September 4, 2016
 by Paul McGowan

In February, 1979, our first child, Lon, was born. After an overnight stay in the hospital he was wrapped in swaddling, handed over, and the nurses waved goodbye. I panicked.

No operating manual? What's the drill here?

The nurse smiled and said something about "you'll figure it out", and the door closed after her.

On our own, the baby starts to cry and won't stop. Where's the off switch?

We run into on the job training situations more often than you might think. Even more so, today.

Years ago, hifi dealers accompanied the bigger systems home and set them up for new customers. Not so much anymore.

Today you do your own research, make your purchase with the help of a dealer or manufacturer—by phone or in person—and then scratch your head once the many boxes are unwrapped.

Consumer grade audio equipment, like all-in-one systems from Sonos, B&W, Bose, now Oppo, are easy. Plug them in, configure them, music streams forth. They're not high end, but then…what did you expect?

High End systems take setup. Speakers won't sound best plunked in the middle of the room.

Personally, I prefer OJT. Not only do I get to have things my way, but I am learning a skill at the same time.

Having your hand held too much is overrated.

Make mine, OJT.

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28 comments on “OJT”

  1. OJT is hard to accomplish when the only local sellers of high end equipment are Home Theater stores. How do you trust the ears of purveyors of "listen to the roar of that engine!", or "did you hear that arrow fly across the room?" We're lucky here that we only have to drive about 100 miles to two High End stores, but still that makes home demos a real hassle! Or, you can try flying blind, hoping they have brands you can match up, and home demo from the HT guys.

  2. Let's not forget Drs. Wikipedia.
    Not always the right answers, but according to research as reliable as the Encyclopedia Britannica. (don't know if that is a good thing..).
    Especially in audio being a self-taught man (woman) is good. Trial and error.
    Move around the damn speakers and subs until finally they sound right (whatever that may be for you..).
    Try different cables to hear which one sounds best in your system.
    Succes at last !

  3. Actually we are (which are across the counter) who need OJT.

    There are issues that are beyond our knowledge as users, and could be absolved by skilled in the technical and design aspects.
    For example:

    Does it affect the different input Impedance having amplifiers in the response curve in speakers with passive Xovers designed for Bi or Tri-amplification?

    Does the low frequency response is improved and overall sound quality of an amplifier, if significantly increases the capacitance of the P.S.?. It comes to my mind the BAT Power Pack (optional) on some models. Or is this a marketing strategy?

    It is significantly improved sound quality by using metal film resistors of low tolerances?
    How is it that some manufacturers continue to use resistors: Carbon Composite, which were used more than 5 decades ago and despite being unstable with increasing temperature, some technicians say that "sound" better than modern? Someone can clarify this topic?

    Does the use of new chemicals in capacitors: "Audio Grade" have really improved their electrical parameters, and this improves the sound quality when used?

    These questions interest as users, and forums like this are the best means to address them.

  4. We have created an environment where self help is inevitable. A couple decades ago, there was no internet. You subscribed to and anxiously waited for Stereophile to come in the mail. It was your mass media for research. All other learning came from one of the many dealers in town, who collectively carried the lions share of the major equipment manufacturers. At least where I live, it was much like RMAF, but you had to drive to various setups. I learned a lot from these dealers, as they took the time to switch out equipment and even lend some pieces for you to take home and try. If I liked it I would buy it from them, so there was a strong symbiotic relationship. I learned a lot by being mentored by some of the great guys at these dealers. Many would come out and listen to my system, even after I bought something else from the competition.

    Now almost all of those dealers are gone in my area, so you have to rely on the Internet. You can educate yourself, but there isn't a means for true "ears on" learning except for in your own home or trade shows. The dealers that still remain, are saddled with the issue of customers spending a lot of time there, listening to music, laying out a good setup, etc. The customer then goes home, looks the stuff up on the Internet and saves themselves $500 - $800 on a $10K system from Internet "drop ship" dealers that don't have to cover the overhead of a store. Its gone from a symbiotic to more parasitic relationship, which never works well for the host.

    It's better and worse. I still liked it better when I could easily drive around and learn by listening.

    1. Amen! We audiophiles have sown the seeds of our loss of High End dealers by "using" them. And the loss of every other type of service oriented business. The local plant nursery, whose owner knew just what would flourish in Your yard. The local hardware dealer, who would spend the time selling you what was needed to fix that toilet that wouldn't stop running And would tell you how to turn off the water And how to install the $5.95 item. The list is endless...

  5. With all due respect...audio companies today still install your system and also take your pre-existing system with them to only put on AUDIOGON or E-Bay. Of course this comes with a hefty price. $85-$95.00 per hour, per person which a two person install is usually the case especially if they are running cable behind your walls.
    I have nothing against making a buck, it's the way capitalism operates but with installs running at a minimum of 4hours @$95.00 per hour x's two after spending upwards of $20,000 for equipment it seems more like a "HOLD UP" and one should be calling 911.
    The story above happened to a friend of mine and after all of the money spent there were still cliches.
    Myself I am a do it yourself guy. Learn as you go. It's part of what makes this hobby fun.

    1. I get it that all dealers aren't helpful. I just didn't find that to be the case at the ones I visited. I'm not saying that I went around and mindlessly bought whatever they told me. They simply helped me go through the journey. I have several audiophile friends in town. Every time we get together and listen to each other's system, I learn something. We all learn something through listening and interacting with each other. "Hey, did you hear that?", "Let's flip this piece of equipment and see what happens". That is the type of dealer relationship I used to have.

  6. Audiomano..
    you can answer the questions yourself..., just by listening and judge for yourself.
    Technical aspects all well and good, but if the "better" amp, speaker, combination or whatever doesn't
    sound better to me (and I experienced that more than once in the last 3 decades), I know which one I buy...
    Technical properties do interest me, but at the end of the day it's only a means to an end.
    Unless technical stuff is your hobby.

    1. Most of us have acquired for ourselves, the knowledge needed to install and make the most of our audio equipment; being our ears, our only ally, however there are technical issues that may be beyond such knowledge and should learn even at the basic level to avoid mistakes in the correct and optimal use of our systems, such as the match of impedances in a Tri-amplified system using passive Xovers, or similar technical issues that require more specialized knowledge that the help they can give us our own ears.

      For decades and decades to move within the audio world as users, we have learned more than we can imagine ourselves, so much so that many of the improvements made by the great audio industry, due to field reports, it is nevertheless my firm conviction that we need some technical concepts although these are basic, to get the most out of our equipment.

      In short, not all the answers to my concerns about the technique, I have, perhaps others with more experience than I have them.

      With due respect.

  7. Your brain doesn't come with an instruction manual. It's hard wired to keep you alive. It makes your heart pump blood and your lungs breathe without an programming. Other than functions like that, it's up to you to figure out how to use it. Some people begin right away and never stop. Some never get started at all....like the people who are going to vote for Hellary Crookton. Your brain is the most powerful tool you have. As far as we know it is the most evolved brain of any species on earth. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Most sit idle waiting to be spoon fed notions they gobble up without question.

    I grew up in a place where I was allowed to discover the world for myself. I wasn't mostly taught what to think so I had to figure out how to think. It didn't take me long to realize that most people tell lies for one reason or another. Usually it is to sell you something. They want you to buy their product, believe your religion, join their cause. I'll have none of it. I don't care what you've got, you can't sell it to me. If I buy it I have to convince myself with credible proof. This doesn't just go for religions, politics, charities but what my so called "teachers" tried to sell me; their ideas. I was lucky, I had some pretty good ones who provoked me to think. Lucky me, IMO most teachers are imbeciles who actually believe their own spiel. That's why I think they're overpaid. My motto in life to paraphrase Polonius' advice to his son Laertes; "neither a follower or a leader be." I march to the beat of my own drum. Try to sell me something that doesn't pass my smell test and I don't walk away, I run away....a fast as I can....After I deliver a sharp barb or two. Someone's got a huge stash of green felt tip pens and a whole lot of other junk they were going to make a million bucks on.

    BTW, if I used all of those miracle tweaks audiophiles rave about and put them all together, could I make a Bose Wave Radio sound like a pair of Infinity IRSs connected to two pairs of BHK amplifiers? To hear audiophiles and the shills in the magazines whose infomercials laud their products tell it, you'd think it's no problem, a slam dunk. Each one is more jaw dropping than the last.

    1. I quite agree, Soundmind. As I drive through a state that doesn't require motorcyclists to wear a helmet, I remind myself that the brain is our most important sex organ.

      And yes, there are crooks on both sides of the ballot this year.

    2. I too have wondered how the same people have a continued progression of jaw dropping events and their systems improve (change; my words) only marginally over time. One example being the discovery of the ultimate, or Class A amplifier. I suppose I could liken this to the Olympic gymnast's perfect 10; it appears that you can improve upon perfection.

      But I prefer to reason that the excitement of a jaw dropping event wanes over time and leaves plenty of room for yet another jaw dropping event. My doubting Thomas reservation usually surfaces when the event supposedly takes a giant step toward the presentation of reality.

  8. Isn't it the fun of owning and setting up a high end system well? Everyday we discover some small things which can mysteriously change the sound and no set up manual can take those into account.

    1. You mean isn't it an endless search of hope and disappointment trying every scam that comes along wishing the results were better and trying to fool yourself into thinking they are after having plunked down more money? This is because these systems are not engineered and so have no objective goal to compare them to with measured results. Can you imagine what real high tech equipment would be like if they all worked that way? A tweak for an electron microscope or an atom smasher? Let's try a magic brick and see if we get a sharper image of that cancer cell. Who knows, it might just work. How do you know if you haven't tried it?

      1. Soundmind,
        It is your prerogative of course, but you responded to more than what Shortsighted actually said. He didn't say or imply that he experienced hope and disappointment in his quest or that he even tried the many tonics that come along; he said that he enjoyed discovering small things that changed (objectively, I presume) the sound of his system. And I'll add, he didn't indicate that he is after the absolute, or accurate sound. My takeaway is that he Is trying to discover the world himself.

        1. The proof that these systems are disappointing is not only the fact that so many owners of them try every tweak, every silver bullet that comes out on the market and swears they made a jaw dropping improvement, but the constant churning of equipment, the looking for a better speaker, amplifier, cd player, even a better wire or plug proves they are less than happy with what they have. Why else would they constantly be shopping, reading ad literature, infomercials, trying to find out who has a better sound system than they do. Even someone for whom time, effort, and probably money doesn't matter comes home from the Metropolitan Opera and admits, much to his credit, that the best sound system he ever owned sounds like canned music by comparison.

          Ironically, having the best sound system in the world, I finally lost interest in it. I don't think I've listened to a recording in over a year and it's probably been close to six months since I've turned any equipment on to see if it still even works.

            1. I'm different in several ways. For one I'm better educated in many technical matters than they are. My skills cover a wide range of subjects. I'm a great problem solver. I know how to break problems down to their essence and I've learned how to methodically solve them. That was part of my education. I solved this problem. I understand it and I know how to successfully deal with it. I built my own solution according to my own ideas. I played with it for over 40 years. I bought what I needed and little more. I made what I had work the way I wanted it to. The newest piece of equipment in my best sound system was built in 1993....by me. It's an amplifier built from a $200 kit to replace one that blew up after 25 years of use. I didn't feel like repairing the old one. What few tweaks I made along the way cost next to nothing, probably much less than $100. There's nothing left to change. If the whole thing burned up I'd go out and buy the components I need to build another one just like it.

      2. I believe I read somewhere (maybe it was an advertisement) that the use of a particular power conditioner actually does improve the imagery of cancer tumors. Of course tumors are a lot easier to see than individual cells. I'll have to suggest that to one of my friends who works in electron microscopy.

  9. For me, OJT is a natural component of being an 'audiophile'. I want to be forced to understand all of this 'stuff'. The only way I am going to get there is to have to research, use my critical think skills, wade through a lot of silly *ssed opinions, come to a conclusion and apply it. I am grateful for arriving at my own conclusions, in all the areas that it takes to 'master', in order to have the best possible stereo system, that I can muster.

  10. OJT is not for everyone just as DIY is not for every one. One must have the inclination for doing things and doing them till one gets them right. One looks forward to it the other says what rot. Of course of one is all thumbs then there is little incentive for OJT and DIY. Regards.

  11. Paul, I'm a little confused here. You wrote: "No operating manual? What’s the drill here?"
    I'm surprised that along with your newborn son they gave you a drill instead of a soldering iron.

  12. Having your hand held too much is overrated ? It depends on who is holding your hand! The other day your blog was about our first time. Well, I had the good fortune of having that experience in the basement section of George Merrill's appropriately named audio emporium "Underground Sound" back in 1980, shortly after being stationed at the now closed Naval Hospital in Millington,TN. Over the following 3 years, George not only held my hand as I assembled an awesome stereo for the day, he became an incredible mentor, giving me a wonderful foundation in audio and the art of listening; and eventually he became a dear friend. The foundation he gave me has served me well over the years so that I don't miss the hand-holding anymore in this hobby, but I do miss my good friend George, since I haven't been back to Memphis and he rarely goes to the shows I frequently attend.

  13. OJT is essential, but I also love it when someone calls and I have a chance to help them with their setup. Walking someone new to the experience is not only a nice thing to do, but quite rewarding in seeing your setup techniques work in more than one situation. And watching the looks on the faces of those whose soundstage and imaging snap into place is a thrill every time I've helped pull it off. Network on with local audiophiles!

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