Risky business

May 19, 2016
 by Paul McGowan

It's risky being an Audiophile: a perfectionist, a quest seeker. You risk ridicule and failure.

Some say better to be safe then to look like a schlemiel.

And yet, safe is often boring, with little in the way of reward.

As I have gotten older I am less worried of criticism than when I was younger. Younger means you're still testing the waters, working on establishing your mark, ranking, position within the group. You're uncertain, often covering up doubt with bravado.

And then one day you look around and realize everyone else seems in the same boat and you can relax a little, take more chances, hope for more reward.

Our shared passion for things better is risky business, but the rewards are worth the risk.

The next time you lower the lights, close your eyes as the music envelops you, just remember you're being treated to something only the smallest of the smallest groups on the planet get to appreciate.

Revel in it.

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9 comments on “Risky business”

  1. I can not believe you are being ridiculed, Paul, since you produce that exotic stuff and you make money with it. Money is respected in the lands of the free. Normally the buyers are laughed at, they only seem to lose money in the eyes of the ignorant. Artists have similar problems, an author is being respected when he/she sells a lot of books. This is also a potentially fatal evaluation because it does not say anything about the quality of the book. You are right, real connaisseurs are lonely.

  2. Taking on a problem is risky business. There's the risk your solution will not be entirely satisfactory or fail completely. You can reduce risk by first gaining an understanding about everything you can related to the nature of the problem and setting specific goals. Having a way to measure results is helpful but not always necessary. Those results that can't be measured will be subject to capricious opinion by others, some with similar goals who are jealous of anyone else's success, some with rather different goals. It also helps to be trained in problem solving methodologies. That's what engineers are supposed to be taught to do. They can't be prepared in advance to solve every problem they will encounter.

    My goal was to understand and recreate the perception of large acoustic spaces from a recording of music not by reproduction of what was recorded but by reconstruction of what wasn't. For me the challenge is the process of getting a satisfactory answer. Once understood the problem I figured my odds of achieving my goal were slim. To the degree of success I achieved I have to credit luck as one of the elements but certainly not entirely. My obsession with solving problems was another element. I wanted to see if I could do it. It took a very long time but I'm satisfied I reached my goal and solved other related problems such as how to simplify and "value engineer" the result to make it operable if somewhat complex and what I consider affordable. In solving these problems including new ones that cropped up along the way, I ultimately had only myself to rely on. I also never gave up.

    Sometimes those who rely on pure luck succeed but often at best they make marginal improvements over the prior art.

    1. "My goal was to understand and recreate the perception of large acoustic spaces from a recording of music not by reproduction of what was recorded but by reconstruction of what wasn’t."

      An interesting goal, and congratulations on having achieved satisfying results. It shows the ingenuity of the human spirit, to make a result happen via more than one route - I'm also after perception of large acoustic spaces, but my method is reproduce what's on the recording more accurately than the usual standard, in certain key areas - the brain then does, internally, a reconstruction of the recorded spaces.

      Not so much a risk, but bloody hard, irksome work!! I wouldn't wish the frustration of trying to nut this out on anyone else - I guess we're all a bit nuts, in our own ways ...

  3. I quite agree, Paul. Those motorcycle gangs have nothing over us. We should all get tattoos of our favorite audio brands on our arm and wear patches on our vests. Of course, most of us are not the SAME 1% as the motorcycle gangs...probably 99.9999%.

  4. Good article Paul. What you say is true of the human being long before history was in writing. Jesse Livermore wrote in "Reminiscences of a Stock Operator", "People would rather fail doing things the conventional way than have success doing things the unconventional way". Yet it is those who took a risk who changed society. The best mathematical minds of the 19th century said man couldn't fly. The Wright brothers took a risk and the rest is history. Don't let fear hold you back.

  5. The happiest people are those who live as they see fit. Just do not deliberately hurt or harm others. No two people are alike neither are their life's circumstances so why should their lives be the same ? And they are not. So why do people expect others to live according to them ? There are many reasons for this but it's for people to figure it out because some of the explanations are not very palatable. You have reached the right conclusion so stick to it. Regards.

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