Advanced judgement

October 3, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

It has been multiple decades—in fact, most of our adult lives—that neither Terri nor I have consumed meat or fish.

To many Americans we encounter we are an anomaly, a curiosity to be poked and prodded to see if we are real. We both giggle when we get that knowing wink of disbelief from a food server who figures we just say such outlandish things to be in vogue.

In their experience, one cannot live without meat. To them, we are either lying, delusional or that rare once-in-a-lifetime curiosity.

But this rant is not about being a healthy vegetarian or how a plant-based diet helps the planet. It’s about preconceived notions.

It’s about being convinced without listening to how digital versus analog sounds. Tubes versus solid state. Horns versus boxes. Measurements versus subjective. DSD versus PCM.

To some degree, we all fall into the same trap. We enter a new situation with a prediction of the outcome.

It’s just the way we’re wired.

One of the great joys of age is the freedom to let go of some of my preconceptions.

I no longer feel the need to protect and defend many of my long-held beliefs.

Lowering one’s expectations to the point of openness to new input is the quickest means I know of to advance and learn.

As you get older are you leaning towards becoming more set in your ways or less?

Opening up or closing down?

It’s something to consider.

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52 comments on “Advanced judgement”

  1. Less set in how I judge the differences in home-audio; but I’m more set in knowing what works for me & what doesn’t in general…in life.
    CDs work better for me because the vinyl that I had affordable access to was riddled with extraneous surface & groove noise.
    Only once, in July 2017, did I hear vinyl sound absolutely amazing.
    I have never seriously listened, long-term, to tube amps because I’m not prepared to pay extra money
    for tubes ($300-$600) every two to three years, after paying an initial amount at purchase, plus I’m
    mainly a Rock ‘n Roll guy, so solid state is just fine for me.
    “Horns versus boxes”??…Huh?
    How about ‘horns versus domes’…yeah, that makes more sense.
    Klipsch & JBL put horns in boxes.
    I tried horns & not for me, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t suite other listeners.
    Measurements at the point of design & manufacture…yes!
    However, measurements after the point of sale is a complete waste of time, effort & money…
    only worth doing if you are severely bored or have wa-a-ay too much time on your hands.
    After the point of sale, only listening with your ears makes sense to me.
    DSD versus PCM I have yet to explore, the jury is still out for me on that.
    However, from what I can figure out, the quality of the recording is far more important than
    how it is digitally captured.

    I can’t see the point of not eating meat…everything in moderation 😀

  2. I hope no one practised audiophilia yesterday at the expense of watching the Manchester derby. In football terms, Erling Haaland is the equivalent of a new magical audio format that puts everything that came before it in the shade, that is so obvious it changes everything and does not have to be explained. We know how rare that is. Save to say, he became the first Premier League player ever to score three home hat tricks on the trot and it took him 8 games since joining the club, the next best to get three hat tricks was Michael Owen, who took 48 games. I’m not even a big football fan, but I’ve never seen anything like it.

    The issue Paul raises is really about prejudice. Some older people don’t try streaming because they think the technology is “too modern” and complicated, whilst many who do (like my mother-in-law) realise it’s very easy and cheap.

    I don’t use DSD, not out of prejudice, I bought a DSD player and some downloads, tried it for a few weeks, didn’t notice any noticeable difference, so sold it.

    As I get older I’ve tried a fair number of things, for example amplifiers – Class A solid state and valves, Class A/B, Class A-B current dumpers, pure Class D and for the last 5 years Class A-D hybrid (essentially current dumpers). I like the performance and ergonomics, nothing life-changing has happened with amplifiers since Class D got useable and I have no need to consider other options. If I was 30 years younger I might still be experimenting, or just get an nCore amplifier and wonder why anyone ever used anything else.

    I’ve used power regeneration and conditioners. Mostly conditioners, as I do now. Does far more in my now largely digital system. I’m waiting for the day for Paul to open up to the merits of power conditioning. Anytime soon.

    1. Not to forget Purify Eigentakt class D! 🙂 My stereo system took the road of permanent improvement when I tried to get a better sound quality from a CD compared to my vinyl records. However I haven’t yet reached this goal despite the fact that my system today sounds much better for both analog and digital sources. But no significant progress from 24/96 or 24/192 or 24/384. The latter might probably have huge advantages for mixing (head room). Instead of permanently minimizing inherent problem of old design approaches it might be much better to start at the beginning again and develop new designs as Devialet did successfully! And even more promising: ambiophonics! 🙂

      1. Indeed, Bruno Putzeys is incrementally improving his Class D products, but the proof of their game-changing quality is the fact that major manufacturers just slot them in as OEM units because there is no point in trying to do anything else.

        Devialet’s bright idea was to apply mobile and telecommunications technology to audio, both in relation to signal processing and power supply. It also dramatically reduces cost, because mobile and telecoms manufacturing is now so advanced. It requires capital investment few hifi companies can afford – to buy machines that place 6,000 components per hour, with automated quality control and a 0% failure rate.

        Most of the music I buy is mastered in 24/96 PCM and I happily listen to 16/44 PCM. I was probably at my most impressionable in the late 1970s and early 1980s that 16/44 PCM provides more than enough dynamic range and sampling than human hearing can perceive, and I’m not sure I’ve been convinced otherwise since. The argument was made for digital recording using PCM to produce vinyl, some years earlier than we were asked to adopt CD.

        I do like the irony that in those days people were happy to adopt digitally mastered vinyl, but now they think it’s a catastrophe!

      2. Orchard Audio – ‘Strakrimson Ultra Stereo’ is a new kid on
        the block, utilizing Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology.
        I haven’t heard it, but it is getting rave reviews.

      1. I remember spending time on holiday with a die-hard City supporter in 1998. They were a laughing stock at the time, down in the old Third Division, had to roll with the punches. It’s amazing what you can do with a Sheikh and a few billion petrodollars.

        1. Also, don’t hold your breath waiting for Paul to stop selling
          power regenerators in favour of power conditioners 😉
          “Anytime soon”, indeed.

  3. I would throw the following out….

    What may be more true rather than throwing out individual preconceived notions, is more tolerance of what others think. Whether it is preconceived or we just don’t give a damn anymore. It’s what works for us based on our life experience or as a defense mechanism to ‘change’ that we don’t want to ,or can’t, incorporate into our lives.

    How tolerant are we to another point of view? That depends on how that point of view is presented, and the justification used to communicate that point.

    When it comes to something like audio, there’s more than one way. Is any one of them more correct than another? The answer to that question is where personal bias, preconceived notions, experience, and subjective judgments all come into play.

    To finish, while we may like to believe individually we are more open and tolerant as we age, odds are pretty good that in reality we are are less just less confrontational towards others. (Laugh it off) A couple of exceptions being politics and what is ‘most right’ in audio….✌️ 😀

    1. Mike…I know that you practice balance in your thought process as I have seen and heard it time and time again.
      Always remember that you can’t go wrong by doing the right thing. I honestly believe you do.

      “Patience and tolerance leads to a diminishment of anger and hatred” Which is the way I try to live my life. It’s not easy but it helps me to a greater extent to live by this statement.

      When you, Paul and the rest of us that are in our senior years look back at our lives, I hope that we can agree with Frank Sinatra’s song “My Way“. Hopefully, over the course of our lives we have learned to follow the right path and left some small positive mark on our planet it and it’s occupants.

      Teri and Paul are good examples by making a moral choice with regard to their food consumption.

      1. Sinatra is famous for it. Lyrics are by Paul Anka and music based on a French song, Comme d’habitude, by Revaux (even though autocorrect insists in changing the spelling).

  4. We learn through experience. I do this, that results. This works awesomely well, helping in part to form who you are and what you know. I use this in my audio journey. I initially tried class D amplification after it came out and it sounded awful. Then, a couple years later, a claimed breakthrough in design. Tried it again and it was awful. A few years later, same thing.

    The same is true of ESS DAC modules. I have tried 4 different DACs with them, claiming breakthroughs from their somewhat analytical sound. I didn’t like any of them.

    As a result, I no longer entertain trying a DAC with ESS DAC chips or class D amps. One might say I have a long term bias, but there is nothing farther from the truth. At some point you learn your own “truth”, stopping the insanity of trying the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.

    Its not like I touched the burner, it was hot and stopped. I touched the burner several times, and it was still hot. One has to understand that when you ask people to keep touching the burner, it is counter to human nature.

    1. At least you had an open mind to try Reed. In the end analysis if you feel emotionally connected when you listen to music on your system then you have made the right choices.

    1. Congrats on that milestone! I have a target of 62, which is a couple years away from December. COVID was a blessing for me in that regard. It showed me a bit what life would be like retired at home most of the time.

      1. My decision also, 62, could not see any benefit working another 10 years. If I had to, part time work was relatively easy to find. There is a negative thou , the brain wanders into areas you wish you would have never seen.

      1. Theo, your an optimist! HaHa!! Glad you are enjoying it.

        My last position ended up being 6 different demanding job responsibilities rolled into one.
        It made retirement even sweeter than expected, to this day I’m thinking, I’m glad that is over.
        🙂 🙂

        1. Yeah… that’s where I am. Added responsibilities and ever increasing number of people who don’t want to work diligently. I’m going to do what I’m doing for a couple more years, and then that’s it. If I need to get a job to cover medical until 65, I will be doing something like stocking shelves at the grocery store. Mindless work with some physical activity.

          1. Reed,
            The beauty of shelf-stacking at the local grocery store is that you can put your cans on or your earbuds in & listen to heaps of music while you stack 😀

        2. Yep…my last year of a successful 35 year career became an unbearable bureaucratic nightmare…it was time to go!!

          The real sweetness was planning that last year to retire at 62. But before it happened, the corporation sold our operations, thus ended up getting a “6-month Severance package”….a very nice, unexpected Retirement Gift! 🙂

          1. I have known at least a dozen people who after turning 60 went to their boss and told them that the next time the had to layoff people to put them on the list and then walked away with a 6 month retirement gift!

  5. I find that two things seem to happen.

    One is my well-established “won’t do that” or “don’t like that” choices erode with the passage of time. More open to more things, that is – I’ll try more stuff than I used to. [Doesn’t mean I change my mind – but I might]

    The other is that I think I’ve really come to appreciate that the room is much much more important than I’d realized before. Folk who can hear errors in bit-accurate, monotonic 24 bit DACs are a mystery to me: the effects of the errors in those things are orders of magnitude down on the errors the room commits.

    True, to some extent we’re able to ‘compute’ (by adaptation) our way out of room-induced errors, because we’ve evolved from beasts who can hear the haunting howl of a marauding pack of dachshunds and distinguish that – despite forest, mountains, trees, ambient noise – from the awful sounds of a real wolfpack. But we don’t have generations of experience learning to ignore the errors of a DAC, tiny though they are.

    Plus – today’s electronics are way better than when I were a lad. Much much better. And even low-end speakers are – can be – amazingly good by the standards of the past (go search online for what folk think of the highlight driver unit of my youth – the Wharfedale super 8 RS DD…)

    So, long story short – yes, more adaptable. But with much less need to a adapt (for the high fidelity system) than ever before.

    Thank you, Dirac!

    (And Paul)

    1. Indeed, get the foundation right in the beginning: room acoustics and of course the cleanest mains power supply and gear with near noise free power supply modules. No wonder that Paul McGowan has permanently invested in getting the music rooms and the studios of Octave Records acoustically “perfect”. Real innovations for getting a higher level of high fidelity came only when some manufacturers started focusing on the time domain and tried to minimize timing errors for better phase coherence. Just look at the tuning tools for top tear loudspeakers from Wilson Audio! Wadia had the same focus concerning their DAC-designs. Single driver loudspeakers and headphones show the best phase-coherence. It is a huge challenge and nearly impossible to get the same degree of phase coherence from multi way loudspeakers with most complex crossover-designs enriched by multiple active subwoofers – just look at the region of frequency overlap of two drivers with different inertia!

    1. You should differentiate between red meat, non-red meat like pork, chicken and turkey and other foul and fish. They are all meat except perhaps fish but it is flesh and that’s the best term for a vegetarian or vegan to use if they want to get right to the heart of the matter. Produce grows from the soil, milk products come from live animals and some people won’t touch them either. Caviar are fish eggs and if you are morally against eating anything that was walking, flying or swimming in the ocean then you should understand why so many people don’t want to eat parts of what was once of a living being.

  6. Intolerance and openness to things still remain as time slowly dries me up like untreated leather but it seems the content of those traits tends to shift & trade off. I’m open to many things I was pig headed about in earlier days and now have little time for things I used to put up with. But always open to anything new audio related! Meat consumption is reduced about 90% – because animals are just absolutely the planet’s most awesome & delightful things. Wayyyy gooder than people. If a situation arises where I can only save the life of you or a random four legged creature, I hope you have your affairs in order… Even if it’s a really cool insect, your chances aren’t so hot.
    Advanced (years) judgement?
    My only criteria for pursuing or dating a gal USED to be; ooh, I think she glanced in my general direction – ask her out! Now? My dating profile now reads: “Looking for an educated intelligent witty employed gal with no children, who’s not really into camping or dancing, owns her own home, whose phone still has at least 95% battery life by the end of each day, likes music that has melody and more than three chords and does NOT have an account on fecesbook, instacrap. Twittness, TikTok or whatever the newest social (disease) media is today.”
    I have not had ONE response. Can you believe it? Cause I AM super cute. My grandmother told me so. Ok, she was 96 and legally blind but still….Perhaps I should replace fecesbook with fakebook..? 91% battery life….? Or should I remain vigilant, stand by my guns and devolve into that old lonely wrinkled guy who talks to himself loudly as he scuffles down the public sidewalk with the slightly audible walking farts…?

    1. I am in the process of reuniting with the love of my life from 45 years ago. We are already making plans for the winter and spring even though we live over 1500 miles apart.We’ve decided to take it slow and see if the magic that we once had is still there. I’ve been divorced since 2012 and have had a few short relationships during that time. I went on at least 50-60 dates from online dating sites which are basically useless when you’re a senior.

      I’ve been fortunate though with the people who I consider my second family in the real estate business that I worked at and I just got called back starting tomorrow for 2-3 days a week just to keep myself busy. Most of the 17 people in the office are female ranging from 23 to 60 years old (an she doesn’t even look like she’s 50 and is Drop dead gorgeous and has a group of friends who are all beautiful (there’s something about Venezuelan women and their lineage that most of them are really beautiful). Perhaps it’s because this is South Florida and there are too many gorgeous women wherever I go so it’s hard for me to feel my age.

      And to keep busy in the office hours I haven’t got many passions but the biggest is listening to music and taking it in.

      1. Ah yes… A re-list from an earlier post..

        You’re wandering about a car dealership admiring shiny gorgeous automobiles when a young presentable salesman approaches. “I’m looking to get into new car.” you reveal. He immediately grasps your arm and quickly whisks you off the lot, shields your eyes while scurrying you through the showroom, leads you down a long dark narrow hall, out a creaky windowless steel door, across a lengthy empty stretch of pavement to a unkempt treed corner where there sits several dinged, beat up, faded, dented, high mile, chipped and slightly rusted fossilized wrecks. They all show signs of serious aging with yellowed headlights, sagging suspension, stained and backfiring exhaust, nasty ole chaffed tires; some with blistering bubbles protruding out the side. They have gobs of touch up paint that sloppily struggle to hide blemishes that end up looking worse than the flaws themselves. There’s a serious over dousing of some gnarly scent that has been liberally applied in an attempt to cover up the stench of ‘old’ that still manages to permeate through. And yet they ALL have display window signs with wild claims such as: “Runs” or “Dependable” or “Never Been Driven Hard” or “One Owner” or “New Paint” or “Recently Rebuilt” or “Just Needs A Little TLC” or “Classic” or the old “Cheap – Looking For A New Home”.
        “Here you go” he points. “THESE are YOUR options…” as he walks back alone towards the door. You faintly hear the sound of a deadbolt latching as it locks from the inside. There is not even a handle on the outside. You look back to the assemblage of antique heaps. You give them a second look. Your apprehension is exceeded only by your shuddersome horror of the prospect of seeing what’s under the hood.

        THIS is what online dating is like in your 50s and 60s.

        Good luck with your kindling. And feel free to send some of those Venezuelan gals up my way!

        1. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha… I love the way you write . Maybe you should pen your life story and call it 9% true.

          But seriously, I really like what you wrote. You’ve got a talent man. Come on down to Miami and I’ll introduce you to some of these Venezuelan women. They sure won’t be coming up your way.

          1. 9% true, awesome. 😉
            We certainly do have lovely gals up here in Canada (as is true everywhere) – we did give you Shania Twain after all.
            But I did briefly date a UK bird some years ago and came to the instant realization that I really NEED to end up with a gal with an accent. It is just delightful. And that way, should I HAPPEN to wind up with a gal who tends to natter on incessantly, it is still bloody pleasant to listen to. That way, instead of catching it for tuning out, you get severe brownie points for listening tentatively.
            UK, Irish, Auzzie, Kiwi, India, Russia southern states, pretty much anything. Women even make the harsher accents sound sexy. I might have to check out a Venezuelan accent….

  7. [PM-Lowering one’s expectations to the point of openness to new input is the quickest means I know of to advance and learn.]

    These past 3 months, I tend to think I “raised” my audio performance expectations (easier to do with humbled investments) to make the needed changes (albeit: some very simple & easy) that have firmly seated me in the performance venues:

    1. New GaNFET Fully Balanced High Power Amp purchase
    2. Remove the Pre Amp
    3. Use CD player Variable Outputs to drive power amp
    4. Insert RCA to XLR Active Converter between source and amp
    5. Purchase new reference speaker cables
    6. Drive Stand Monitors Full Range
    7. Drive Sub’s High Level Inputs
    8. Rearrange new custom component rack between Monitors

    Each change became a singular step forward toward my ultimate 2-channel music room goals…achieving total divorce from the constrains of room and equipment to achieve constant “suspension of disbelief” with all my musical genre…I Am There!!!

  8. When my denomination was wrestling with its stance on gay issues years ago, during a business lunch someone asked an acquaintance what he thought. His reply was, “The older I get, the more inclusive I’ve become.” I’ve never forgotten it.

  9. Paul, Great post, really makes you pause to take stock of who you are. I always thought that one should be able to accept who you are and that if you cannot accept who you are than you need to change.

    The problem ( as I see it ) is that when you reach a certain age you realize there is not a lot of time left to change what you would like to change. It is hard to continue pushing yourself to the very end. There comes a time when you want to stop pushing and just sit back and enjoy what you can.

  10. Very awesome Paul.

    I work in IT and have my work being redone because of moves to new software. I find it always best to applaud that and embrace the change but to reflect on the experience and knowledge along the way!! It’s a win win. We don’t look like dinosaurs and learn as well as we go. :).

  11. When you get your system finally sounding good? All else you are told to be tried? Becomes BS.

    Some marry ten times and never get it right. Not happy.
    When someone finds the right one? All else is BS. The one who married well can not be understood by the one still trying to find an answer. Audio is a parallel world.

    Some have digestive systems that can not cope with animal protein. They lack the ability to properly break it down. As a result, it can cause feelings of anxiety that are physical in origin.
    Their solution is eating vegetables. It gives them peace. (yes, I studied nutrition)

    Those who have digestive systems that have no problem with animal protein? They will become unbalanced without real (organic) animal protein in their diet.

    If its not for you? Simply don’t chew.

    1. Pasta with a great Italian sauce, and cheese pizza are about the only meatless main entrees in my diet. Yes I love fruits and vegetables but I lose my strength and satisfaction of being full after a meal without meats in my diet.

  12. When a cow eats grass its digestive system extracts nutrients from the grass and they become a part of the meat they produce. If we ate grass we would starve. If we eat the meat the cow produced we suddenly become nourished and healthy… (grass fed -organic only applies).

    The cow becomes a nutrient processor for the consumption of life giving nutritional factors for those who do not eat grass. The iron in calves liver is highly bioavailable, even with a cup of coffee. Eat plant source iron with the same cup of coffee and you will become anemic. And, almost impossible to find essential B12 with plant food naturally.

  13. I’m 68 as of this writing. I don’t see age as providing an opportunity to release or give up on long-held views, as much as providing valuable perspective on which of these things are no longer worth expending energy over.

    That might be because you no longer see your viewpoint as being as important, or even relevant, as it once was, even though you might still believe it just as fervently as ever. It might be because you don’t see the proliferation of the opposing view as threatening as you used to. It might be that a lifetime of fighting a particular battle has left you with the certain knowledge that the argument will never be settled, so it’s fruitless to worry over it, or act on it. Or, it might just be that no one is even talking about the issue any longer. This last possibility occurs to me when I hear about someone raising an eyebrow over another person’s self-imposed dietary restrictions. I’m frankly surprised to hear there’s still a person in America that even bats an eye at that.

    With regard to audio wars, I’m firmly in the camp that believes if equipment sounds good, but measures poorly, then either the wrong thing is being measured, or the qualities that make it sound good have not been measured yet (or possibly even identified). That belief extends to electronics design, material choices, and topology strategies, and it even extends to software formats (recording or reproduction or both). But that’s about the extent of my prejudices. And instead of getting upset over those who disagree with me, what maturity I have has granted me the luxury of better seeing how little it all matters. Until someone comes and removes the equipment or recordings from my home because they don’t conform to their idea of perfection, I remain happy as a clam, regardless of others’ beliefs.

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