Apart from reminding Listener's readers how seldom I have been arrested compared to George W. Bush (the score stands at "zero" to "three that we know of"), I vow to keep the following observations as non-political as I can.
Today's concern goes to the heart of our hobby. Specifically, what should we, as audiophiles, be doing with our hi-fi gear? Should we use our stereos to lay bare every nuance of sound on our recordings, as faithfully and thoroughly as technology allows? Or should we use them as we would a drug, to achieve a musical bliss-out whenever the fancy strikes us?
And: Is it acceptable for us to even think of these as separate goals?
The old musical kicks-vs.-fidelity to the master tape argument has been around longer than Goldie Hawn, and it gets trotted out at least every other week on the various internet hi-fi forums. But a recent and very thoughtful letter brought it to the fore for me. Reader Bruce Winstein reacts to our review last issue of the Naim CDS CD player, in which I observe that the CD5's strengths are sufficient to "take a borderline-uninvolving disc and kick it up to another level, where it grabs your attention and keeps your mind from straying until the music is over." Winstein responded as follows:
My first reaction when I hear that set of criticism is, Hey, go pick on the surround sound guys: They're the ones who are perverting things all to hell for the sake of sonic giggles. Which is true. But that doesn't let me off the hook.
More often than not, of course, the opposite happens, and the timing information in a music recording is diminished - not just quickened or slowed consistently, but essentially distorted.
*This effect is largely misunderstood: How many times have you heard someone suggest that the Linn LP-12 turntable has good rhythm n' pace only because its amplitude response has a peak in the upper bass? Once would be too often because that's not just wrong, it's stupid-wrong.