Poke the box

June 28, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

My friend, Seth, wrote a book called Poke the Box. It’s well worth the short read.

In it, he argues that progress, real progress, happens when we move outside our comfort zone. When we take a leap without knowing if there will be a safe landing.

It’s so easy and comforting to stay within the bounds of what we know works. We put up a comfort fence and rarely go outside its perimeter.

That new streaming service.

The idea of regenerating power for your system.

A cable that defies logic.

Rethinking your stereo setup.

It can be a bit unnerving to wander outside those safe gates but often that’s where the gems lie.

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23 comments on “Poke the box”

  1. What is “real” progress? Is it possible that progress can result in both positive and negative effects? Is progress possible with no negative side-effects? The only improvement in overall (!) – and not only small and specific aspects of – sound quality I got when I activated crosstalk cancellation (XTC) for my stereo system, XTC being based on most basic aspects of stereo reproduction!

  2. I spent most of my childhood & teenage years not knowing whether,
    or where, I was going to ‘land safely’.
    I’m over it; have been for decades.
    At 61yo, I prize ‘landing safely’ more than anything else; especially
    with China & CoViD-19 hanging over us for the foreseeable future.
    For those of you with the confidence, or foolhardiness, to take that
    blind leap, good for you.
    I’ve learned to play it safe; each to their own.

    **Cricket Steven**
    I’m assuming that your Wilson Audio loudspeakers are a pair of ‘Tunetots’
    Here in Australia the ‘Tunetots’ retail for AU$17,000 a pair…I could buy a
    car for that…or three cars, if they are second-hand.
    So when you pass judgement on the price of ‘PS Audio’ gear… 😉
    Also, when you continue to bring to our attention your dislike of audio gear
    being placed all over listening/living rooms (‘Cupboards R Us’) don’t forget
    about the PS Audio – ‘Sprout’ integrated amplifier.
    I’m sure that you could hide a Sprout in your living room without your beloved finding it 🙂

    I don’t know how this, “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.” is supposed to work,
    but I keep ticking the box & nothing happens.
    Maybe Paul has given special instructions to Kevin to exclude ‘CtA’ & I from any form of
    reply notifications…lol! 😮

    1. I went out of the box and let my wife choose the speakers. Wilson Sabrina. She loved the colour – Dark Titanium. My dealer had Sabrina-X on order, my wife liked the speakers so he sold them to us ex-demo. Not much off new price, but every little bit helps.

      I’ve had a few iterations of Sprout-like things. A Naim UnitiQute2, then an Audiolab M-One. Both in my office. My son now has the M-One. I now have the Cambridge Audio CXA81, which cost £900 compared to £800 for the Sprout, but is seriously packed with goodies and is measured at 93w output.

      The large cabinet we had built for component hifi is redundant so is now going into my wife’s clinic. She likes it more than I do. I just picked up a new one yesterday, made by the same chap, large enough for a Devialet, valve phono stage, turntable power supply, streamer/server and conditioner. The wife wanted the turntable on display, not my idea of fun, but there you have it. It’s 64cm wide by 75cm high, which is just about large enough for a PS Audio P20, a copy of Wisden and a good serving of Makhani Dal. I can live without a P20, but not the other two.

      1. Congratulations! My audio dealer recently started selling Wilson Audio after having had a trip to the factory and gotten a great demo over there. However he recommends D‘Agostino amps. How long took the specific Wilson Audio speaker set-up procedure? Concerning the new turntable: there are rumors that Wilson Benesch will launch a new top of the line turntable this year featuring even remote control of the tonearm-height! Any further information if they will succeed in launching this beast this year?

        1. Wilson are popular over here, even with the prices. My dealer and two others were invited to Utah about 3 years ago, all expenses paid for a week from the UK, so that explains some of the price tag. My dealer stocks Dan D’Agostino, but I’ve not heard with Wilson. The speakers arrived and then 5 months later builders. They are covered in sheets, cardboard boxes, some plastic and dust sheets, with about half an inch of brick dust on top. They should be fine as there’s no risk of physical or water damage and I did not want to move them. The proper set-up will take place when the builders are gone, about 2 months time I hope. For the time being, I’m not even looking under the sheets, just leave them alone.

            1. Or 5 new cars from a Chinese manufacturer! 😉 It’s really horrifying seeing the price dumping even from Chinese audio companies. I am still waiting for any effective strategy against Xi Jinping’s nationalistic strategy for reaching the goals for 2049!

  3. As most already know to follow up with Paul’s post I did this with his AC Regenerator. I bought the P3 without any reserves about testing before buying on a trial basis, however I did do a lot of research on it before buying it.
    Most people I know never feel comfortable buying something expensive without having at least one assurance that they’re gonna get what they paid for. I can agree with that, but with my station in the audio world I don’t have big connections, so taking that leap of faith happens a lot with me in audio but I have never once ended up truly unhappy with what I bought. I guess that is part of the love of this hobby of ours. Uncertainty can be exciting and it is like gambling for some people. 😉

  4. My personal observations have led me to believe that while most people are always hoping that something good will happen most people are disappointed more than pleased with events as they actually happen. I have also observed that for most people the things that effect their life the most happened randomly, and are often very bad things. There are people who plan to do something big, they do it and it works out wonderfully, but it has been my experience that those people are the fortunate few. It is a simple fact that new startup businesses are more likely to fail than succeed. If I have any advice to give based on my years of experience it is to expect the unexpected and be as prepared as possible to handle it.

    Now, on a much lighter note, FR where did you find out that Cricket Steven has a pair of Wilson Audio speakers?

    1. I see Steven posted the answer while I was posting. Steven, Congratulation on your new Sabrina-X speakers. The US economy thanks you for your purchase. 😉

      1. I have the original Sabrina version, which suits me. I have Shunyata stuff, Devialet from France and a server from Portugal. I’ve had PS Audio, but not at the moment. You’d think they didn’t make any decent hifi here in Blighty.

        Basically, I seem to have audio from countries that are rubbish at football, save for a turntable from the Republic of Yorkshire.

        1. Now, now, the US Woman’s Soccer Team might take offense at your last statement. It has something to do with a couple of gold metals and world championships. 😀

        2. Here within “spittin’ distance” (rural U. S. colloquialism) of the geographic center of the contiguous 48 states, the core of my current system was made in, as you say, Blighty: Arcam A65+ integrated amp and DV135 not quite universal disc player (back from when they still manufactured most of their kit in Cambridge) and Rega RP1 turntable with Bias 2 MM cartridge.

  5. Paul may be correct assuming some who read here or enjoy audio systems may be stuck in a comfort zone and don’t want to venture out. From what I read here “those some” may actually be in the minority.

    Having an interest in experimenting with any of the above things Paul sites above doesn’t make one progressive or set in ones way.

    For example….
    Personally my interest in streaming from a subscription service is minimal at best. The assumption could be I’m not comfortable doing that. The reality is I like to collect and own my music and have enough of it for a vast amount of variety. Plus space isn’t an issue.
    I don’t look down on or expect anyone to follow my example. Maybe some time in the future I’ll be floating down the stream, who knows…

    Same thing with cables, regens, room set-up, isolation and vibration control. The real question is how much do they matter to you? (And no one else)

    System set – up is probably the one thing that becomes somewhat fixed for the longer term. Mostly because of the physical limitations.

    1. [System set – up is probably the one thing that becomes somewhat fixed for the longer term. Mostly because of the physical limitations.]

      Mike, I resemble that remark! In my small dedicated 9’x10′ 2.1 channel music room, have been locked in to just one room setup…components on top my sub cabinet and set between the stand monitors. I just accepted the sound (it was great, or so I thought) for the past 10 years, as my very nice speaker cables were too short to do things differently.

      Recently, I relocated the sub to left of the left monitor and things started to open up. I then purchased new speaker cables and an audio rack and relocated this new “component rack” setup to the far left wall (not really very far)…WOW-MAGIC! The new Speaker Cables are still breaking in, but so far, I’m Really Digging the Realistic Soundstage and Liveliness Improvements!! 🙂

      Yep Paul, poking that box!! 😉

      1. Nicely done Theo!

        One thing leading to another. Being open minded to change, and experimenting. In my opinion it’s what keeps things fun, and the learning process moving forward.

  6. Dear Paul:

    Thank you again for all your delightful presentations of really useful encouragement, THANK YOU!…, and we recently met Darren one of your HiFiAudio Experts, what an incredible nice and astonishing bright minded individual that is great for your brand, thank you. We look forward to seeing PS Audio re-open your store to the public if that is possible. Sincerely, Tom and Devin(my son) Rafferty, Louisville, CO

  7. Easier said than done. In most or many cases people stubbornly stick to their beliefs and rationalize their decision to be correct. Many try new ways within the box they are comfortable in and think they are thinking outside the box and so the story goes on with no real success until someone drags them kicking and screaming to do what they hate to accept and success comes their way. But do they learn ? Not in many cases. They go back to rationalizing that their original obsession was the right way. Interesting is it not ? What a waste. Regards.

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