Rules are made to be...

August 21, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

In any endeavor, rules, standards, and procedures are essential. They exist to help us wade through often complex tasks.

Learning a new system or technique I find myself following carefully the rules that others have established. Once mastered it's time to start questioning those rules.

This approach certainly does not work for everyone. In fact, over the years I have found most people are uncomfortable with that. I can expect a wide variety of responses from "the rules are here to be followed" to "who the hell do you think you are" to "prove it to me" to "let's try something new".

Once a skill has been mastered I am just as uncomfortable blindly following rules as others are uncomfortable of their questioning.

Why, for example, do we accept the rule that analog is superior to anything else? Or that the shortest path is the cleanest?

Certainly, each makes perfect common sense. But are they accurate?

How many of us are brave enough to test those assumptions?

What happens if we find that within a certain set of circumstances our cherished beliefs are wrong?

Are we willing to embrace those results?

What happens if our findings run counter to those of the crowd?

Are we willing to stand alone?

It's easier and certainly safer to follow the rules because the fallback of right and wrong has a built-in safety net. "Who am I to question those experts before me?"

It is perhaps good to remember that an expert is an amateur with more experience at failing than a newbie.

In the presence of new evidence, most of us are unwilling to face the wrath of ridicule from those who seek comfort in the tried and true.

But for the few, progress would come to a standstill.

Rules are made to be tested.

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25 comments on “Rules are made to be...”

  1. I've always stood alone...it's the least complicated & the best way
    to conduct your life, & it gives you the most freedom.
    As far as rules within the home-audio world are concerned, I've found
    that "I'll believe it when I hear it" has served me very well so far.
    I'm also a great believer in the shortest path & keeping things simple.
    But, as always, YMMV 😉

    However, I think that we can all agree that some rules are important
    to follow & some rules are just plain stoopid.

  2. I agree, the biggest success not rarely lies in questioning rules.

    And as a leader it’s necessary to constantly motivate the crew behind the activities along the way and impart the believe in success, even if process and progress take long.

    Publicly, it also makes sense to make it clear that activities are underway to launch profound innovations, as well as to communicate interim results.

    The only thing that imo should be avoided, is the evocation or announcement of results that evaluate and classify competing technologies or processes on an absolute scale, until clearly comprehensible and practicable evaluation scenarios exist for others or until at least oneself, in a way that is comprehensible to others, has in fact already created these scenarios and tested them with clearly positive results.

    Otherwise, credibility suffers.

  3. Well there’s ‘rules’ and then there’s RULES. Rules is quite an emotive word, but I think what we’re talking about here are more parameters or a framework to be used for guidance.
    The examples given in paragraph five are not rules but statements, of belief.

    I’m a fan of the shortest path, less to go wrong, but picking up on the analogue. From a consensus here it would seem many of us are trying to replicate a live sound in our systems. Following on, I would take it that live is considered best so therefore live must be analogue.
    What if we go to a live concert performed on a digital keyboard. Are we then listening to analogue or digital?

    1. I’m in the shortest path crowd as well. Where conflicts arise is when someone throws out something like “The best position for your source equipment should be on the side wall, not in the middle of the speakers.” That is in direct conflict with the shortest path preference, and you start down the rabbit hole of weighing compromises and personal preferences to what sounds better.

      Given that a system is in itself a compromise (from recording to equipment) to hearing something live, it’s easy to understand how preferential differences drive things.

      1. I still can't work out why you should have your source equipment on the sidewall.
        At the SPL that I listen to canned Rock 'n Roll at it wouldn't make a lick of difference where I put my source equipment in my listening room, as the vibrations are gonna be the same everywhere in said listening room.
        So I might as well do as I do & put the gear, all two of them, on the floor, on ISO-Pucks, on bamboo boards, in between the loudspeakers & keep all cabling as short as possible.

    2. For me replicating 'live sound' from a home-audio system is not a reality...not
      with canned music recorded in the '60s, '70s & the '80s...that's just unrealistic.

  4. Sticking to the audio world… I feel like audio equipment these days is really quite good sounding. As for all of the rules that fall into the ones mentioned, I think there can be no rules. For a rule to be accepted, there must be an agreement on what is better.

    When you get up the food chain of system quality, the foundational sound starts working towards similarity vs. diversity. There is balanced bass, good midrange, clear (but not shrilly) highs, cohesiveness, etc. All the boxes get checked for good foundational sound. The last audio show I went to was a lot of fun, because almost every room sounded good in its own way.

    Everything after that foundational sound is subject to personal taste and the differences in hearing ability. People have highly opinionated preferences to what is really, in the grand scheme of things, small differences.

    Trying to apply rules to personal preferences is futile.

  5. A better word than rules is (may be ) CONVENTION in todays case.

    The convention that the IRSV’s wouldn’t be bested until they were.
    The convention that the BHK 300’s wouldn’t be bested until the 600’s came along
    And so on and so on….

    Questioning convention while in ‘the business’ of developing a new product suddenly becomes innovation when it works. (Or the developer / engineer convinces themselves it does)

    There’s a major difference between swapping around cables, changing set-ups, stacking versus unstacking, and all the other things most audio consumers try. Many of them push the boundaries of convention, but usually those boundaries are supported by a manufacturer somewhere.

    Convention in these parts can change like the weather. For example…. PCM bad unless a certain sample level is used …..

    If someone or something is looked down upon by those who claim to have 40 or 50 or more years experience then so be it.
    There can be 3 outcomes…
    1. If you can, try it your way, the worst that can happen is it’s a complete failure and you become a laughing stock.
    2. It works and you become the new expert.
    3. It works but is so far out of the mainstream of convention and rules that while you might be outstanding in your field, you may be left standing out in a field.

  6. Rules, laws, conventions, they can all be a PITA. In one way or another they place restrictions on you. It would be wonderful if we could all just run free. But, free running can get yo into big trouble if you do not has some kind of guidance. Without guidance free running can get you killed. An example of this is not switching off the circuit breaker before you work on an electrical power circuit. Judgement plays a big role in how well you deal with rules, laws and conventions.

    My personal experience with home audio is that most of the time ( somewhere between 80% to 90% of the time ) I follow the rules, laws and conventions. When I chose not to follow the rules, laws and conventions I dread carefully. As always with audio YMMV.

    1. I’ve got to ask, and if anyone was on auto read they may have missed it, but
      ‘dread carefully’, intentional or not?
      Either way, I like it. 🙂

      1. I have always been a terrible typist and it has gotten worse due to age. If I type the wrong thing but it turns out to be a real word then the spelling checker does not flag it and I usually do not catch the error.

  7. I’m a big fan of Nelson Pass and his experiments with amplifiers with extremely low parts count. Of course power output is limited, but with my 105db mid to beyond compression drivers I don’t really need more than a few watts anyway. To nit pick with fat rat, vibrations are certainly not the same anywhere in a room which you see walking around with a SPL meter like a dork will show. Cheers

  8. Rules (of the game) are to ensure fair play. Breaking them is cheating. I can't see that rules have anything to do with science.
    Laws (of physics) bound what is possible. Breaking them is impossible.
    Science (natural philosophy) is the investigation of the laws.
    Convention is how people are taught to work within the laws.
    Invention is when people find different ways to work within the laws.
    Opinion is a view on the application of laws. It is inherently subjective. (DSD vs PCM, digital v analogue)
    Necessity is the mother of invention. So watch out for inventions with no necessity, they could be a waste of money.

    There seems to be a lot of conflation of terms in Paul's Post.

  9. Rules are made for a phenomena that has become currently known.
    Rules stabilize those dealing with the phenomena.

    Yet, a phenomena can be a frontier in a way. To be explored and have new discoveries made about them.

    Rules change when someone sees something new outside the "rule box" that had been existing. Existing to stabilize everyone else in the mean time.

  10. There are rules that are guidelines, and there are rules of law. When you depart from them you typically do a mental, sometimes split-second risk/reward assessment, then act based on your intuition, drive and tolerance for risk. If you are wrong, you may suffer consequences. If you are right and are rewarded, you pat yourself on the back for having broken the rules.

  11. The establishment and mainstream media have most people brainwashed and those people are not even aware of it. They want us to follow the rules no questions asked when they cannot even honestly tell us what the eff is really going on behind the scenes. I have zero trust of most media and government. Don't just accept what you're being told. Question everything and do serious research into all of the alternative arguments.

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