Excitement vs. caution

February 1, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

What would happen if you were presented with a radical new idea? A way to improve the sound of your system, one that would require you to adopt a whole new way of thinking.

Would you be excited or cautious?

Though I don’t have one up my sleeve, the question remains.

Jump in and swim or wait and see how things pan out over time?

Clearly, we’re all different. I would be first in line for the new because that’s just me. Though I am in the minority, I love and embrace change.

Moving forward with the new is what gets me out of bed in the morning and dreaming of the possibilities keeps me lying awake at night.

For most others, it’s quite the opposite.

These fundamental differences are probably built into our DNA. Developed over countless generations, I’ll bet that the reason there are fewer people excited over change is that they likely had a much lower survival rate. It wasn’t that many centuries ago that early adopters were the first to try something new and the first to bite the proverbial weenie when something went horribly wrong.

Thankfully, we live in an era where it’s safer to experiment and stretch our wings into the new.

I’d say that as a culture we’re becoming more comfortable with experimenting with the new.

And to me, that’s exciting.

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29 comments on “Excitement vs. caution”

  1. Paul,
    No, sorry, but I’m not comfortable nor am I excited with the fact that laboratories in Wuhan are experimenting with “the new” viruses.
    Many intelligentsia have postulated that science will, eventually, kill us all.
    How can you get a solid 8hrs of sleep every night, as previously stated by you, if you’re kept awake by “dreaming of the possibilities”?

    As far as home-audio goes, if there is something revolutionary…a radical new idea…then I strongly suspect that ‘Steven not to be confused with Steven’ would’ve already told us about it & ‘CtA’ would be all hopped-up on dopamine trying to figure-out a way to measure it.

    Therefore I’d be cautious; remembering how ‘Soundmind’ aka ‘Mark Fischer’ used to remind us on a regular basis that there has been no REAL advancements in home-audio for around the last 60 years.

      1. Hi Taiye,
        I didn’t need to figure it out…it was a dream; only a dream.
        A 3-D movie screenplayed by a vivid imagination.
        I’d like to ask you what you are smoking though 😉

        1. Dope? Nope!
          It’s just that most of us incorporate our protagonists in our subconscious.
          “Sweet dreams are made of these”
          Taiye (wild eyed Emoji. if there is one)

          1. Yes, I’ve heard that (your 2nd line)
            If that is the case then it’s a long time coming;
            from my youth…talk about a delayed reaction 🙂
            FYI, yes there is a wild/wide eyed emoji…unfortunately
            not available in the ‘Paul’s Posts’ comments section 🙁

    1. Yes, always interested in new ideas, and they are unlikely to be in rectangular boxes.

      One I, and millions of people like, are the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom, a high quality waterproof Bluetooth speaker.

      I’m convinced lossless Bluetooth will make a lot of conventional rectangular audio redundant.

      Most of the advances in terms of the majority of listeners have probably been in wireless headphones and earpods.

      Then my ceiling sound/light system (CEDIA New Hardware Award 2021 – did I mention that before!?), which is a venture by a leading high-end speaker designer/manufacturer.

      So a few more watts or a new cable isn’t very exciting in my book.

    2. A lot of “reimagined” changes are just repackaged technology. A lot of it is driven by cost reduction and a new look to boosts sales! Even electrical engineering books have not change much in a hundred years. They just get repackaged by someone who thinks their method of instruction is better then someone else. Time-domain and Frequency-domain is, well, time-domain and frequency-domain. I do get excited about new products and like changes (in electronics) because it makes me money. I build the stuff. Engineered viruses and weapons of mass destruction on the other hand, do not excite me.

      1. Occasionally we would build something better for the DOD. They would always start off by telling us they could not tell us the complete purpose of the unit because our security clearance wasn’t high enough. We would have a check list of stress conditions that the unit would have to pass to be acceptable. One of the questions on the list was how many on / off cycles did the unit have to be capable of without failure. If the answer to that question was one cycle we would know then that what we were working on was part of a missile guidance system, the part that went on the missile. We never knew if they were weapons of mass destruction, but certainly weapons of destruction.

        1. Most weapons platforms that I have been associated with were precision kill systems which differ greatly from biological and nuclear weapons. I am being brought in to consult on the manufacturability of a new M134 trigger design which will require significant revision of the fire control circuit due to excessive heat generation and some other MTBF stuff… I hope to build it.

    3. I am interested in new ideas, new concepts, and I always want to try to make sure the claims made stand up. Modern Class D amps, modern powered speakers that include DACs, wireless transmission, “intelligent” speakers that self adjust to rooms. These are just a few advances in audio that made a big difference.
      Interestingly, Paul sticks with tubes, Class AB, passive speakers, transformers in his DAC, using a Studer mixer, etc. It is almost as he actually is against progress!
      Just read the current Copper article dealing with “spinorama”, an old research finding that helps design better speakers. Poo poo’ed in posts and promoted in Copper. Will Paul show the spinorama of the FR-28?
      Do you believe the claims of new drugs without data to back them up? Is an opinion sufficient?

      1. Welcome back and I don’t know if the words “shout” and “brick wall” are familiar to you, but anyway.

        So I started to read the Spinderoma article, to the point that I started thinking about coffee … what struck me was that the black line is the one we see in most reviews. After that you have a “predicted in-room response”. Predicted by who? On what premise?

        Take my listening room, just for example.
        The front wall (behind the speakers) is not flat, it’s a bay at 45 degrees on both sides behind the speakers, and half of it is windows covered in triple-layer drapes. The side walls are heavily damped with furnishings and a wall of records, plus the walls are lined with Acoustiwall, a specialist absorbing building material. The ceiling is also covered in an absorbive multi-layer structure. So far as off-axis response for different listening positions, there is one small chair in the listening position and it never moves. The back wall behind the listening position is removed most of the time and the nearest back wall is 40 feet away. The volume of that space is about 9,000 cubic feet, about 4 times bigger than the listening room itself. Good sized rug on the floor.

        I listen pretty near – about 8 feet. I hate deep bass, my speakers are about 32Hz -3dB and no subwoofers.

        How a speaker might perform in a theoretical space, let alone off-axis, is of no relevance to me at all. So you can throw around as much theoretical response as you like, the only response that counts for me is the one that I hear from the chair in the furnished room. I strongly suspect that is how people will decide on the FR-30.

          1. More avoidance. Go read his book … heard that before.

            The article was too long for me, but I read enough to realise that spiderama isn’t going to be much use to me even if any speakers I might consider were measured, which they aren’t.

            For example, I read online: To quote Dr. Toole, “All loudspeakers must deliver a strong, high quality direct sound to all listeners.” Well, since we bought the speakers, I’m the only person to have listened to them, so who are these other listeners I should care about?

            Most of the spider-measured speakers are pro monitors, a few consumer brands like Polk and Revel which are hardly sold over here, so the fact it’s hardly used makes it largely irrelevant.

  2. I doubt that it needs a radical new (!) idea to improve the sound of a most simple stereo system because the old laws of acoustics will be valid in future too. It simply needs more efforts in good recording practice as seen from the goals of Octave Records instead of manipulating the recorded signals via more or less strange mixing tools (plug-ins) or by mixing some 20 or 30 signals from microphones distributed somewhere in the studio or even at different locations all over the world for creating nothing but an artificial sound instead of a “I am there” experience or perception. But listening to a car stereo system or ear-buds these improvements wouldn’t be audible, only by using a real audiophile system featuring loudspeakers with a near perfect step response and crosstalk cancellation. An acoustically treated room and a clean power supply are mandatory of course.

  3. Since I was in high tech for 44 years, we call this “bleeding edge” if you jump in with both feet on new never seen technology. Most people wait until the 1.2 release so all the bugs are worked out. With audio, you have similar things to think about: will this device be upgradable, is this device going to last for years, is it going to fail and destroy my system?
    I tried 1 of the 1st class d amps, hated it. Tried 1 of McIntosh first autoformer type amps, bad problems and it was in the shop for months, and a few more gotchas along the way.

    1. Having worked in R&D for over 30 years at two major corporations on at least a dozen “bleeding edge” technologies and as leader of the program on six of them I can tell you it is not for the faint of heart. Most people have no idea what the bleeding edge is or why it is called that. If your idea of fun is working 60 to 70 hours a week, not sleeping well, not eating right, often drinking too much and doing it all for the adrenaline rush that you get when it works ( which it doesn’t always do ) then jump right in with both feet. It also helps if you are a tech head, nerd or geek who is willing to spend about 10 years getting an advanced education in some kind of STEM. Given this it may not surprise you that many who work on bleeding edge technology prefer their personal life to be boring.

      As to new technology ( audio or otherwise ) that makes it to the consumer market there are always early adopters ( people who like having the latest gizmo ) and traditionally young people are more willing to start using new products and methods than old geezers ( like me ) are.

  4. As far as new technology goes I’m always excited to jump in near the beginning. Provided I perceive that technology as a step forward and not just a way to do things different. In audio I’d much rather have a good receiver from the 70’s early 80’s built using discreet components rather than an IC based based system from front to back. I’d rather have a Stellar Phono preamp than some IC based based op amp. So new technology isn’t always the answer when it comes to audio.

    As far as recordings, all the multiple tracks when recording, then the mixing and the over dubbing and finally the mastering can easily loose sonic quality, especially when left in the wrong hands. Some of the best recordings I ever heard were done in the late 50’s early 60’s. A single pair of mic’s – nothing else done except for someone paying attention to recording levels. A lousy take was done over. When you think about or experience that type of recording, the appreciation for what was able to be accomplished 60 years ago is pretty amazing. 1st the whole recording set up, then saved to tape and then finally digitized (in many cases carefully to high rate DSD).

    So while technology May March forward, the underlying premises have changed very little. The big changes have come in the manufacture and material of the individual components.

    The big exception may be digital audio. The rest from the preamp to the air movers, for the most part is just a rehash with ‘improvements’.
    (Welcome improvements BTW) ✌️

  5. Oh Paul, “… bite the proverbial weenie when something went horribly wrong”.

    I have a first edition rare un-signed copy of your book ‘Ninety-None percent true’ and shall re-read it between the lines for the full story.

  6. Not me, as an EE looking back point to point wiring was the cats meow. Now circuits are thin copper ribbons glued to fiber board and components are attached with solder paste, Yuk..

    Just investigate how many people died from the new invention called Alternating Current, how many homes burnt down etc, etc, .

    Now we are placing 10s of thousands of satellites in orbit above the earth to irradiate the whole planet. How is this good, hmm, can you keep this EMI out of our stereo systems hmm.

  7. No offense, Paul, but this is the first “Paul’s Post” I can remember that is overtly designed to sell new gear. Maybe PSAudio gear? I guess you’re entitled.

    Or maybe I just haven’t been paying attention 🙂

  8. Creatives seek and try new ways. Understanding that even in failed attempts to find a solution(s) lies an opportunity to learn. And with positive attempts a patent or two…

  9. I have never been an early adopter willing to part with hard earned funds to acquire new the latest and greatest.

    But my voracious curiosity drives me to research and experience new technologies.

    The phrase “Let others shake out the bugs” comes to mind.

  10. Paul, I agree with you to a certain extent. Being an old timer, I am a purist in terms of the entire music chain. Back in the very early 70’s I surmised that the weakest links are where the musical energy changes forms. In 1970 terms, speaking only about acoustic instruments for simplicity, the first change of form is when the microphone converts the mechanical energy of moving air to an electrical analog signal. The electrical signal is then used to vary a magnetic field and so the signal can be stored on magnetic tape. The tape was used to feed an electrical signal to a lathe where it was changed back to mechanical by the lathe in the form of record grooves. The stylus and cartridge, while riding the grooves as the record moved under them, converted the music back to electrical. The pre-amp and amplifier provided a higher voltage electrical signal to the speakers, which in turn converted the music back to a mechanical form. I believed then and still do now, that the weakest points are where the music changes from mechanical to electrical and vice versa. Paul, listening to you over the years, convinced me that the change from analog to digital and digital to analog is as important as the change from mechanical to electrical and electrical to mechanical. So to answer your question… if this new improvement directly impacted where one of these change of forms happens, then I would be quite excited! Otherwise I would most likely dismiss it as just an evolutionary improvement – but NOT a revolutionary change.

  11. I love new tech. When I was a kid, voice controlled automations were just a thing on Star Trek. I remember thinking – when I’m a grownup, I bet that’ll be real! (I envisioned it as a single speaker in the middle or a house wall..) It’s here & how cool is that?! The new voice controlled google assistant not available in or doesn’t work Canada yet..? Challenge accepted. Does so!! Ifttt takes sensor temperature measurements in my shop starting at 5AM and if low enough it triggers a series if outlets & pulse & latch relays to start my pellet stove to warm up my shop before I get there. I can make home automation actions that do vast amounts of things. Do I use 80% of them? Nope. But it’s the setting up & figuring out how to get them to work – that’s the fun part. Keeps the old brain active! Like, “hey google, how did Trump f#@* up today?” will turn on my tv & stereo and tune to CNN.
    Yup, sometimes ya gotta make your own fun.
    Just bought my first robot dog. It’s like a mini Boston Dynamics robot dog. Now I have to learn myself up on Arduino.
    Cool stuff. We truly live in the most interesting time in all of history.
    Just with the worst of mankind’s people in of all of history.

    See? I still do maintain some old curmudgeonism

    Folk need to watch more of ‘The Waltons’. Y’know – where people were just outright decent to each other?? They were so kind, courteous & respectful to one another; sadly it seems a little odd to watch now. And it wasn’t so odd & foreign when I watched it 50 years ago…

    Night Jimbob.
    Night Fatrat.
    Night tonyplachy.
    Night pik
    (Queue ending ding…. ding ding ding)

  12. Yeah sure. Show me whatcha’ got? 🙂

    I gotta be honest. I’d be both. Cautious and excited.
    I’d be eager to learn while not being too gullible. You gotta be careful of some of those audio guys out there. 😉

  13. Software is usually what you have to look out for. Most software has bugs in it and if it isn’t fully tested before releasing it, you can experience a lot of issues.
    For the audio world, what comes to mind is New updates to Roon. EVERY new release for the past couple years, every new release there have been many bugs with some disabling the use of Roon for days or weeks.
    Audio or other non life threatening instances, it’s not a huge deal if there are bugs in new released software, but say you are using a device in your chest to operate your heart, I would think you want to wait for release #4 of the software to make sure all the bugs are fleshed out

  14. Rules for deciding on new tech:
    Does someone whose ears I trust recommend it
    Does it come from a trusted manufacturer
    Does it seem technically feasible
    Is the price proportionate
    Can I send it back
    Is it reversible if I dislike it.

    So— snake oil, no thanks.

  15. New ideas – usually not new at all.
    For example. For many people, the idea that power could affect music reproduction is not only new, but also completely unacceptable. Technicians, especially electrical “engineers”, usually thunder the most. I first read how the linear source works in hifi sources. As well as the negative impact of switching power supplies.
    Currently, I came across an electrical engineering website, where electrical engineers themselves present the same thing and consider the problems caused by power supplies to be a very serious problem…

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