The merits of convention

December 29, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

The corollary of yesterday’s post Purpose and Intent is to be alright with choosing convention.

Which, if you think about it, was the point of that post.

Choose with purpose because it’s the best thing to do. I purposefully choose to follow convention because, in the end, it’s what works for me.

Don’t choose convention just because.

Choose the convention of tried and true with purpose and confidence because it’s the best choice.

That’s the thing about choosing with purpose.

You’re confident it’s the best choice.

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26 comments on “The merits of convention”

  1. There are pro’s & con’s with every choice that we make.
    My intent is to maximise the pro’s & minimise the con’s.
    Convention comes about from tried & tested.
    In home audio I choose with purpose by using my hearing.
    Others may choose with a different purpose to me.
    We know that home audio music reproduction is subjective,
    but conventional equipment set-up is a good way to start.
    When we learn mathematics we learn conventional maths
    before we learn abstract maths; we crawl before we walk
    & we walk before we fly.

  2. Experience is the differentiator. If you stick with your convention because it’s rooted in “trench work”, then it’s more or less your preferred benchmark. If it’s rooted in “someone told me….” or “I read where…”, then you are very likely missing the mark.

  3. The path to very good audio reproduction is relatively straightforward if one is a reasonably experienced listener; in contrast, the path to that perfect system for me seems just about impossible because there are so many wrong choices available. And I seem particularly adept at making those wrong choices…. and those wrong choices take so long to identify themselves and are so terribly expensive.

    1. I think the concept of “separates” has been lost, and adds to the confusion. The concept of separates was originally rooted in the idea that a given manufacturer could achieve better sonic results with (as an example) a separate preamp/amplifier/phono stage vs an integrated amp with all 3 in a “real world” size enclosure. They are separate boxes, but voiced as one cohesive solution.

      This has somehow morphed over time into an “ala carte” concept where people pick and choose pieces from here and there, creating an almost infinite number of possibilities.

  4. Convention typically evolves over some period of time. If during that evolving period of time another option comes along it may behoove those who are paying attention to investigate and maybe even try.

    I find today’s post of convention to be a bit perplexing. Up until the release of the FR’s lots (if not most) of PSA flagship products have bucked convention in a traditional sense. Even Octave Records is bucking convention with the way recordings are done. The reference speaker at PSA for years was an ‘unconventional’ design.

    Maybe the point is to feel comfortable choosing convention when a piece of ‘conventional’ gear warrants that choice for you.

    Me… I’m going to choose based on lots of criteria.
    If it happens to be a conventional design 😎 if not 😎

  5. “there are so many wrong choices available…”
    Yes, but the good news is that there are also so many good choices available.
    It’s not that there is only 1 good choice.
    If a manufacturer tells you there is only 1 good choice, see the joke and smile.
    If a dealer tells you there is only one good choice, walk away.

      1. “the sublime system that will generate goose bumps and tears that is so elusive”
        I’ve been looking (listening) for that system my entire life, but, like Bono, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
        But you know the quote “Life is about the journey, not the destination”.
        Certainly true for audio 🙂
        The moment you stop exploring new things and possibilities, the hobby is dead.

          1. With that in mind Martin I’m going to post a video of what it’s like to be i dimly lit jazz club and feeling the energy which can’t be reproduced by a recording just because these incredible musicians can not get into the groove and everything is orchestrated in most studio recordings sessions. Bare with this video for a few minutes because they get the lighting problem corrected and you can see and hear the great Roy Hargrove playing the trumpet in a way that only he could. Not to mention the sexy Cyrelie Amiee’s fantastic style and beautiful voice. I would call this video unconventional convention because of the ‘Live Factor’


    1. Considering the ever growing number of manufacturers that are cropping up all over the world with great audio equipment which seems to only get better year after year, there are so many good choices in the marketplace that I rarely see a poor review of any new audio components.

      it’s a matter of doing your due diligence usually by reading reviews, comparing components in the same class to each other then trying to get a listen to one or more of these components to make an educated decision. From there it’s a matter of trying to get a bit more synergy in your music system by the addition of your new component or components.

      This is the convention that I follow and always have since 10 years before the day that I purchased The Absolute Sound Volume One Issue Two that took me to the next level of Audiophilia.

  6. My response to yesterday‘s thread got lost in hijacking to more important topics like movies and audio , and less important topics like the death of our species from climate change. So today I’ll just cut and paste my yesterday’s response. It still applies:-).

    “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.”

    1. Aeroaudio, This is an intuitive important observation. We have many intelligent people around us creating copious articles of interest that give us little that can be used. We are sorely lacking “smart people”, people that know how to put to work what they have learned. If you take the time to look, its everywhere. This was one of my biggest hurdles trying to hire people for hands on technical positions. At some point in the future it should swing back the other way bringing back the smart people.

      1. David,

        When hiring young engineers in aerospace, I will take a state college graduate who grew up on a farm, or worked to pay for tuition in a relevant industry, over a MIT or Cal Tech graduate with no hands on experience any day.

  7. Sometimes we choose convention because it is the safest choice. with known results through experience, carrying the least risk. Convention may not be the best choice. When in doubt, we tend to be conservative and go with convention.

    A good example is in the medical field. Conventional surgical techniques are time-tested and are considered safe and effective, but newer, unconventional techniques are far less invasive and may offer better results with quicker recovery. Unconventional techniques require guinea pigs before they become conventional.

  8. Great thread here.

    The idea of “conventional” is an interesting topic. Even the root word implies a group-think philosophy – a world-view, if you will.

    This is, by nature what parenting, education, marketing and religion are all about in a young person’s life. These are purposeful and passive constructs designed to put a young person into a conventional word with the least amount of conflict.

    And this is normal, until this young (and not so young) person begins to make his own chooses.
    What follows is either growth. Without growth, a pathology is born.

    We see much of this working out on our social discourse, politics, and religion now.

    I watch a few forums, and am saddened by the dogma and disrespect.

    While I digressed, propose and intention are what make humans advance and better themselves in any field, including home audio quality and enjoyment.

    Happy holidays and I wish you all a great 2022!

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