Do you scoff at audio fashion?

edited May 2013 in Systems
Roger Skoff does:

"LP recordings CAN sound better than their digital successors or counterparts; tubes can certainly make for great-sounding electronics; and horns (still except for deep bass) can be wonderful and thoroughly exciting speakers. I even own a pair that images! The problem is not that people are using and enjoying these things; it's that the form seems now to have surpassed the function in importance.

You've seen it yourself, with people on the Internet showing pictures of vast pretty glass bottles, the size of a small fish tank that turn out to be exotic, hideously expensive and largely irreplaceable, RF transmitting tubes, and asking if they might not make a nice amplifier. Or the never-ending parade of ever more baroque, grandiose, complicated, and viciously expensive turntables, tonearms, and phono cartridges—including, now, a super deluxe and pricey cartridge just for MONO! Or the horns: What a truly amazing array of ever larger, ever weirder, and ever more costly horns we are treated to every day; made of thousand-year-old wood or other materials equally strange and exotic.

Don't they understand that tubes are just devices more or less suited to the task they are set to perform, and that some designers, notably Tim de Paravicini, use both tubes and solid-state, where and as appropriate, with equal facility? Don't they know that it's possible for an LP playback system to not look like it was designed by Rube Goldberg's rich uncle and still sound good? Don't they know that it's the shape, size, and length of a horn that determines how well it works, and that exotic materials aren't likely to improve it, but could very well, by adding spurious resonances, make it worse.

All of these things and many more seem to me to be like long hair on a musician: If it's worn for style or beauty or—for marketing purposes—to make a memorable impression, then GOOD! Go for it! But if it's intended somehow to make a real improvement, that's not likely: How well you play is how well you play, regardless of what your hair looks like.

It's the same for High-End audio: If what we're after is looks, or a membership card, or bragging rights, any of those things are fine with me. I love 'em all and want every one! But, just as with a musician's long hair, I really shouldn't expect any of them to make my system sound better!"

The full piece can be read at Positive Feedback.


    edited May 2013
    He may have a point there Dave but I can't see anything wrong with combining form with function and having something that looks good too.  Otherwise we'd all be flat earthers using grey boxes and boring looking kit!

    He has a point RE valves as there seems to be too many companies producing amps (from the Far East anyone?) which are more bling than function and which can often be out-performed by the most modest of SS boxes, but that's market forces for you.  If there remains a demand for something, someone will produce it because it makes money.

    It's a thin blue line between the fashion debate and the diminishing returns debate too.  One precludes price as the main issue and looks towards engineering and form (performance and form), the other between cost, fashion and form.  The term "high End" is relatively modern too.  Once upon a time it was all called hifi. There was good hifi, budget hifi and not so good hifi.  That's still pretty much the case imho.  The term "high End" seems to have become a marketing tool to somehow set aside good (and not so good) from the rest of the crowd, along with stratospheric price tags in many instances.  You also hear of some modestly priced bits of kit being in "high end" territory when it comes to performance too.

    The conclusion may have some truth to it in that cost is not always an arbiter of performance.  However, you can pretty much guarantee one thing:  A budget of £20K will almost certainly buy a better performing system than one of £2K, and not by a slim margin either.
  • It can be ugly but still sound good, I have the Green thing in mind at Dave,s.
    And the Claymore needed to be loved by it's mum, but it did sound good.
    Style is nothing to do with performance, a lovely looking woman or man my look good but she/he still could be a horrid person.
    Look at Sid James face like bark on a Cork tree, but funny. So fit for purpose is best. 
  • I like his grumpily curmudgeonlike view, and largely share it. Very little hifi looks good IMO (sorry!) That which tries to look good often looks gaudy, again IMO, the best looking stuff is gear which tries not to be noticed. Make it match, make it understated, use as few finishes as possible... Put it in a cupboard!

    It's a bit like car shows, where you see polished engines and Chrome plated rocker covers, shiny braided hoses - looks nice especially when you're with a like minded mate, but its not attractive in the general sense. Put it away...

    Hammerite works well, BTW.

    Just to be awkward (and unfashionable), I'd insist on spending that £20k myself. I have heard such 'high end/fashionable' systems at dealerships, and I'd not swap a £2k system I chose from eBay for them...
  • I think I tend to be biased against the fashionable. Nothing conscious or premeditated you understand.
  • That's why we get on so well, Ben!
  • Yep. Can't move in our houses for flares and Elizabethan ruff collars.
  • Yes...

  • Ah. Great minds Mr Brown...
    Indeed, we have "the the most fashionable brains in London."
  • £20K should give you a much better system than £2K, I'd definitely go along with that.

    We all need to learn to follow our own tastes and priorities, rather than others'.
  • £20K should give you a much better system than £2K, I'd definitely go along with that.

    We all need to learn to follow our own tastes and priorities, rather than others'.*
    * "Order in the court!"

  • I sentence you to 20 years imprisonment in a hi-fi forum of my choice, where you will be berated by its owner 24 hours a day.

    Take the prisoner down!
  • I please for clemency your honour gov bossman innit?  The Doc ere as no fancy ruff nor nuffin and wuz only talking like about what ee considers fancy like.

    £2K can indeed put together a hell of an Ebay sourced system if carefully chosen (personally I'd blow most on speakers, and probably look for a serviced Quad 33/303 or 306 pairing and perhaps a few hundred on a good used source...perhaps a Rotel RCD 965bx or similar).  Pair that lot with say some Celestion Ditton 66's and that has the makings of some very fine music.

    The £20K V's £2K figures were really in context of an all new system.

    Nothing wrong with a bit of audio bling!

  • I fancy a Sir Clive system 25 with Sugar speakers and a Garrad 301 and a EKCO TV sound system.
    In Plannar Monocromic Vision. But not the 405 but the French 819 version. No NRTZ or Manchester or Bolan insight lovely.

  • They've all gone mad. MAD, I say!!!!
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