Blanket statements

March 7, 2023
 by Paul McGowan

As soon as I read this note, I had to smile.

“I spend a lot of time in the studio under extremely treated conditions and listen through some of the highest-graded speakers. Once you learn how to listen through them, you can never go back to consumer-grade and so-called audiophile speakers.”

What a lovely and concise blanket statement. I particularly love the “so-called” jab.

What’s instructive about this note is its form. In the first sentence, the writer establishes his credibility. In the second, we get the conclusion that, given his experience, makes perfect sense.

Hard to argue with (which of course is the point).

How many of us believe that most people have actually heard a properly set up high-end audio system?

In the fifty years I have been immersed in what we do, it has been rare to find anyone outside our small group of kindred spirits that have actually sat down in front of what we consider a great system.

Blanket statements and sweeping proclamations are short and to the point.

And they are usually more opinion than fact.

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35 comments on “Blanket statements”

  1. Every statement about inherently subjective and most individual perceptions can only be an opinion. That’s it! Seeing the complexity of a stereo system (including room acoustics and power supply and the puzzle of computer audio (hardware and software) we can endlessly discuss single aspects without any conclusion and decisions for getting a progress in sound quality. It needs a holistic view having the core goal of stereo in mind: virtual 3-D sound images based on psycho-acoustic facts. I like this comprehensive article of Roger Scoff ( ) finally mentioning at the end some important aspects of selective perception and individual biases.

  2. Telling someone who has never heard a holographic 3D soundstage that it can
    exist if the home-audio system’s synergy is at a certain level & the loudspeaker
    set-up is ‘correct’ will probably be thinking, ‘Yep, well, that’s your opinion’.
    However, once said someone has actually *heard* this remarkable aural presentation for themselves, from their Hi-Fi *then* it becomes fact.

    A blanket statement that I read a few days ago here on ‘Paul’s Posts’ did make me chuckle greatly.
    It went something like this…
    “Only Sociopathic Narcissists are always right. They all belong to the same club…Measurements Uber Alles.”
    Some blanket statements are just funny 😀

    1. That’s because my statement was true Martin. Probably one of the only times I was correct in a comment that I made. Even I got a laugh out of it after I posted it.

  3. OK, people make generalisations or presumptuous statements. “What we consider a great system” is equally presumptuous because I’ve heard well set up high-end systems at dealers that I thought were unbearable. A system with thunderous bass has me running for the exit. Others may love it. As some people say, “there’s now’t as strange as folk”.

  4. I have few observations regarding todays posted statement….
    1st … exactly what are considered highest graded speakers?
    2nd …what are extremely treated conditions?
    3rd…. how were they Properly trained to listen correctly?

    What I read “before the jab” is a form of being pompous (pompass)

    1. Mike, Your comment “1st … exactly what are considered highest graded speakers?” was the first thing that I said to myself. Then I asked “Who gets to grade the speakers?” Is it Stereophile, TAS, or HFN&RR? Next I thought, I have pretty good speakers, maybe I can be a speaker grader. Does anyone know where I can apply to be a speaker grader? 😉

      1. Tony,

        Sure you can be a speaker grader. Not sure where you sign up or exactly what papered pedigree is required though.

        Still the question… What are extremely treated conditions? Over the top damping or over the top diffusion? Apparently that is a requirement to go along with highly graded speakers.

        I’m guessing once your wife see’s your new extremely treated listening room – you might be treated to an extreme…. Flogging & night in the dog house. 😉

      2. I grade my speakers every night. Bloody marvellous. If I read Stereophile they’re out of date and broken because there’s a new much better version. I’m heartbroken. JOMO. Heaven knows what Mr Studio Engineer thinks. Do I give a poop? Unless I’m married to him, and last time I looked I’m not, he’s talking to a brick wall. Other people’s opinions mean diddly squat in my pleasure zone.

        1. I fully agree Steven,
          But pose this….
          “Is it fair”, “or are we allowed” to judge studio engineers work based on our sound systems, our rationally treated rooms, and not having been formally trained in proper listening?

    2. Mike, do you think that this quoted comment that Paul “had to” smile about was only a segment of this person’s comment? Or, could it be taken out of context? What did this person mean when he said “once you get used to them”. This statement is just too amorphous for me to even want to consider in the first place.

      1. Stimpy2

        I have no idea what prompted the words to Paul. In today’s world of sound bites (bytes) the underlying full context is often missing. Blanket statements to establish credibility always make me want to know more. There is usually some underlying “truth” and almost always some embellishment. In the end I look for a good recording (my judgement) on a system I like (again my judgement). Absolutes in a world of subjectivity don’t cut it.

  5. Everything from everyone is an opinion. We just tend to recognize blanket statements more, when they come from others, not ourselves and when they contradict our own view.

    Opinions are based on experiences. Unfortunately most also have opinions about things they hardly experienced. Some have personal agendas, overlaying their experiences and opinions.

    More or less open minded opinions, based on the widest range of experiences in the most suitable environments are most valuable, especially if their owners can break them down and adapt/relativate them to a current issue

  6. “Extremely treated conditions” sounds scary to me as if it were a substitute for good system setup (or as if someone were listening to music in an acoustically bad room). Less can be better if you know what I mean. A modestly priced system can sound way better than one comprising of the “highest graded speakers” if one takes the time to get the fundamentals right.

  7. It’s important to be in love with your creations, heck if you’re not who is, I mean if I spent nearly 50 years developing every component in my system to sound the way that I want each component to sound and if it doesn’t sound right the first time I redesign until I have created the sound that I want, if Paul wasn’t in love with his system he spent 50 years being miserable, maybe we’re all just a little jealous that we can’t do that. I’ve been reading this post for three years now, this is the third time that I have posted and I am thoroughly convinced that Paul is not a miserable human ,, he’s just human

  8. Today’s post has described 90% of the comments section in every crevasse of the interweb.
    There’s my blanket statement-o-the-day. Early today, because… LEG CRAMPS – mother nature’s alarm clock of the latter half of life.

    You can watch or read something astoundingly amazing and informative that restores faith in humanity….
    Aaaand then you read the comments section … 🙁

    The internet…
    Giving uneducated, uninformed, misinformed, self proclaimed intellectuals, philosophers, critics and authoritative expertise’d morons a voice since 1983!! 😉

    “Oooh, that’s deeeep, I better go post it on twitfacetubeagram….”

  9. I know a few people who use studio monitors in their systems and like them. However, my *opinion* is that they are more or less diagnostic tools like X-rays, to be used by a good engineer to show all the warts of a recording so it can be fixed or mixed to sound best. You don’t look at a beautiful girl with X-rays, you look at her under flattering lights. Which is perception and which is reality? Both maybe, but I’d rather not be looking at her with X-rays. Ha! Seriously, I think there is a difference between “audiophile grade” speakers and studio monitors and I’d rather listen to the speakers instead. There’s a difference between listening “into” the music for pleasure and listening for imperfections that are heightened by monitors. Different tools for different applications.

  10. “The internet…
    Giving uneducated, uninformed, misinformed, self proclaimed intellectuals, philosophers, critics and authoritative expertise’d morons a voice since 1983!! ”

    Thanks pikpen! You saved me the effort of saying basically the same thing!

  11. There are lots of consumer grade speakers out there. There are also a lot of great sounding loudspeakers out there. Nobody has a lock on great loudspeakers. They sound different from each other and it’s a matter of taste on which great speakers we prefer. A matter of what speakers will sound best in a particular room and the electronics driving them. Sometimes it’s just a matter of bang for the buck. If you’re getting much more than what you paid for you’re doing very good. I buy used because I get bang for buck.

  12. It’s pretty damn simple … 🙂 .

    What you want to do is get to the point where people who like music (and isn’t that everyone? 😉 ) but have zero interest in the hifi world visit you, and say to each other as they knock on the door, “Wow, he has some top notch musicians visiting him!”. And walk into the room where the audio is in action, and be perplexed – ” *Where* are the people who are playing this bit of music?!!”.

    This is very possible – but rarely achieved. Because it’s rare, people can come out with “blanket statements”, like, it *ain’t* possible. Which is a pity – and shouldn’t discourage those who aim for the best standard …

  13. I spend my musical life listening to (mostly) acoustic music played by the best musicians in the world in some of the best chamber halls in the world (Zankel, Weill, Gilder-Lehrman, Rose Studio, Rose Theater, Grace Rainey Rogers, Bruno Walter, etc.) To my sensibilites, everybody who listens to speakers for a living suffers from “speakeritus”. Further, studio denizens pretty much only listen to mixed multi-tracks which have only a cartoon version of stereo deriving from pan pots and artificial reverb.

    I avoid listening to studio CDs and PA systems because they all sound fake and give me a headache after auditioning a full album or set. The performances sound fake when there is no audience (I can hear the INTENTION to splice), and every knob in the tracking, mixing and mastering studios sound fake. It really blew my mind to re-listen to “classic” Jazz recordings from 1959 (“Time Out” and “Mingus Ah Um”) on a high resolution system and hear how fake they were in relation to the same bands live due to the multi-miking, even before multi-tracking. If recording engineers have such good ears, how come their product is so universally bad?

    Well, Chesky does it right, and I can listen to Manfred Eicher, Carl Jefferson and Pierre Sprey productions because they get great performances and the processing is subtle and minimal. I also know a recording engineer in New York who gets startlingly good timbres and articulation, Joseph Branciforte. His former apprentice Chris Botta is also doing some good work.

    I further do NOT like the normal range of studio monitors – Genelec, PMC, ATC, Focal, JBL, JL, Westlake, Quested, Blue Sky, Neumann, Dynaudio, CADAC, Urei, etc.

    There are some that are good at sub-reality levels – Grimm, Kii (both Bruno Putzeys), Barefoot, Earthworks (David Blackmer & Alex Khenkin), Lipinsky, and ADAM. I own pairs of the last three – well I have Dunlavy SCI which were the prototype for the Lipinskys.

    The only “professional” speakers that had full dynamic range and good clarity IMNSHO were a vintage Klangfilm with a horn mouth big enough for two people to walk in; and the Danley Unity/Synergy models.

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