July 27, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

Ever wonder why salad forks are smaller than dinner forks? Is it easier to pierce a shard of lettuce with a smaller instrument?

I suspect it is merely convention. Sometime in the past when we were worried about being fancy there likely had to be a way to distinguish between the proper etiquette of which utensil to use, which side of the plate the napkin went on, and so forth.

Downton Abbey style.

When it comes to audio we too have our conventions. The hot seat listening position. Long interconnects and short speaker cables. Long speaker cables and short interconnects. Wash the vinyl before playing. Warm the equipment before listening. Turn the lights down low.

The list is likely exhaustive.

Some conventions are born from experience while others are simply "that's the way we've always done it".

The thing about conventions is to always question them.

Are they helping or hindering?

Sometimes we realize our conventions are holding us back. That's the time to reevaluate and readjust.

Else we get stuck in a rut.

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44 comments on “Conventions”

  1. It is not convention, knives and forks are different. More obvious with knives (butter, fish, meat, etc.), but also forks. For example, try cutting a mille feuille with a meat fork, which is the role of the dessert fork, which should have a tine with a sharp leading edge. Of course these days you see people stick in a fork and cut it with a knife. Where did these people grow up, in a cave?

    With audio it’s more to do with prejudice. Paul said in his little book that all-in-one systems are basically compromised, jack of all trades master of none, and that you should buy separates. I think the complete opposite, small is beautiful, it is not a compromise, it is usually the result of good design.

    1. I've always used a 'Splade'...all-in-one...Naim, Devialet, etc. 😉
      Actually I use chopsticks...far more civilised.
      Small is beautiful; my wife is proof 😀

      1. I've never understood why cultures capable of all that the great oriental empires achieved, at the table never got beyond forks and spoons.

        Like Europeans still, for the most part haven't adopted balanced interconnects.

        Americans still, for the most part, haven't got the hang of good bread, (Paul excepted.)

  2. Is 'the sweet-spot' now referred to these days as 'the hot-seat' because of global warming?
    I do short interconnects & short loudspeaker wires.
    What's vinyl??
    Regardless of convention, I don't have to question why I preheat my electronics.
    I do it because the canned music sounds better from the get-go; no question about it.
    Low lights seems to be around 50/50 amongst audiophiles, as some like to stare at their
    High-end jewellery.

    Sometimes we realise that our servo-controlled subwoofers are holding us back.
    That's the time to reevaluate & readjust 😉

    Stuck in a rat??...oh!...sorry...

    ps. interestingly when I type 'realize' here, the PS Audio site spell-check draws a red line under it.
    However, when I spell it 'realise'...the English red line.
    Even this spell-check doesn't like American spelling 😀 🙂 😉

  3. My 25 year old Harman Kardon amp needs about 30 minutes time to warm up, though. Listening in complete darkness gives me more of a live feeling. And yes cleaning records let them sound better 😀

    1. Not something I’ve really thought about but you made me curious. As usual Google came up with the goods, and no requirement to be a prime member.

      Forks with a wide left tine and an optional notch, such as a salad fork, fish fork, dessert fork, and pastry fork, provide extra leverage when cutting food that normally does not require a knife.

      Similarly, as referenced in Steven’s FPOTT (first post of the thread).

      1. Well I’ve thrown this at several maitres d’ about just that unique fish knife notch.
        One eventually explained; to lift up the spine while serving a whole fish.

  4. The hot seat is great but I want freedom and that means speakers that sound great no matter where I'm sitting. I don't want to be a slave to a seat. Having good interconnects are important. Any speaker wires sound pretty good when using bare wire with no spades or bananas. When using precious metal terminations use good quality speaker wire. Any fork will do when I'm eating salad. How about spoons when having soup?

  5. Is this a cutlery thread? I'm with FR on chopsticks.

    It could be argued that people on low income who live modestly and save would be well advised to use some of their savings on excellent PS Audio hifi, whereas wealthy people should just by PS Audio gear if they know what's good for them. This, of course, is an argument known as Morton's Fork. Is Paul subliminally messaging?

  6. Rules and conventions. Do not brake rules, it can get you killed. Even breaking conventions can get you killed. I watched a movie once where a WWII US spy forgot and used his fork the way we do here in the US when he was in Germany and it got him killed. Be careful out there.

  7. At what point do traditions become convention?

    Regarding audio, the convention at one time was all in one consoles and mono. Then stereo came along - at one point in our youth receivers were all the rage. Then came separates and pricing to match the technological break through for each device.

    Conventions change - some traditions change as society changes.
    Cutting edge can often be seen as unconventional.

    “Sticking a fork in it…” a practice before instant read thermometers ? (I never liked stabbing my meat 😉 )

    What’s the proper etiquette for listening to a HiFi system?

    1. Baldy Bloke just got his copy of, get this, September 2022
      hi-fi news & record review & it's not even August!
      Anyway, there's a full page ad for the PS Audio BHK-600 (boat anchor) in it.
      Things are moving quickly.

      1. Convention be damned.

        Yesterday you said it wasn’t big enough to be an anchor. It depends on the size of the boat? 🙂 ✌️

        That’s what winches are for.

  8. Never thought about the salad fork thing, so I looked it up. Forks have been in widespread use around the globe, including in China, since the Bronze Age. Interesting wrinkle: Europe was slow to adopt them. From Wiki: "The fork's adoption in northern Europe was slower. Its use was first described in English by Thomas Coryat in a volume of writings on his Italian travels (1611), but for many years it was viewed as an unmanly Italian affectation. Some writers of the Roman Catholic Church expressly disapproved of its use, St. Peter Damian seeing it as 'excessive delicacy.' It was not until the 18th century that the fork became commonly used in Great Britain...."

    Is the salad fork a delicate affectation or a mere convention? No. The outside tines are wider, intended to be used for cutting vegetables. That allows us to leave the knife untouched when eating the salad course. For the main course, the slimmer tines of the dinner fork can be used in conjunction with a clean knife.

    It's always good to question conventions, but usually you'll find good reasons for those conventions hiding in plain sight (or sound, as the case may be).

      1. No. A spork is a nasty little plastic utensil Harlen Sanders foisted on the world to save money for the shareholders at Kentucky Fried Chicken. They made a big deal of it in their TV commercials when I was knee high to an FR-30. I'm surprised the anti-plastic police haven't commandeered the idea and sharpened the handle such that you can replace 3 utensils rather than just 2. But then it would be a Swiss Army Knife and they were there first.

  9. It's clear why knives are placed on the right side of the dish. It is to punish those non-comformists who are left-handed.

    Question for left-handers: When you cut with a knife, do you turn your hand upside down like you do when you write with a pen or pencil?

    1. I’m not left handed so might be missing something here but I haven’t got a grasp of the question. Don’t left handers just replicate what a right hander would do but with the opposite hand, like a mirror image?

      1. Good question, Richtea. I posed the question with a sense of humor. I have nothing against left-handers. My identical twin brother was left handed. I am right handed. When he wrote, he inverted his left hand, which is what I meant by "upside down." I have seen a lot of left handers do that. We are taught to read and write English from left to right. Left handers often write with their hand and pencil or pen positioned above the line rather than below the line, in order to see and avoid smudging words they just wrote. I don't recall if he inverted his knife at the dinner table when he cut his meat. Regrettably I lost my twin brother decades ago so I can't ask him.

        For those who didn't get it:,butter%20your%20roll%20from%20the%20bread%20plate.%20

          1. Yeah, I should have ended my post with a smiley 🙂

            My theory as to why my at-birth identical twin developed left-handed is that our mother used to always place him to the left of me in the stroller, at tables, wherever. We often wore wrist bands with our names on them so our parents could tell us apart. Since we did everything together side-by-side 24/7, it made sense for him to use his left hand to draw, color, play with toys and for me to use my right hand. That way we would not be knocking elbows and each could observe what the other was doing. When it came to writing, he wrote "upside down" so we could both see what he was writing. Also, it was probably good to keep scissors and other sharp objects as far apart as possible, as we did not always get along perfectly 🙂 In recently looking back at family photos from childhood through adulthood, it dawned on me that no matter what the photo occasion, he was always to my left in the photo!

            1. I have a weirdness in me about being right handed or left handed. I am right handed and not very ambidextrous. I do everything right handed ( writing, drawing, sports, etc. ) except for one thing. When I was 4 to 6 years old I was given a child size pool table for Christmas. I do not know why ( I do not think I asked for it ). On my own and without supervision I started to play pool left handed. By the time my father ( who worked long hours ) realized this it was too late, the die was cast, and I became a left handed pool player. I have tried to play pool right handed and I am terrible at when I do so. Weird!

              1. I'm no expert, but I think we can train to use either or both hands equally, the younger the age the better, when the brain adapts fastest.

                  1. Joseph,
                    I had a left-handed mother & a right-handed father; at least that's what I was told.
                    And the confusion in my 'both-sides-want-to-be-the-dominant-side' brain has, I suspect, created a lot of physical uncoordination for me.

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