A wise man once said “the most difficult thing that there is to do in the world, is to separate a man from his suffering”.
Had I heard that earlier in life I might have chosen another profession. It is a point of utter fascination that if one looks backwards at one’s life it often looks remarkably well orchestrated. It’s only when one looks forward that things look a little dicey. Such is the nature of analog design, especially when it comes to miniaturization.
When you trace the developments in analog from the beginning of time, it would seem that very few detours were encountered. That, in and of itself suggests a preconceived pathway, a portal, that once appearing, mandated a mission. Mankind’s best efforts have often been realized by mimicking nature itself, which appears to exist in the continuous flow of time’s passage. As it turns out, I have been the willing victim of such hypnosis, spending most of my life engaged with invention and designs that can only be realized through intuition, a steady hand, and inspected with the aid of high power optics.
The development of critically-accurate miniaturized devices intended to interface the tangible world with intangible technology, along with seemingly wasted amounts of wattage and inefficient motors designed to move air somewhat accurately, at first seems a fool’s game. It is in fact, an emotional, unstoppable pursuit in the effort to capture and reproduce the healing effect of music. It is a worship of a subset of creation itself, a pathway one creates to be reminded that there is a place above the chaos that is attainable.
Of the two ways to get there, I chose the analog path, and stuck with it, for reasons I find remarkably easy to explain. Analog is the most beautiful woman one could ever imagine; no matter how flawed, at the end of the day she is still beautiful. She is constant energy, she traces the musical notes with a pointed finger perfectly formed. She is elusive, extremely difficult, remarkably evocative, and so overwhelmingly devastating when she gets it right.
While the ones and zeros attempt to capture an evasive reality and home in on their prey, analog entices, beckons, calls like a siren to its possibilities, and harrowing trespass. Sail through these waters poorly, and you will not pass unscathed. But done with wisdom, luck, and perseverance one can pass into a new world.
If you have heard good vinyl with a reasonably good cartridge, you have met her relatives. If you have heard a full-analog disk with a very good cartridge, you have been invited to the wedding. If you have heard a direct to disk on a great system, you have met her children. If you have heard a live analog signal cut into a lacquer, then removed from the cutting lathe and played with a strain gauge cartridge – she has taken you by the hand and walked with you into the garden, and you will never forget that you cannot understand how all the stars and moons have been melted to make her eyes. No amount of ones and zeros could be more than a clone with some serious DNA aberrations. As evidenced by many, her charm persists even when she wears worn out jeans and an old sweatshirt.
In terms of engagement, as with any woman, it is not what you say, but what you do that determines if she will take your arm and travel with you. It is your commitment, your perseverance, your highly-visible determination to be willing to accept failure and continue as if that was part of your plan, that entices her.
She does not respond to lip service, does not respond to empty promises, will not look your way again if you are unwilling to accept her every beauty mark, her constantly changing mind. Analog is a kite that is directed by the constant wind, and if you wrap the string around your finger and place it near your ear, you will hear the angels directing her movements. If you never considered her, she will never consider you. If you found her simple and old fashioned, you have perfectly managed to miss her allure.
Does she require that you hold her gently, and follow the rules so as not to cause her harm? You bet.
Does she ask to be poured slowly from the bottle, decanted, and sipped like a talisman of effort, as opposed to downing a shot of whisky with the predictable after effect? You bet.
Do you wake up from your session with her with your feelings intact and informed?
You’re darn skippy you do.
And if you are very, very smart, you will never lose her.
Peter Ledermann is Founder, CEO, and lead designer of SoundSmith, makers of leading-edge phono cartridges, electronics, and loudspeakers for over 30 years. He will present "Reproductive Private Parts (of a phono system)" at RMAF on Saturday, October 7, at 2:45 PM in the Marriott Aspen Amphitheater. Soundsmith Hyperion phono cartridges can be heard in Room 555 (Atrium), and Rooms 7024 and 8018 (Tower).