Cultures and communities

July 14, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

Most of us are born into a culture. Over time, we embrace other cultures and join the communities that support them.

Take our group’s choice of the culture known as high-end audio. It’s unlikely any of us were born into it (though to be fair my father might have qualified as an audiophile). And I would speculate most of us chose to embrace this culture and join its community.

We speak the lingo, we understand the concepts, on occasion we finger-wag our firm beliefs, we often preach the gospel, we sometimes shame outside thoughts that run counter to the culture that defines our community.

I know plenty of my fellow audiophiles that bristle at the suggestion ours is a culture. They would prefer the term community.

I would suggest one doesn’t work without the other. They are forever intertwined.

Cultures tend to be more long-term while communities are more transient.

The culture of high-end audio has been evolving for more than 100 years. Our community that supports, feeds, and helps shape our culture comes and goes.

Culture and community are dance partners.

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52 comments on “Cultures and communities”

    1. Wwwhhhaaattt? This is the most original / squirrely post you have yet come up with. No single driver, active dsp, secretive design, one of a kind speak. No dissertation on imperfect sound, the sound the sound engineer created using a totally different system and a different listening room, which monitors were used in the mastering process and which type of system setup and room treatment was implemented to evaluate your listening on playback.


        1. I think perhaps he’s having a friendly gibe at the apparently truncated comment which is lacking any of paulsquirrel’s usual refrain? 🙂

          1. Precisely Watson, though one would have to read it with one eye closed (monocular) in that way it presents a more focused image.

            All kidding aside, just a friendly nudge to either show some restraint or shake up the posts and not repeat oneself.

            I stop by this place on occasion to hopefully learn something or be entertained. In this instance, less is always more.

  1. My idea of a community is a place where people live together, but don’t necessarily get on with each other.
    I would have thought a culture is a rather broader value system than a common interest in inanimate objects that make sound.
    I think the words “forum” (a place where people meet to discuss a common interest) and “user group” (a common brand or product) sum it up for me.

    There may well be a community of audio people by virtue of being economically engaged in the industry. I’m not part of that. My interactions with audio people are rare. Communities first arose as a result of the agrarian revolution about 15,000 years ago. Perhaps I should think of myself as a hunter-gatherer audio person.

    1. Steven,
      Middle of summer up there in the North.
      How’s the house renovations going?
      Are you over the ‘worst’ of it yet?
      A couple more months??

      1. We have plasters, plumbers and even a decorator today, but bare earth elsewhere. A while to go, but we’re getting there.

    2. Steven, I am replying to your post because it got me thinking about what you said and how what Paul said really highlights a major problem that we now have in most societies today. I agree with you that what we have here is nothing more than a forum or user group and that when Paul started labeling it as community and culture it made me realize that there has been considerable concern for about decade or so that too many humans are relying on simple message exchange on the internet ( as we do here ) or using their smart phones and their wireless service to text. For you, I and FR to exchange messages here on a daily basis is understandable and acceptable because we are separated be thousands of miles. However, when people who are members of the same real community, or school, or place of business begin to use message exchange as their principle means of communication and interaction then one has to question how is this effecting our cultures. It is concerning to me that some might think of this as a culture or a community.

      1. I work on the principle that anyone here could be an axe-murderer or, worse still, wear one of those red hats. My experience is that extensive use of social media does not make you anti-social, they can co-exist. Some people don’t need social media to make them anti-social, even take pride in their sociopathic condition. It can make you rude, as in tapping on your phone when sitting talking with someone. I have social media accounts but never use them. Some can be very useful, like our family WhatsApp group and our street WhatsApp group, whether for exchanging books, finding a plumber, a restaurant etc.

        We had proper lockdowns in the UK and when we got back to going to cultural and sporting events a few months ago, what was most apparent was the need to resume human interaction, whether performers, strangers at cricket matches etc. People were even chatting on the tube (our metro system), which NEVER happened before.

        Paul’s audio community may be populated by people he knows in the flesh, but I would never conflate an online forum with any form of personal communal engagement. It’s not dissimilar to live music and recorded – whatever you wish for, they will never be the same.

        1. Consider yourself very lucky that you do not have to use the NYC subways ( our tube ), people never talked on the subways and since the pandemic eased up and people have returned to the subways they have started stabbing each other and pushing each other in front of the trains.

  2. I spent too much time in home-audio retail to ‘finger-wag’ anyone about my firm beliefs…you can lead a horse to water but…
    Personally, I like the way most of us here share our individual home audio life experiences; from highly technical to Hi-Fi curious…come one, come all & contribute, share the joy(s) of the music & the gear that brings it to our tympanic membranes.
    Akin to Paul’s ‘Playground’ post, a week ago, we come here to discuss & educate each other, to share the humour & idiosyncrasies, the agreements & the disagreements over the ‘hot topics’.

    “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends
    We’re so glad you could attend
    Come inside! Come inside!

    Come inside, the show’s about to start
    Guaranteed to blow your head apart…”

    Vive la home audio! 😉

  3. From Wikipedia….

    “Human communities may share intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, and risks in common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness.”

    “When used as a count noun, a “culture” is the set of customs, traditions, and values of a society or community” or…

    “Some schools of philosophy, such as Marxism and critical theory, have argued that culture is often used politically as a tool of the elites to manipulate….”

    So while they may be intertwined, can either one be singular? Or does culture need a leader that some in the community can follow and revere?

  4. “a place where people live together, but don’t necessarily get on with each other”
    Doesn’t that apply to EVERY place where people live together ? (the answer is YES).
    I’d rather use the word “gang”. A gang of people who need a daily dose of audio.
    In other words : we’re all hooked. And PmcG is one of our dealers.
    For some even the Godfather of audio.

    1. Surely we could come up with some better collective nouns than that! 🙂
      How about a cacophony of audiophiles or a fanfare of audiophiles? Or if we wanted to include the quieter members of the community, how about a symphony of audiophiles.

      On further reflection, given some of the more heated exchanges we’ve seen in these posts, maybe a murder of crows would be more appropriate.

      1. MikeK,
        And yet nowhere near as heated as an ‘A’ class tube amplifier 😉

        “Blackbird singing in the dead of night
        Take these sunken eyes & learn to see.
        All your life,
        You were only waiting for this moment to be free”

          1. Rich,
            Always Paul McCartney’s vocals on this one…
            some originals always outshine the covers.
            However, ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’
            & ‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’
            will always belong to Joe Cocker…
            in my not so humble opinion.

            1. Hey bungalow Bill, what did you kill?
              … Oh just another non resolving system.
              Happiness is a warm… Class A amp, of course! Bang bang, shoot shoot.

              Oh FR you’re killing me!

      2. This issue is thousands of years old.

        I once visited a school in Northern India where the Buddhist monks teach using a didactic method, where the children sit in the circle with the teacher in the middle and they shout at each other, clapping and waving their arms in the air. This is probably much the same as how Aristotle taught, who thought learning and debate should be on an emotional level. The complete opposite of Plato, who thought emotion should be excluded from matters of the intellect and mind.

        So, depending on your approach, a little – or a lot – of shouting can be thought of as a good thing.

        1. “Shout, shout, Let it all out
          These are the things I can do without
          Come on, I’m talking to you, come on.

          In violent times
          You shouldn’t have to sell your soul
          In black & white
          They really, really ought to know”

  5. When I see the word ‘culture’ I think of something grown in a laboratory. I wonder, does that apply to any of us here 😉

    I’d say we all culture our systems to grow a better sound experience.

  6. “When I see the word ‘culture’ I think of something grown in a laboratory. I wonder, does that apply to any of us here”
    hmm…Richtea, you could be on to something !
    I, for one, believe that there are some individuals, or should I say entities, among us who (that ?) are not entirely human.

    “But I’m a creep
    I’m a weirdo
    What the hell am I doin’ here?
    I don’t belong here”

    1. Always love a good Radiohead reference so here’s mine. (slightly abbreviated).

      “The breath of the morning
      I keep forgetting
      The smell of the warm summer air
      I live in a town
      Where you can’t smell a thing
      You watch your feet
      For cracks in the pavement
      Up above
      Aliens hover
      Making home movies
      For the folks back home
      Of all these weird creatures
      Who lock up their spirits
      Drill holes in themselves
      And live for their secrets
      They’re all uptight

      I wish they’d swoop down in a country lane
      Late at night while I’m driving
      Take me on board of their beautiful ship
      Show me the world as I’d love to see it
      I’d tell all my friends
      But they’d never believe me
      They’d think that I’d finally lost it completely
      I’d show them the stars
      And the meaning of life
      They’d shut me away
      But I’d be all right
      All right
      I’m just uptight”

    2. jb4,
      Hahaha…I don’t think that (s)he’s a creep or a weirdo…
      I just think that (s)he’s rude, arrogant & obnoxious…
      & possibly a little misguided 😉

      (S)he can belong here, if (s)he is respectful of others & can show some humour…but that’s just my opinion.

  7. Reviewing all the folks who are commenting today it seems like we have a community for the most part. This community doesn’t look like it’s expanding too much when topics like this arise. So I decided to look up the meaning of the word “culture” and found so many different definitions of what this word made I chose the definition that seemed the most appropriate and made sense to me.

  8. Thanks kcleveland123. yes, OK Computer is a good one.
    I always have the feeling that the off-key-ness voice of Thom Yorke is one of the charms of he band.

  9. Fat Rat,
    I wasn’t thinking of your friend in particular, but now that you mention it…erm him
    Could it be he is a misguided angel…?

    “I said “Mama, he’s crazy and he scares me
    But I want him by my side
    Though he’s wild and he’s bad
    And sometimes just plain mad
    I need him to keep me satisfied”

    1. jb4,
      What a recording eh!
      When I put the Trinity Sessions on I still marvel at & wonder about
      how they set up the mic’s & that whole, ‘less is more’ thing.
      A shining example of uncomplicated recording.

  10. To me, this forum community is like a gathering of Baptists, Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Pentecostals, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hinduists, agnostics, atheists and all other ideological persuasions. The beliefs and philosophies are all over the map, and often there is strong disagreement concerning the means of salvation and redemption of our audio systems, as we all aspire to audio nirvana, but have different conceptions of what that is and how to get there. It is unlikely many ingrained notions ever get changed. For example, some believe straight wire takes you directly to heaven, while others believe in the required mediation of other agents in the process of audio transformation. Some rely on faith without works to save their systems from the seven deadly audio sins, while others believe few will reach audio nirvana and that it can only be achieved through hard work and strict adherence to all the audio commandments given to us through the audio prophets. Some are trapped in the arduous process of purification of their systems in purgatory. Still others believe there is no such thing as heaven, but enjoy ribbing those who do. And there are the demons who enjoy creating doubt in the faithful’s minds and creating false ideas that lead the sheep further astray, deeper into audio hell. LOL

  11. As a member of this community, I can sympathize with Steven no to be confused with Steven’s situation. I have sold my home in Colorado Springs and am having a new one built in west central Florida, hopefully. I was to be moving in this month, but with the increased construction and not increased permitting capacity the builder has not even been allowed to break ground yet. As a result I am living with my business partner and his family, the only musical enjoyment I get is from my computer and its Audio Engine 2+ speakers or my iPad and a set of Sennheiser cans. Maybe by Christmas I will be able to sit back in my listening chair and enjoy my actual stereo system, with a nice glass of red wine. It will be like starting over.
    I enjoy reading the replies on these posts, even when they do get off track they can be very entertaining.

  12. I was abducted by space aliens late last night….

    Anyone else have the same experience?

    Its so hard to explain unless you know.

    They’re always abducting and on the go.

    Surely, some here can help start a new culture with me.

    Later, when there is enough of us realized, we can form a community, perhaps.

  13. Paul,
    Absolutely lovely picture, can you tell us what country the young lady’s are from.
    Their smiles remind me of the people of Thailand, lived there 2 years, back in the early 70s. They are the sweetest people on earth..

    1. Aren’t they just the sweetest? Melt your heart. I wish I knew. All our photos we use for these posts come from a service called Pixabay and they are all contributed by photographers (including me).

  14. This issue of what is culture or community is a very interesting one and rather elusive.
    I like to go extreme skiing every year. Not nuts extreme, but out of bounds, cliffs, trees. The type of people that engage in this long term are a “community”. A clique that behaves, talks and dresses in similar ways. When I ran marathons, I also observed that the hard core runners had a behavior, a language, a way of communicating that is a “clique”. Same thing when I see cycling groups. It is almost like this elemental way humans want to find ways to bind together. Scientists are like that too.

    All these groups have hard core beliefs, some more scientific than others. Training programs or recovery for runners is based on a lot of mythology. Not too crazy, but there are “beliefs” not backed up by science. The hard core skiers have an enormous vocabulary to describe snow. But the good ones are very good at understanding the risk of avalanches. They know the science of avalanche formation. If they mess up, they die. With audio, if they mess up, they “remove a veil”, or they achieve another type of “blackness”. There is no risk in audio. This is why science is irrelevant and/or dangerous to who calls himself an “audiophile”.

    For decades I believed this gospel, like scientology. But then I decided to learn more and realized this is just like scientology when we talk without measuring.

    “Audiophiles” are the funniest group I have been into. They live in denial convinced of “their” inherent superior hearing skills.

    I recommend a very interesting book called Think Again, by Adam Grant. You can only see when you want to see.

    1. CtA, I can see that man of action, that is great, I wish I was still young enough to be a man of action once again.

      I have seen reviews of the Adam Grant’s book and like all other self help books, anyone who thinks that something that has helped their life will help everyone’s life really needs to think again.

      I take great issue with your statement that audiophiles believe they have “inherent superior hearing skills”. I have been an audiophile for something like 50 years. I have never once thought that I have “inherent superior hearing skills”. My parents never had superior hearing skills so I did not inherit superior hearing skills from them.

      All I am is someone who learned how to listen carefully enough to a realistic acoustic “image” of a musical performance when it is present. It takes three simple things to do this:

      1. Good enough audio gear to produce the acoustic images,
      2. The good enough gear has to be properly setup,
      3. You have to practice listening and learn how to recognize the acoustic image.

      As a young man I found that when listening to good audio gear that was properly setup and I was seated properly I had to close my eyes and focus only on what I was hearing. I soon learned how to focus only on what I was hearing and I could hear the sound of the musicians and singers as if they were actually playing in front of me as they would be if they were actually performing in front of me.

      All this requires is good enough audio gear that is properly setup and practice. There is in no inheritance or superiority required. Well, my Magico S7 speakers are pretty superior, so maybe just a little superiority is needed. 😉

      1. I am not young, actually, I’m 60+ years old. Involved in this field since my early teens.
        My point is that you have to continue to learn and study.

        Adam Grant is a professor at Wharton. He describes psychology issues in the same direction of Kahnemann. It is not literally a self help book. It is more an explanatory book. I’m not too fond of self help books. This one helped me understand my process from audio mythology to audio science. It was quite enlightening. I’m very interested in process issues and methods.

        By the way, I’m a Wharton grad too, but not biased on the book as a result of this.

        Most people here do believe they have superior hearing and or listening skills. You may not, but this is you.

        I will never be interested in Mágico speakers. That kind of money is not a valuable trade off for me. To each, it’s own.

      2. Before I forget, I did appreciate your post.
        I knew about your Mágicos. I know they are terrific speakers, but as I said, outside of my trade-off perspective.

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