I typed these two pieces from _Audio_, the latter being more fun, a pointed attack on some real idiots. While normally I am loathe to kick sick puppies, these are so destructive of a hobby I hold dear that they may need some pummeling. But I thought the first piece was interesting, too. ================================================================ "Front Row" by Corey Greenberg, _Audio_, 1997 August The Return of Mr. Microphone "One of the nice things about being an _Audio_ columnist is that I can not only strongly encourage but also grant full diplomatic immunity to any reader of this magazine who suddenly lunges forward and violently karate-kicks the next audiocreep who repeats that age-old hi-fi lie about how only people who regularly attend live music events can accurately judge the sound of audio gear. "I've been hearing this elitist line ever since I got into this hobby, and it's time to put it to rest once and for all. Because it's just plain wrong. If it weren't, then all the reviewers in the high end who get up on their hind legs about how they regularly `condition' their ears with live music would be at the top of their game, and the fact of the matter is most of these guys are clowns. Earnest, yes, but a clown can be earnest, too. He's just got to paint a frown on his mouth instead of a smile and carry a wilted, oversize prop daisy in a cracked pot (at least according to some carnies I run with). "The fact is, simply exposing yourself to live music on a regular basis does not enhance your listening ability one iota. You can attend all the live music you want and never get any closer to being able to tell if a piece of hi-fi gear is accurate or not. I've been going to hear live music of all types since I was the proudest owner of the fakest ID you ever saw, but while that love of music fueled my entry into the hi-fi hobby, it never `conditioned' my ears to be able to tell whether or not a component is accurately reproducing the audio signal that's being fed to it. All my years of steady live music attendance didn't save me from making the same errors in judgment that I see so many self-professed Super Audiophiles make time and time again, labeling less accurate components superior because they color the sound in ways that remind them of what they *think* live music should sound like. "What did educate my ears and brain in a big hurry was recording live music and then comparing the sound of the recording to my memory of the original event. I cannot overemphasize this point enough: Making recordings of live music and then hearing these recordings played back was the turning point when I started making much more accurate judgements when listening to audio gear. "There's just something about being present at the original acoustic event and then hearing a good recording of that same event later that dramatically schools your ears for good. It's like you cross a threshold, and henceforth you're a much better listener. And this isn't just my experience: The reviewers over the years whose listening and judgment I've respected the most, Gordon Holt and the late Peter Mitchell, were lifelong amateur recordists who've pointed to that experience as being not merely beneficial but essential to any audiophile's development as a reliable arbiter of sonic accuracy. "Now, making your own recordings of live music was a pretty common thing back in the olden days of '50s and '60s hi-fi, when that good ol' do-it-yourself spirit was in full swing. It wasn't unusual at all for an audiophile back then to own a good open-reel tape deck and a pair of decent, semi-professional microphones. And later on, many upmarket cassette decks even came packed with a nice pair of mikes so you could plug 'em in and start making your own recordings right away. "It's too bad that kind of thing went away, because making your own recordings is some of the best fun you can have with hi-fi. And you don't have to rent a hall and an orchestra, either. If you've got a friend who plays acoustic guitar, or sings, or even belches the alphabet, for that matter, you've got live sound to record. Once you take that step of making a recording and then hearing it over your system, your perception of what is and isn't accurate when it comes to hi-fi-gear will never be the same. Not to mention the thrill of hearing your own recording efforts on the hi-fi rig you've spent so much time and money on in order to make other guys' recordings sound so good." ================================================================ (My own opinion of Bryston is high, although not as high as Corey Greenberg's. But he articulates the fluffery of post-modern hi-fi reviewers so well, I have to love this article's preamble.) 1999 June, _Audio Magazine_, Auricle, by Corey Greenberg. Bryston 9B-ST Five-Channel Power Amp review "As we wind up this millennium, we've come to a point in the half-century history of hi-fi where most reviewers are so much dumber than the vast majority of their readers that their opinions are actually taken to mean the *opposite* of what they're supposed to. So instead of reading hi-fi reviews nowadays, we mostly decode them. "Like it or not, we're living in the era of the `Bizarro Review.' The term takes its name from the Bizarro World, a time-warp zone in the Superman comic books where everything is bass-ackwards: Bizarro dogs meow while Bizarro cats bark, Bizarro rain falls upward and Roberto Benigni wins the Academy Award for Best Actor. `Me am so happy!' a sad-faced denizen of the Bizarro World will pout, displaying not only the opposite meaning of many high-end reviews these days but also their unique prose style. "I mean, it 's gotten to the point where I read certain reviewers raving about a product and I know automatically that if *they* love it, then it 's got to suck. And if they're *not* so hot on it, nine times out of ten I'll listen to the same piece of gear and it'll be drop-dead fantastic. (I have to admit it 's taken some of the fun out of truffle-pigging the good gear each month.) The fad for single-ended triode tube amps helped flush a lot of these guys out of the woods for me. Anyone dumb enough to fall for such aggressively colored and distorted sound and then go on the record as fawning over it as somehow being more `real' and `soulful' than the sound of a good modern amp, whether solid-state or tube-based, is a guy who really knows what he am talking about. "I bring all this up because there is no brand of hi-fi gear that audiophile reviewers so consistently go Bizarro over than Canada's Bryston, Ltd. The company's amps are so utterly clean, neutral, and ridiculously better-sounding than 90% of what passes for high-end these days that, as with the speakers of its like-minded compatriot Paradigm, it's no wonder the *Life* *Am* *Beautiful* crowd just doesn't get this stuff. Reviewers in the high-end mags almost always seem to go out of their way to temper a Bryston amp's outstanding measurement graphs and their reluctant admission of its excellent overall sound with half-assed gotchas. Such as: `A very capable performer with lots of muscle, but regrettably, a shade less of that elusive see-through transparency I enjoy from my reference single-ended triode amp that am so musical and soulful.' "As for me, I know that every time I've heard a Bryston amp powering a set of speakers, I know I'm hearing those speakers at their very best. I've always come away incredibly impressed by how clean and neutral these amps sound. They take the audio signal and amplify it, and they don't seem to do anything else to it at all. And that's really *all* you should ask a great amp to do. I know some audiophiles look for an amp to add `life' or `bloom' to the sound, much in the way that MSG does to food, oak does to wine, and Viagra does to overtenderized meat. But the smart boys know better, which is why so many pro studios, mastering houses, and film soundtrack mixers rely on Bryston amps to get the clearest possible picture of what they're doing with the sound you eventually get served up at home."