Judge and jury

February 26, 2016
 by Paul McGowan

We’re all judges. We choose what we eat, wear, watch and listen to. And, even if we rely on the opinions of others to help us make those calls, in the end, we have chosen those we rely upon for help. There’s simply no escape from the fact that we all make judgements.

It’s often difficult to take responsibility for our judgments–easier to point a finger here or there. How many times have I asked a customer why they made this decision or that and the scramble to insulate from blame begins?

The problem for me is simple. I sometimes question people’s judgment in equipment choices, not because I want to be critical, but so I can better help them with their choices. Vinyl guys, tube guys, horn speaker guys, analytical types, emotional types. Understanding someone’s biases helps us all further the cause of great music reproduced in the home.

Yet, I understand one’s hesitation answering pointed questions on judgments. I still shrink from the memory of my father’s furrowed brow. “What the hell were you thinking?”

It is always refreshing to get a letter from someone who is clear about the reasons for their choices and willingness to express them.

“I followed the advice of this reviewer.”

“I love the look of horns.”

“It just sounds better!”

We should all feel a little pride in our decisions and the judgments we make, even if they might result in a few scoffs and rolling of the eyes.

After all, our decisions are like our children, for better or for worse.

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13 comments on “Judge and jury”

  1. There is one aspect that your father didn’t have to face: in the today’s world of globalized markets the multitude of choices is as big as the level of intransparancy. Nobody can test all every alternative and the effect of marketing activities to influence the emotional side of decision making is most powerful. The probability that you decide for the wrong suboptimal product has vastly increased! And the number of half-baked green banana products has incredibly increased due to the increased software based functions! Too often the designers seem to have forgotten the basics!

  2. I like the sound of planar magnetics. Got hooked in the early eighties and never looked back. I just like that sound, nothing that I want to get technical about.

  3. Good morning Paul and everbody else.yes, everybody has their own personal tastes. For that
    Reason their are so many choices in life. How about Food, cars, Wine, Audio. Do you like tubes
    If solid state.panel speakers, conventional’s or horns.Digital or analogue.And then their are Hybrids.
    IMHO the key to all this is PROPER SYSTEM MATCHING!do you guys know what I’m talking about? There is no amp that gets me off more than a Single ended Triode amp. But go use one to drive a Pair of Maggie 3.7i’s. Been there done that three times now no go bro LOL

  4. I treat audio decisions like the bathroom remodel in our first home.
    We did the best we could, with the money we had and the best advice available at the time..

    No regrets there..

  5. I firstly fell in love with electrostatic loudspeakers and older Quads in particular although the bass must be removed from their signal and sent to subs and the higher frequencies must be routed to separate ribbon tweeters. Gorgeous midrange. I also needed double of everything to be satisfied. Same for the more recently put together system that I added for the living room and not in the basement man cave. I seem to live for that “wall of sound” experience. Once you put together a system you need to be contented. Like getting married. Always remember “the grass is always greener on the other side”.

  6. In college, I bought a system with sound characteristics that I just really loved then I got lost. For about a decade, I got caught up in hype and made decisions based on what friends and reviewers were doing. Luckily, in 2014, I surrendered and put together a system I liked which is a bit gentle and allows me to listen for hours without any fatigue. Of course it has shortcomings but I’m once again enjoying listening as much or more as I did in those college years.

  7. …and executioner.

    Science has proven that ear witness accounts are unreliable.

    Horn speakers like this one scare me. I’d be afraid that in the middle of the night when I’m asleep they’d eat me. It’s like a nightmare out of a sci fi movie. The Monster that Devoured Cleveland, Speakerzilla.


      1. How in the world did you ever get that picture of my dog? He’s the one on the left. I had two. That one was the smaller and tamer of the two. Did I tell you another of my hobbies is genetic engineering? I started out with a Tibetan Mastiff and worked up from there.


        My life’s ambition is to recreate a living T-Rex. I think it started with this, one of my first records as a small child. Of course my T-Rex will have to have green eyes.


  8. It is a perplexing problem. I’ve learned some interesting things about people over the years. I used to sell cars at a Suzuki dealership. Suzuki is not a big name in the car business. We would often get people in the dealership to test drive Suzuki’s to justify the choice they really want to make, such as a Toyota. But they don’t want see themselves as fad buyers so they would go through the process of test drives so they can justify their first choice and create an image of being a prudent, educated buyer.

    I can see the same thing happening in Audio. Image can be important to a lot of people. You being an engineer and a logical, possibly linear thinker, you may not see that in people because it is illogical. Me being an amateur speaker builder, I know people who have spent up to $20,000.00 on speakers and are dismayed and even angry with me when my speakers sound better than theirs. It is like they blame me for damaging their image, like I built my speaker to make them look bad. It is a strange world we live in.

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