Breaking with accepted facts

January 10, 2023
 by Paul McGowan

Five hundred years ago, most of the world’s experts clung to the facts of a flat Earth, despite the fact that we’ve shown the planet to be round from as far back as 2,000 years prior to that. *The Greek philosopher Pythagoras was the first to come up with the concept of a spherical Earth back in the 6th century BCE, based on his observations of the moon during a lunar eclipse. He noticed that the shadow cast by the Earth on the moon was always round, no matter what part of the planet was facing the moon.

Experts and authorities are really good at holding the line. Their job is to steer us in the accepted direction. Rarely does an expert veer away from accepted standards and beliefs. If they did, they’d be called something else.

Imagine the turmoil caused by those that dared challenge the experts. They locked Galileo up for life. They ignored and often ridiculed Ignaz Semmelweis as he campaigned for doctors to wash their hands to save lives. And stereo? Imagine the turmoil and opposition from the experts when manufacturers wanted to replace all the mono electronics and add yet another speaker to a system that already worked great.

We find safety and comfort in the experts.

We find innovation and new directions from the outliers.

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52 comments on “Breaking with accepted facts”

  1. And then we went from 2 channels to 4, however that didn’t catch on, but it could catch on now in the digital realm (5.1) & yet…how long do we wait?
    SACD/DSD…some argue that it has failed, while others argue for its resurgence.
    Streaming is the latest fad, where you pay for something that you will never own
    …that doesn’t work for me.
    And we see more & more loudspeaker companies shoehorning amplifiers, DACs
    & streamers into the loudspeaker cabinets so that the electronics can have the
    bejezus (crap) shaken & vibrated out of it…
    I will always prefer loudspeakers to cans or IEMs, so no matter how much I might
    want to downsize to an i-phone & a set of in-ears…I will never find that satisfying.

    Que sera, sera…

    Hey Paul, is ‘PS Audio’ still working on that idea of a digital-artificial-intelligence-automatic-preset-equalizer-thingy device?

    1. I’m with you on streaming, and because you don’t own it you can’t sell it on. Will a ‘stream’ ever become rare, collectable and therefore valuable.

      Even crazier to my mind in some markets you now have the option to rent the heated seats on your new BMW instead of buying them. Nice income stream for BMW, but only in the winter months? If successful no doubt other manufacturers will follow suit.

      1. Rich & Rat, have you or would you pay admission to a movie theater or art museum? I respect your ideals but I don’t understand the need to ‘own’ something to enjoy it. I buy as much as I can but I can’t buy it all. But to each their own (accidental pun there 😉 )
        I’m just thinking you’re missing out on a plethora-load of tuneage available.

        The hot seat rental issue.. software is heading the same direction. Monthly charge. The world is changing and it wants more of our dough. In monthly payments. It simply comes down to – is it worth it to you?
        90 million songs? I’m in.
        Coreldraw? Ok, I use it often.
        Warm bum? Nyeh, I’m not driving that far. I’ll suffer like it’s the 70s.
        But to dangle that button that looks like hot bacon right under your cold ass in a car you already own….? There IS a bit of cheap underhanded salesmanship tactics going on there… what’s next – different fee for low, med & high temp??

        1. pikpen,

          Yes, fair comment. So far I’ve made a conscious decision not to go down the streaming route as I don’t want the additional boxes and all the sorting out it entails. All the additional decisions about have I got the best, that I can afford, bang for buck, could I have done better, etc. You know the score. I’m nearly there with CD, I just didn’t want to start it all over again. I think the ‘owning’ bit comes from a certain ‘control freak’ aspect.

          That said, I am slightly concerned regarding the ‘missing’ out bit. Already there’s been a few songs (less than 5) that I wanted to listen to that we’re only available to stream so I’ve just had to shrug my shoulders and listen to something else. It’s not as if I don’t have plenty of choice. However if that scenario became more and more the case I might have to relent.

          My car already had heated seats which when I got it which quite frankly I thought was unnecessary and a bit ridiculous. Now, having got used to them, in the winter, on leather, they’re lovely. Almost an essential 😉 but I wouldn’t rent them. 🙁

          1. Hello Richtea,

            Agree. That’s why I don’t open up a second rabbit hole to go down with streaming. I’ll stick with CD.
            Seatwarmer: I never would have “wasted” money on them, having lived just fine for 60 years without them. Then they came included with my Subaru Outback. Now, I would never want to be without them going forward!

            – Jeffrey in Philadelphia

          2. All you need is a PC & a usb cable…
            I’d say 90% of the CDs (or digital downloads) I’ve bought over the last decade have been discovered via streaming. Or from my prog radio sites – 2 of my 4 favorites are now gone. 🙁
            Me? I gotta get new stuff into my ear canals regularly.
            It’s like a new mini relationship every few weeks. New, fun, fresh, exciting…
            AND I get to CHEAT!
            Thank GAWD prog rock is alive and well – and thriving in Poland….
            Every time I hear a great new prog band – they seem to be from Poland!

            Prog, because every great concert starts with
            A one,
            A two,
            A one two three four five six seven,
            One two three four five six seven eight nine….

            1. Kip,
              Like Rich said, fair comment sir.
              I can barely ‘get through’ my CD library on a yearly basis…talking here about music that I already know that I will enjoy listening to.
              Currently I can hear new music through YouTube & recommendations.
              That seems to work well for me.
              Having 90 million tunes at my disposal, I feel, would be total overkill.

            2. Back in the early nineties after hearing Porcupine Tree for the first time, it set me on a path to rediscover Prog music. It’s been one of the most rewarding musical journey’s of my life,especially those great bands from Poland. Also Norway and Germany. I couldn’t have done it without my streaming service !

        2. Pikpen i love your comment on movie theaters and art museums. Even attending a musical concert is more akin to streaming than owning an album, except that you do not have a repeat or skip button

    2. Guys, I am going over to the dark side. 😮

      I am setting up a music server using a NAS to store my DSD needle drop recordings. Initial results are very good. I am adding a low cost streamer to the setup to please my wife who wants to stream.

      Reports that I will also take over weekly shopping and daily cooking in our household are rubbish and fake news. 😉

      1. Congratulations! You’ve made it out of the 90s!!

        The steps of music streaming:
        1: Ridicule
        2: Avoidance
        3: Violent opposition
        4: Acceptance. – You are here.

        (My apologies – I’m breaking your jesticulars…. 😉 )

        I started with a low cost streamer too. Aaaand that’s how it starts….

        So…. um what’s for dinner?

  2. No shortage of audio experts in the world…. Not necessarily any safety and comfort received from those experts.

    Innovation in audio from outliers… maybe, but in very small baby steps… otherwise, just pretty much refinement in materials and processes. What’s left for innovation in audio?

    1. Mike in terms of innovations i can think of Mr. Walker and the 57, Mr. Winey and Magnepan, and Dr. Heil and the air motion transformer. But much else seems evolutionary

        1. Mike i did not list digital as I think development of same was a foregone conclusion since Nyquist developed his theorem in the 1930s. So not really an innovation in the 70s

  3. I’m one of the outliers – a rule I live by is that “there is no such thing as a bad recording” … of course, the level of agitation I arouse in others by ‘insulting their intelligence’, from such blasphemy, has been an ongoing “drama” 🙂 .

    What does that give me? Well, it forces me to acknowledge that when some playback sounds bad that it’s the fault of the system presenting it – and not something intrinsically wrong with the capture of the musical event. Innovation then follows, because the only way I can resolve the conflict is to “fix the system”. Which *always* works, given enough time and motivation …

    What I find really depressing is that the ‘experts’ in the audio game have so many things back to front – ideas like, “the function of recordings is to demonstrate how good your system is”, 😉 .

  4. The problem is that when talking movies came out around 1930 they didn’t sound great. In fact they sounded terrible when the audience saw someone speaking and the sound came from somewhere else. Fortunately Alan Blumlein was in the audience and in 1933 he patented a system where the sound of the voice tracked its movement across the screen.

    Blumlein was not an outlier. He was a senior research engineer at EMI, one of the leading players in the recording industry. His development of stereo sound, patented in 1933, transformed the film industry.

    Ironically, EMI did a stereo recording in 1934 at their Abbey Road studios with Sir Thomas Beecham and the London Philharmonic. It might possibly have sounded better, and that was top talent, but there was no market for it for 30 years, the small benefit being outweighed by the potential cost to the consumer of new equipment and more expensive recordings.

    The recording was released and, when reviewed, the reviewer took a swipe at the artificiality of studio recordings:
    “The world of recording is getting artificial, and, as in the bigger affairs of life , all sorts of excuses are made for letting artificiality take the place of reality. The ear’s pure judgment, formed, over many years, by the only experience that matters – that of the concert room – is the criterion.”
    So nothing’s changed there.

    Galileo was slightly different. Canon Law made denial of geocentrism heretical and potentially punishable by death, with torture as a minimum. A plea bargain was arranged whereby Galileo admitted he was only putting forward heliocentric as a debating point, for which he got one day in prison, home leave, and got to keep his fingernails. The Church didn’t want to kill him, just silence him. It was a power game, just as audio “experts” and manufacturers use media to propagate their own religious beliefs about audio.

    1. Steven, I read, learn and enjoy your posts daily.
      And I’m really starting to think you are actually a vampire who has lived for hundreds of centuries acquiring the knowledge, experience and wisdom of a thousand men along the way.
      Please submit a selfie of yourself in a mirror.
      Thank you.

  5. Where do you see PSA as open for outliers or promotional for using less conservative measures and approaches? To be honest I didn’t see this so far except for the personality of developers to not use well-trodden paths (only or mainly), but I may not see the whole picture. There are others who seem to follow far more unusual approaches (I can’t judge if more successful or not).

  6. “And stereo? Imagine the turmoil and opposition from the experts when manufacturers wanted to replace all the mono electronics and add yet another speaker to a system that already worked great.

    We find safety and comfort in the experts.

    We find innovation and new directions from the outliers.”

    Paul, You cannot make generalizations like this! The guys a Bell Labs who invented the transistor are experts who were doing what experts often do, which is expanding science and technology. Where would your business be without the transistor?

    I have mono versions of some of my albums that I prefer over my stereo version of that album. That does not mean that all mono versions are good and all stereo versions are bad.

  7. Five hundred years ago nobody with any education thought the earth was flat. Not only was it recognized that the earth was round, we had a pretty good idea of its size.

    Columbus was ridiculed not because he thought the earth was flat, but because he thought it was considerably smaller than most did. Nobody thought his ships would fall off the edge of the earth, just that he would run out food and water before getting to Asia.

  8. A recent podcast with artificial intelligence “expert” Gary Marcus of NYU shifted my thinking on what we call intelligence and hence who are the real experts. Marcus pointed out that today’s AI largely involved programming that sifts existing information and predicts which words and phrases are most likely to make sense. AI doesn’t “understand” anything about why or whether those words are true. (Ezra Klein Show.) As an old newspaper business editor, I immediately thought of a couple of my inexperienced reporters who didn’t yet have a grasp of the fundamentals of their beat. They used familiar phrases that ALMOST made sense, but when you read carefully, didn’t. I think a true expert is one who understands a topic so well he or she can perceive what they know and what they don’t know, and explain it multiple ways so you see it, too. I’m afraid a whole lot of “experts” have credentials or experience but still don’t deeply comprehend their subject.

  9. Sorry, but I really disagree with this post. We get many more breakthroughs from experts than from “outliers.” Science is self-correcting by design, even if in practice it works too slowly. Read Popper and Kuhn.

    Did “they” lock up Galileo for life? Who is “they”? Answer: The Catholic Inquisition and Pope Urban VIII. Galileo was found guilty by the Inquisition but his imprisonment was immediately commuted to house arrest, after which he continued to make discoveries and publish scientific papers. There was a legitimate scientific debate about heliocentrism (not Earth flatness) between Galileo and Tycho Brahe (who was older and didn’t use a telescope), but Galileo’s troubles were due to religion, not lazy scientific experts.

    From Wikipedia: “According to Stephen Jay Gould, ‘there never was a period of “flat Earth darkness” among scholars, regardless of how the public at large may have conceptualized our planet both then and now. Greek knowledge of sphericity never faded, and all major medieval scholars accepted the Earth’s roundness as an established fact of cosmology.'” To imply otherwise is to perpetuate a myth.

  10. Why the aversion from some to streaming? All you need is a Wi-Fi streamer and a pair of RCA cables to send the streamer’s analog output to your preamp. Or if you prefer to use your existing DAC, a streamer with a coaxial output and a digital cable to your DAC. One additional box and an interconnect. Access to the world’s music at CD or better sound quality.

  11. Experts? Who are they really? For what expertise expressed in concrete accomplishments does society bestow the august title of “expert”? Accepting such a moniker is already sinful. Pride anyone? Look at what our medical “experts” have brought us lately. We are currently suffering the tyranny of experts. I’ll take the contrarianism of those who question the accepted doctrine of experts. At least we should be able to hear and weigh the wisdom of their challenges. If they are wrong then the prevailing views of experts will win the day. But…what if “We the People” never get to hear those challenges? Are the experts truly experts then?

  12. “…we’ve shown the planet to be round from as far back as 2,000 years prior…

    And here, in 2023, the largest and fastest growing cult in the country – and spreadly rapidly around the world – is the qanon compatriot flat earth group.

    Unlike their forbearers of the recent past – who gathered like some local liars club, mostly to swill beer and shoot the breeze – today’s flat earthers are utterly serious, vehemently anti-science, and dangerous. Nihilists, they recognize no authority, but devote themselves to undermining social systems and societal infrastructure.

    Growing in power, they have prominent allies in mainstream systematically aiding in their goals and desceminating their message.

    Among them are massive communication enterprises which present themselves as news services, when in actuality, they’re the opposite. Many of them have had lawsuits brought against them. The upshot was that at most, they admitted that they weren’t broadcasting anything such as news. In fact, they stated that they were producing mere “entertainment”. Among them was the giant Fox News.

    That admission had little impact, and it was forgotten almost before it was publically announced.

    Meanwhile, prominent public figures and politicians continue the work of rapidly swelling anti-science hordes, such as Tucker Carlson, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Jim Jordan, Steve Bannon, Alex Jones, and many others.

    Interestingly, all of those figures are to some degree aligned with the most violent terrorist state in the world today [Russia].

    “Rarely does an expert veer away from accepted standards and beliefs…”? Today, what was once a mark of open mindedness and a highway to innovation – thinking outside the box, as Paul urges us to pursue here – has been highjacked to achieve perverted, destructive ends. The route veering “away from accepted standards” is hastening toward the new medievalism – a new Dark Ages.

    You don’t need to go far to find a high-fiver echo of this. Right here, several replies offer confirmation, such as hifiman5 blurting out “We are currently suffering the tyranny of experts”. Yep. Medicine is a lie because science is a lie.

    Science is a lie. There ain’t no molecules. Home school your kids, science-proof your family, and secure your guns. They’re trying to control you and your mind with that Godless education. The earth is flat.

    1. Neward,
      Thanks for posting.
      I could not have summarised it better myself.
      We live in a world where bullshit & criminality
      is rewarded & honesty is questioned.

    2. Anthony Fauce IS science. He has spoken it into existence! I truly hope you are able to recover from the “mass formation psychosis” that has an iron fisted grip on you. It’s a shame for you and so many fine folks around the world. This reality just goes to show that propaganda is an effective tool in manipulating the human mind. “Covidstan” is a cult contrived by your masters at the WHO and the other worldwide globalist organizations. It was carefully planned and dare I say masterfully executed. How do we get people like you out of the cult and back to reality? How can we help you regain your ability to reason?

      Perhaps now that twitter is not censoring like the regime media, enough truth about the nefarious aims of the globalist nirvana of “The Great Reset” will jog people back to actual truth, science and reality. All the best to you and your’s!

  13. Neither science nor philosophers and religions can explain and describe space, earth, nature or life itself. So-called experts may be able to clarify one or the other connection in your specialist and subject area, but this is not absolute knowledge. The ocean of ignorance and inexperience is gigantic. In a world governed by authorities and science, it is not possible to live well in the long run. On the other hand, one should not ignore the little bit of knowledge that is already there. I hope that humanity is wise enough to find a balance for peaceful and comfortable coexistence.

    1. “Re: “Neither science nor philosophers and religions can explain and describe space, earth, nature or life itself. So-called experts may be able to clarify one or the other connection in your specialist and subject area, but this is not absolute knowledge.”

      The important difference is that only science is self-correcting. Philosphers of science like Popper and Kuhn have explored this at length. A scientific hypothesis cannot be proven, only falsified, according to Popper. The concept of falsifiability has been debated, but it’s still an important one in the practice of science. And as Kuhn explained, when anomalies in conventional scientific wisdom build up over time, an existing paradigm will be overthrown (usually by younger scientists). The scientists/rebels who overthrow the establishment are experts too, but have less professional and emotional baggage invested in older paradigms.

      Science makes advancements in understanding; religion does not. We wouldn’t have hi-fi without science and without experts applying scientific knowledge. Non-experts and quacks who throw out unverifiable claims and who move the goalposts when their theories are falsified make hi-fi an interesting hobby, but they offer nothing in terms of understanding what makes sound recording and reproduction better or worse.

      1. Even without scientists we would have HiFi today. You don’t have to be scientific about everything. There are so many tinkerers and inventors in the world researching and inventing things in garages, it’s also possible without science.

        1. “Even without scientists we would have HiFi today”

          Really? Exactly how’d that happen? Hmm?

          Every audio device ever made’s based on scientific discoveries of the principles of electro-magnetism and acoustics. An understanding of the movement of electrons though a conductor led to the development of amplification devices, such’s vacuum tubes, transistors, and so on.

          The digital device on which you typed your brilliantly excogitated ultra maroon reply’s only possible because of scientific research.

          But wait – no. No, you’re right. Science ain’t got nuttin’ ta do wid dat. ‘Puters, loudspeakers, digital streaming, amplifiers – there ain’t science in any ‘a dat. Atom bombs? Ain’t nuttin but a bunch a TNT ‘n dynamite packed together. There ain’t no atom bombs, cause there ain’t no atoms.

          “Tinkerers in garages” are the only ones who create all technology used in the world today, and they ain’t usin’ nuttin made through the application of scientific principles, such as using an electric drill – oops, there’s that that science word again – electric – yikes – or a super adhesive glue – again created by means of chemistry – or modeling a concept on a ‘puter.

          Of course, ‘puters ain’t got nuttin to do with science. ‘Puters and science-free garage tinkering inventors and everything came about as a result of alchemy, angels, and magic.

          They had ‘puters back in them mid-evil times, and they had perfect cell phone reception, and there weren’t no science nor nuttin like dat back den. Dem’s the good old days.

          Rock on.

          1. I’m sure of it!

            Not everything that comes on the market makes sense and is better. Some things are advertised as hi-fi, but are actually a step backwards.
            Sometimes I think it would be best if people went to concerts more often again, then a music performance would be a special experience again and not a consumer good that you can download from the internet for a few cents.
            The level of science and technology does not guarantee good sound. Years of experience in developing audio circuits and listening in different environments and constant optimization through trial and error lead to better results. Science is miles behind.

  14. This forum is just totally excellent- mostly when politics are kept on a leash! If we don’t understand where we came from we struggle to move forward.

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