits of audio-reproduction components, no matter what their price. The concept of the absolute sound is a guide to discovery, not a justification for rejecting products that fall short of perfection. Of course, we'll continue to explore the state of the art in music reproduction technology in HP's Workshop and The Cutting Edge. Knowing what the state of the art is informs everything we do, but it isn't all that we do.

Our goal is simply to connect people with music. Can an audio magazine have a more noble purpose?




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