Temperament

September 24, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

Seems to me the more complex the system the more I tend to approach its operation as if it had a mind of its own. I often think of equipment as being somewhat temperamental which causes me to approach with caution.

As devices get “smarter” anthropomorphizing them seems a natural consequence. For the briefest of moments, I hesitate before turning on my stereo system to make sure I get the order of turn-on correct.

Working with Octave Record’s Pyramix workstation—the single most intricate and complex DAW made—I often approach with care, afraid to “piss it off”.

Of course, machines don’t get pissed off but they certainly can have that impact on those that interface with them. We love them when they work and get gray hairs when they don’t.

How many of us have our secret formulas of levels, interconnects, positioning, and rituals required for the playing of music? Watch a true vinylphobe’s ritual before the music starts if you’re not convinced.

There’s no question in my mind that between the Octave Studio’s mixroom and our main listening room at PS there is a noticeable personality to each that must be both observed and honored.

The temperament of each person’s high-end audio system is both real and necessary.

Some call it personality while others would not be so humanizing.

Whatever we wish to call it, our systems have a voice!

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30 comments on “Temperament”

  1. “A phobia is an anxiety disorder defined by a persistent and excessive fear of an object or situation.“ says Wikipedia.

    If you count yourself as vinylphobic, I’d be interested in your ritual before music starts, especially when playing a record! 😉

    1. The first thing I do is invite a group of ritual followers from Santeria to my place with a sacrificial chicken to drive out all evil spirits from my holy listening room.

      I can’t describe what happens after that because it’s just too awful to talk about here but you each of you have your own ritual as to what happens next usually an 8 to 10 step process before the music begins…perhaps. I pray that my tube amplifier does not do a remake of the Hindenburg but then alas, the glorious music begins to flow out of my speakers as I rush to my listening chair for maybe 15 to 20 minutes at most.

      If I have guests over, when ‘side A’ is finished, I calmly get up and lift the stylus from the record, slowly turn around and look up to the sky (my ceiling in this case) with my hands
      outstretched toward the heavens and scream at the top of my lungs…

      “Are You Not Entertained (turn right 90°) Are You Not Entertained!”

      Easy Peezy

        1. That’s my ritual. There isn’t a yes or a no answer when it comes to the question that was asked.

          My straight out answer is that the ritual is worth it. Absolutely, no question about it for someone like me. There is something about a quality vinyl recording that I have never heard in any digital yet. Even the best quality releases in DSD have a slight sterile sound to them. That doesn’t necessarily mean they sound bad they just sound slightly sterile. My guess is that you probably haven’t been to many live venues in your life to understand what live music sounds like. What are you doing is second-guessing me because you have no idea what real live music sounds like

  2. It should be most trivial that every listening room is characterized by its individual acoustic properties (reverb time, hard or soft reflecting and or absorbing/diffusing surfaces, room modes etc). Lucky those who get the same sound quality they perceived in the dealer’s demo room and they based on their buying decision at home. I can only strongly recommend to use effective Diffusor for the first reflection points and a decent measurement based DSP system as sophisticated as Trinnov’s multi-mic system as a mandatory foundation for “sound quality”. And don’t forget: the more drivers in a loudspeaker the more points of first reflections! 🙂

  3. It is an interesting idea. Doctors and lovers of ballet, at least, will have some understanding of the four temperaments, an Ancient Greek (with earlier origins) approach to understanding human behaviour in terms of physiological balance (or imbalance) of four humours or bodily fluids, which in more recent times have adopted psychological overtones. The classical temperaments are phlegmatic, sanguine, melancholic and choleric. I would characterise British hifi as phlegmatic, mine as sanguine (I’m easily pleased), Paul’s approach more choleric.

    So far as switching on my hifi, I send it a stream and it switches on automatically.

    The ballet reference is to a piece by Hindemith ultimately produced as a ballet by Georges Balanchine in 1946, of historical significance to American ballet and still widely performed, including by the Royal Ballet. Years ago I was recommended a recording of Hindemith’s Mathis Der Maler by the Boston Symphony in their Symphony Hall, apparently DGG’s first recording in the USA, done to impress and it is very good indeed.

      1. The good news is that I tried the newly released Innuos uPnP implementation and it works perfectly, so Innuos users who want the DSD DAC Mk2 should be able to use AirLens (Bridge 3) easily with the superb Innuos Sense app.

        Being sanguine, I assume everything will work until it doesn’t, and then I assume it will all work out OK in time.

        Listening to Pierre Hantai play Handel via Sense and good old usb and sounds marvellous.

  4. 1/ Switch on CD player.
    2/ Switch on integrated amplifier.
    (Don’t you just love rocket science) 😉

    Possibly there’s a fine line between ‘complex’ & artificial intelligence (AI) when it comes to electronics.
    Speaking of AI, I concern myself more with what mood my ears & brain are in on any particular listening session day, even before I fire-up my rig.

    1. My Roon Nucleus and my pair of Devialet Phantoms are always “on”. I only have to power on my iPad. But for my non-integrated system things are far more complicated: to be powered on: several external low-noise LPSs for 1. LAN-Switch, 2. USB-Isolator, 3. optical LAN-transmitter and active digital cable. Then powering on: 4. USB-Isolator, 5. preamp, 6. DSP-Equalizer, 7. DAC, 8. power amp. And for vinyl: 9. motor power supply, 10. phono-preamp, 11. ADC, 12. 2nd active digital cable. Uffff. Anything forgotten here? Fortunately my Zerostat is a passive device. But what about my battery driven vacuum cleaner for vinyls? 😉

      1. ps,
        Ok, I’m intrigued…when did ‘vinyl’ become “vinyls”?
        I see it a lot these days (even the spell-check doesn’t like it)
        Does this mean that ‘sheep’ will become sheeps & fish will become fishs any time soon? 😉

        1. Just to make a long comment about an extended procedure a bit shorter! 🙂 I could also mention a lot more steps for my vinyl records: routinely washing, mounting platter weights (central puck and outer ring), adjusting VTA for every record, selecting correct platter rotation and matching RIAA EQ and not to forget: minimizing the eccentricity (hole not perfectly in the middle). Or are all vinyl aficionados eccentric? 🙂

  5. Maybe machines don’t get pissed off, but there are days when it sure seems like it, like today. I recently got the generator all fueled up and happy for hurricane season. That was wishful thinking. This morning I woke to the smell of gasoline. Apparently I pissed off the generator as it leaked 8 gallons of gasoline out on the garage floor overnight. Take that human! At least the dog and I didn’t get French fried in our sleep. Your discussion is right on the mark today, Paul.

  6. I’m not sure about assigning human terms to machines. The closest one may get is software. Even then there’s predetermined order. If something is finicky then it’s either a poor design, running at or close to its limit, or developing an issue.

    The human operator is the one with the emotion. The machine is just a rock until it’s operating. Even AI needs power – take that away and how functional is the AI?

    So orderly on/off sequences make sense. Various processes to get to the end result desired can make sense.

    Complicated things such as DAW software May at 1st seem to have a temperament, but again it’s the operator not being fully familiar.

  7. I think that assigning human characteristics to machines is most common to cars and their owners. I tend to think of my system more as a block diagram than as a human or animal.

  8. I was diagnosed at the age of 13 with audiophilia disease.

    Audio— sound
    Philia — attraction to

    While I’ve seldom used the term “audiophile”, by simple definition, I am one.

    All the steps between arriving home with a new vinyl recording, and a good listening session, are incidentals.

    It’s lucky that I’m also kind of a gear-head, so none is that audio-nervosa stuff takes away from my enjoyment of the sport.

    Enjoy the music!

    1. Yes John, enjoy the music. You don’t even need to be an audiophile to enjoy music or enjoy life.

      During the time that I was in engineer, my immediate supervisor always wanted to know why I had to have such exotic equipment to listen to music when a good old radio would do. That was his perception. It took me a while to realize (admit) that we all have our own likes and dislikes. I was suffering from Acute Audiophillia bordering on Audiomania at that time.

  9. Electronics tech here >>
    Try your workstation between 3am and 4am. Seems to be the magic time of the day, for my stereo system, and for the mainframes and insdustrial machine tools I have worked on, i.e. troubleshot and repaired. Actually a pretty darn good time to head to the airport also. 🙂

    Another important feature of electro / mechanical gear is stored energy both electrical and mechanical. Look around your house see if you can identify stored mechanical energy. Can affect what you hear.

    1. Isn’t it nice when the power line signal coming into your home is nice and quiet. It’s the best time for me to listen to music in the dark lying on my carpet with my head on a pillow and my headphones on. Fantastico!

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