Purpose and intent

December 28, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

“That’s just the way you do it,” or “that’s just the way it’s always been done.”

These are comforting reasons for what we do.

They may not offer the best results.

Choices in setup, positioning, connecting, and equipment types should be based not on convention, but rather chosen with purpose and intent.

Too many times I have witnessed classic setups that produce less than stellar results.

“I was really hoping this would sound better.”

“Why did you make those choices?”

“That’s the way it’s always done.”

Convention and routine rarely outperform purpose and intent.

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57 comments on “Purpose and intent”

  1. “Why did you make those choices?”, the customer said with a look of bewilderment.
    “Because…look..here on page 53 of ‘The Audiophile’s Guide’…see…right there!”,
    the expert replied with great exasperation. 😉

    1. I’d like to borrow a dollop of CtA’s abundant arrogance & say, “I told you that Australia would win ‘The Ashes’ before the first ‘Sydney to Hobart’ boat entered Constitution Bay”, & I was right (smug smile emoji)
      Thor, the god of thunder, has a new name & it is ‘Scott Boland’.

        1. ‘CtA’
          We already know that, as you have made it clear in past comments & replies.
          You seem to get great satisfaction from repeating yourself ad nauseam.
          You have some huge insecurities, which maybe why you can’t think for yourself & why you rely so heavily on the likes of Kahneman & Toole & measurements.

          1. Your comment makes no sense to me.

            Every person has its insecurities, it is part of the human condition. But I like learning. I like change as an issue of progress. Sometimes, you have to also move back in order to move forwards.

            The insecurity of always trying to learn something new I find it helpful.

            1. CtA,
              Of course my comment makes no sense to you, we are polar opposites.
              I spend my time & resources concerning myself with other (different) questions & thoughts to do with my life than you do.
              You just have to deal with the fact that not everyone cares to live your life & engage in your though processes.
              You come here like some sort of fascist science evangelist, trying to lay down the law as to how we should think, who we should read & who’s way of thinking we should follow.
              Most of us here don’t concur with your relentless & arrogant views.

              It might be more helpful to you if you started your own web-site & ‘YouTube’ channel so that you can pontificate to the masses out there in the internet world.
              After a couple of years see how many subscribers (followers) you end up with…it might just be the reality check that you so desperately require.

              1. I’ve not made a comment to this forum for weeks if not months.
                But – Your presumptuous and extremely rude comment makes me tell you, look into the mirror when you give such injuries. I usually skip your comments as you don’t have anything essential to contribute anyway. This, your last, comment unfortunately forces me to answer you.
                The number of your comments are inversely proportional to their quality.

                1. Bernd,
                  I just hope that you said the same thing to ‘CtA’ who started the rudeness 11 months ago, otherwise you are biased & uninformed.
                  Thank you.

                  ps. there is no answer if there is no question.

  2. Purpose & intent can be just as bad as doing things “because that’s the way they’ve always been done”. Especially if doing a thing with purpose and intent is based upon convention and history.

    Doing something different just for the sake of change is no better a way of doing things.

    When it comes to audio we’ve seen changes come and go. We’ve seen what was old become new. We’ve seen true innovation. We’ve seen change for the sake of change. Getting the best sound in any given room is as much experimentation as it is experience.

    Maybe the reason high audio is considered a “rich man’s endeavor” is that 1st you have to own or occupy a piece of real estate with at least one cavernous room. Why? “Because that’s the way it’s always been”….

    1. Interesting. You can continue with convention regarding audio and believe the mythology of wires, suspended wires, tubes, fuses, etc. Or you can follow science and try to understand how we hear and how we listen. The electronics aspects appear quite resolved, but it is the loudspeakers and room interaction where the true advances occur, in knowledge and performance.

      This article, written a long time ago, discusses the impact of age on hearing and acoustics. It describes how even if you can maintain the relative ability to hear high frequency sounds and low level signals, after a certain age, we lose the spatial ability to determine sound location. Sounds in a crowded room are difficult to separate. Again, we hear with our ears but we listen with our brains.

      I wonder if Paul’s mention of different needs for his FR30 is not just that speakers are different but also that his spatial hearing has naturally declined. He is 70+.

      But don’t believe me, I am “arrogant” according to the obese rat, read the scientists that have studied this. Here is a brief summary.

      1. Your comment of following science seems just like the words that come out a politicians mouth. When the science evolves the tune changes…. Don’t fool yourself or worse try to fool others that science has all the answers and they are all correct.

        How about a current article to reference how much an individual’s hearing deteriorates and whether that has an effect on their music enjoyment or ability to judge. Here’s a thought…
        Even if I don’t trust the ears of an “old man”, I do trust the ears of someone like Chris and Darren.
        Whether PSA speakers and equipment is for me personally is another discussion within myself.

        You always seem to be grinding an axe against many who believe differently than you do. Many want to take the road that this home audio stuff is primarily for their enjoyment. They go as deep as they want. The choices that abound in the audio industry are proof that there’s many ways to get where anyone wants to go. They can stop any time they want, and take any path they want. Your writings here certainly don’t seem to espouse or accept that thought process at all. What quite frequently comes across is a your way or no way attitude.

        For me when it comes time to change things up, I’ll look at ALL the options that fit my budget and sonic tastes. No reviewer – no comment poster – no CEO – no marketing guru- will make the decision. No one but me will.

        So rather than close all the doors and head down a narrow corridor I’d prefer to see all the doors open so I can experience, learn and make the right decision for me.

        Here’s a link to a DSP system. Does yours measure up to it? If not how can that be? Every DSP system that measures the same sounds the same. Every room that has an audio system under dsp control must sound the same.


        As far as rat arrogance goes, from where I sit it looks like a two way street that is traveled fairly heavily.

        1. Science advances, the conclusions change, we learn. This is the cool side of science. It is not static. This is why you always have to move with it. You can’t become stale.

          I wish that PS did test the speakers using modern sophisticated and reliable testing. Paul showed a picture of an improvised set. A Klippel would have done it better and more reliably. Look at how Magico designs and reports data on their speakers. Look at Perlisten. They look at science and implement according to what is known.

          My “axe” is towards those that believe in mystical changes from wires, fuses, power conditioners etc. I am interested in how we change our minds, how we go around figuring out it is time to go a different path. All that money I spent in those “subjective” devices was worthless except that eventually it took to me to the road of trying to understand better the aspects of sound. It is cool to figure out that you were in the wrong path. Again, it is a well known phenomenon that people have a hard time realizing they were wrong.

          Regarding ears, yes I am sure that Chris has better and also trained hearing. But hearing truly is driven by your mind. This is why you test, and why you test blindly.
          I will not be able to judge the speakers based on words from Paul and Chris. However, if they present data, as Perlisten or Magico as mentioned above do, I will have a better platform to figure them out. There is a specified method to measure and report data on speakers. I hope they make that available for the FR30.

          Regarding the Legacy speakers that you mention, I don’t know them. But I am encouraged that they are amplified and have their own DSP. This truly is the SOTA way to go.

          But you know that the same speakers will not sound the same in every room. Interestingly, great speakers are identified in “blind” studies regardless of the room they are in.

          1. Where we part company is that you are convinced some sort of measurement tells the whole story. I like measurements, maybe as much as you, but when I’m listening I use my ears to couple to my brain and interpret. In this case Measurements are a guide, not an end result. As far as what you think is voodoo or hyperbole or outright exaggeration is your right and prerogative. But because you personally haven’t heard or are not in tune enough with yours or other systems to tell differences doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Time and time again I have had experienced differences from some of the smallest things that some describe as snake oil. The closest I can get is to have a close family member or friend make a change without me knowing. (Change a cable – add or remove vibration control – swap a fuse – blah blah blah ) while I might not instantly be able to say what changed I can usually pinpoint the change after some time without using the hunt and peck method. So while this may not meet a peer reviewed scientific study it is non the less real and repeatable. As far as DSP I firmly believe in it, especially in the bass end. I also firmly believe that what we listen to is the room and all everything else does is allow the sound to project into a room. So if you want to electronically manipulate & control the way the sound launches into a room be my guest. If you want to manipulate a room to make the sound projectors sound their best, be my guest. If you want to do a little of both then be my guest. The second I’m told a certain way is the only way I’ll push back.

            The difference between us seems to be the approach. See you at the finish line. Hope you’re as happy as me when you get there. I’m just enjoying the 2 channel ride I’m on, mostly ignoring all the background rumbling and BS , occasionally wondering what if from a pragmatic point of view. There are many systems and rooms I would long for, but that’s not the current reality.

            2 channel Audio is a major form of entertainment and relaxation when I’m home, not a way of life, not a career, not an obsession. It’s just something to be enjoyed. If I want the real thing I go out.

          1. No…but evidently you are.
            You are mortally wounded by anyone who disagrees
            with you & this stems from your gross insecurities.
            I pity you & I feel sadness for your circumstance.
            I’m very happy with my current home audio set-up…& with the cabling (wires)
            I don’t need to test & measure as I just listen…it’s less bothersome that way.

  3. On christmas my guests wondered about the speaker position (far away from the front wall and not besides the rack). When I played my UHQR-Kind of Blue they were stunned, hearing Miles Davis playing right in my living room as if it were live.

    Thanks for the Audiophile’s Guide!! 😀

  4. Convention and routine are getting a bum steer here, you can’t just throw them out the window. I get the message, try something new, but without convention and routine you risk not only poorer results but total failure. I set out to climb Everest with a great sense of purpose and the very best of intentions, but, by not following the convention of crampons and rope, barely got out of base camp. There must be many more examples, both serious and frivolous. Convention and routine are critical, but could be considered as starting points, something to build on.

    While I’m here. How are electric cars expected to cross the great open spaces of America and Australia, where are the charging points?

  5. I was working in broadcasting for 20 years and we could tell when Sony, Technics and many others when they had replaced their development teams with a new team. How? The new team did the same mistakes in the design as the former did in the beginning. We saw it in the analogue domain, in the transformation between analogue and digital and in the digital domain. Both for tuners and TV sets. One example is the handling of the 9 harmonics of the MF 10.7 MHz, another was worse performance of filters when replacing analogue with digital filters. So historic knowledge is important but you must also realize when you have to switch from linear development to radical change in design. Otherwise you will not survive.

  6. In płace of “Purpose and Intent”, I recommend “Knowledge and Understanding”.

    Knowledge without Understanding leads to the application of conventional solutions which are not successful in all instances.

    Understanding without Knowledge while better, can result increased time and assets to achieve a successful solution.

  7. totally off-topic… beginning tomorrow evening on PBS, the premier of “Earth Emergency” narrated by Richard Gere. I just saw him discuss the horror of what has already happened and how society will suffer beyond your wildest imagination. I strongly recommend that everyone who cares about our children and possible future generations fix their eyes on their TVs because you are going to get one giant smack in the face about how fast our Earth is heating up. It’s more than frightening than anything we could possibly imagine and it’s happening soo much faster than any of the current scientific models have ever predicted. Folks, we are in real trouble and the first thing that we need to do is get rid of all the corrupt Politicians and shut down the companies as soon as feasable that are producing fossil fuels as soon as possible. These are the greedy men and women who are forcing us into the destruction of our planet. we should’ve started this in 1976.

    1. India is building a shitload of coal driven power-plants.
      China is also building new coal fired everything.
      Nobody wants to give up their electronic toys.
      “Hell boy…you just can’t stop progress”
      We live in very interesting times.

        1. Guys, If you want to press the panic button about something it should not be climate change. I do not want to sound like an arrogant bastard when I say that I understand climate change better than most people do, but I’m sure some will think that. The thing to press the panic button over is that the wrong people are in charge. Problems like climate change, the pandemic, pollution, natural resource use and allocation, energy supply and use, over population, and economic impact are so complicated and technically challenging that we will need an army of people well educated and trained in STEM to confront these problems. In the free world the people in charge are mostly lawyers. Lawyers are very good a memorizing and making arguments that convince people they are right. That is how the win cases and get elected. Except for patent lawyers, lawyers are not very smart about STEM. To put it bluntly they are stupid about STEM and have to be spoon fed anything that concerns STEM.

          The problem is how do you get people to elect dull and borrowing scientist, engineers and mathematicians.

          1. YES Tony. I did not want to go into what you so eloquently stated in your comment because it would’ve been a jumble of words. You hit it right on the head.

        2. Hi Neil,
          I’m not expecting any reply to my 7:18 post…& by the way it was not an “answer”, as there was no question from you.
          I was just stating facts…facts that will make it impossible to stop production & manufacture to the point where we can stop the rising temperature on our planet.

  8. I am glad the future of this planet is not at the mercy of arrogant engineers and mathematicians who think they know it all and that technology can save this planet.
    History has shown that technical “improvement” is often (always ?) bad for the planet.

    1. jb4, How many scientist, engineers and mathematicians do you know? I do know quite a few and some that I have known for many years ( because I went to school with them and we have stayed in touch ). Arrogant is the last word that I would use to describe them. What I would say we ( the group that I know ) have in common is that the more we learn and understand the more we realize how little we know and how much more there is to learn. Fortunately, the little we do know can be used to solve some of the truly complex problems that we all facing.

    2. You are correct again jb4. Our society has removed the word ethics and/or ethical with the word greed and/or greedy. Technology must move forward no question about it but not with PlayStation’s and stupid ways of wasting our time. I have finally become addicted to my cell phone and I need to
      Deprogram myself fast. I already have a day without my cell phone that I setaside every week.

      Today the big news is a some guy found a way for to turn himself into a Tom Cruise double using AI. Not sure if Tom Cruise is happy with his double yet but he might have a reason to be happy. It’s where this technology will go in the future that is extremely troubling.

      1. Neil,
        There have been many movies made exploring the possible
        fate of humanity if we build robots with AI…& yet we persist.
        It’s as if we have a death-wish; & maybe we do.
        Maybe deep down we know that there is a better world than
        this one & we are all longing to get there…well except for
        those who know that they can’t take their money with them 😉

        1. Everything you said in yesterday‘s posts are the real facts and I understand that there is probably is no way out of the situation that were in but I’m not going to throw up my hands in surrender.
          There of been many articles written in the past couple of days that we have got to get rid of all of our current leaders, political and corporate who have brought us here. We have a lot of young women and men in this country who see the urgency Of what is happening to our planet and need to be put in positions to do something about it otherwise it’s ‘the same old same old’. That is The first step of bringing sanity back to the world to. we didn’t get here by magic nature, we got here because of corporate greed.

          The only point of my post yesterday was to get people to open their eyes and wake up to what’s happening right now. As I said yesterday we are numb to everything that’s going on around us because of all of the huge issues that we face at present.

          I’d like to leave our conversation here if possible. All I was trying to accomplish yesterday was to get anyone who is interested to watch PBS tonight at 8 PM Eastern time. Nothing more than that except for the fact that I was so upset with so many world issues being held in abeyance that it’s time for us all to wake up. Agree or disagree I just wanted to let everyone know what was going on With the horror of climate change that is upon us right now

            1. Don’t disagree at all. My whole issue is that most people are not willing to believe that they may not be around sooner than they think for whatever reason but what’s in the forefront of my mind is this one issue. Your issue is as valid as mine. The only reason I posted was because this was a PBS special and I knew in advance that it was very important for people to wake up to the reality of the situation that we can start to get under control bu putting pressure on our governments And corporate masters to stop the greed and start to think about the natural way of reducing carbon emissions. If you would’ve seen the one hour documentary it’s spelled out in detail exactly the process of what’s going on to cause this global catastrophe. The scientist say that they are not worried about the earth surviving but are all worried about humanity surviving. I have no idea what we can do to keep China in its place or how to control Covid but the climate change documentary came to my attentionearly Monday in an interview with Richard Gere who was narrating. We can communicate on our own private back channel with regard to China or any other thing from now on with regard to not getting involved off-topic. It’s better that way. I noticed a comment today from the commentor who wasn’t thrilled that I brought up the subject because it was much less important to him than Paul’s topic.

              1. Maybe by the time China gets control of the world, the Earth will be nothing more than a crispy, glowing briquette with acidic seas & most of today’s coastline under water.
                Like Nero, we fiddle while Rome burns.
                It will be interesting to see whether human apathy will in fact allow the Earth to disintegrate.

  9. tonyplachy,
    “How many scientist, engineers and mathematicians do you know? I do know quite a few”
    Again that arrogant tone that I know from you in many of your posts (comments).
    I know a lot of scientists, maybe more than you. A lot of them think they can save the world. LOL.
    The simple truth is that a lot of scienctific “improvements” brought us on the brink of extinction.
    If we leave the future of the world to the scientists (like you) then we’ll go from bad to worse.
    BTW., I noticed that in a LOT of your posts you never miss an opportunity to state that you are a (retired) SCIENTIST (bla bla). A kind of (useless) bragging that you evidently cannot suppress.
    Totally unimportant on this site, but you seem to get a kick out of writing this (many times).

    1. It’s really simple:
      1/ Stop burning sh!t
      2/ Stop making so much single-use plastic
      3/ Stop chopping down the lungs of the planet &
      4/ Stop overpopulating the planet

      You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to figure that stuff out.

  10. Conventions often get baked in. For example, 2 channel audio.

    The marketing rationalization of “two speakers for two ears” is wrong. You can hear spatial sonic attributes with one ear – in fact HRTF (head related transfer functions) including the diffraction of your outer ear produce over ten times as much spatial information as IALD (inter-aural level difference, or panning) and IATD (inter-aural timing difference, what you get frorn a near coincident microphone pair).

    The defining experiment of two channel audio, conducted by Alan Blumlein in 1932, was wrong because his test subjects were a bunch of Radio Engineers at the Decca R&D facility. These people were selected for their math ability and training in vacuum tube circuits, but as a group they had not had enough exposure to acoustic music to develop their neural networks to decode it properly.

    By now, 99% of the population in the ‘developed world’ learn to hear music through speakers and develop a condition I call “speakeritus”, where audio becomes musical native language and live music is either a scale-up of mixed mono microphones into two channels, or sounds foreign because it is acoustic.

    ‘Soundstaging’ and ‘imaging’ from mixed and panned parallel mono tracks is a learned delusion, and highly dependent on your room and speakers, leading to endless arguments about how to produce the best imaging. In relation to acoustic music reality, mixing and mastering are distortion. The most accurate recording chains use one microphone to one speaker, and zero knobs in between besides one gain function. (the ‘straight wire with gain’ ideal).

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