The normal myth

October 14, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

How many times have you wished for just the normal kind? You know, the one like everyone else has: the standard room, the normal and accepted procedure, the one everyone else is happy with.

Normalized standards are references from which everything else is judged. We can have better or worse.

Standards touch most of the bases.

They are the average.

When a loudspeaker designer has to decide how their product will sound in the room, what room should they choose? A normal room. A standard room.

Chances are good neither you nor I have standard or normal rooms. Ours are different and thus it is incumbent on us to tweak and change setup and equipment choices to optimize the loudspeakers to better fit and match our un-standard, un-normal rooms.

Normal is nothing to strive for.

It almost never exists.

Subscribe to Paul's Posts

28 comments on “The normal myth”

  1. When I was a teenager I, like most teenagers, just wanted to be ‘normal’, to fit in with my peers.
    However, once I realised how debilitating ‘normal’ is, I moved away from being normal for the sake of my sanity & so that boredom wouldn’t hold me back.
    Normal is, indeed, nothing for me to strive for; however, I can not speak for everyone else.

    Having said that, my current listening room is 5.5m x 3.9m x 2.75m…could it *be* any more ‘normal’?? (eye rolling emoji)

    1. 36yo Australian, Chloe McCardle has just finished swimming the English Channel for the 44th time in her swimming career, breaking all previous, male & female, records for the number of Channel crossing by one human being.
      Just another person who is not normal.

      1. And now, dear Friends, an excerpt from the tattered casebook of private Nick Danger, third eye:

        Catherwood: “Gee Nancy, I want to give the best honeymoon a girl ever had. We’re going to Greece.”

        Nancy: “And swim the English Channel?”

        Catherwood: “No, no. To ancient Greece, where burning Sapho loved and sang and stroked the wine dark sea in the temple* by the moonlit Wha-de-doo-dah.”

        — The Firesign Theatre (1969)

        Or words to that effect.

        *See also header photo for today’s Paul’s Post.

  2. “How many times have you wished for just the normal kind?” Never. Okay, very very rarely.
    Normal does exist, it’s individual to each of us rather than a group concept. We all have our normal habits and behaviours. I normally have cereal for breakfast etc etc. Equally I’d suggest we are all guilty of attributing a certain behaviour to groups, young people normally listen to mp3, and that behaviour could well be regarded as undesirable, but closer examination may reveal a greater diversity than expected.

    No audiophile is normal, except perhaps amongst other audiophiles. Even then it’s questionable 😉 Just read the comments here every day, we are all individuals.

    With regard to a hi-fi system I would regard normal as a starting point from which to try and build something extraordinary.

          1. First Man:
            I think, I think I am, therefore I am, I think.

            Establishment:
            Of course you are my bright little star. I’ve miles And miles Of files Pretty files of your
            forefathers fruit and now to suit our great computer, Your’re magnetic ink.

            First Man:
            I’m more than that, I know I am, at least I think I must be.

            Inner Man:
            There you go man, keep as cool as you can. Face piles and piles of trials with smiles.
            It riles them to believe that you perceive the web they weave
            And keep on thinking free.

  3. In recent months I’ve been able to play stereo equipment in two rooms, when bare walls and floors and then when furnished. In both cases the same room sounded utterly and completely different.

    I think all the designer can do is take into account the bass response for what they think is the smallest size room they would typically expect the speaker to be used in.

    Speakers are very often made in ranges, I think Focal is the best example, with several ranges at different price points and in each range different size speakers for different size rooms. You end up with a large number of products, but it’s a clear strategy and understandable by customers.

    Some products, like Harbeth, are extremely popular not just because they sound good, but because they are not fussy with set-up or placement, and a range of 5 models can meet just about any requirement. Others, like the Cambridge Audio CXN streamer, or the Rega RP3, because they are so good and do so much for such a cheap price. They become normalised, almost a default option, and take all the hassle out of a stereo system. My hat goes off to the manufacturers of such products.

    1. jb4,
      Just curious as to what’s going to happen to all of those slabs of marble/granite(?), sheets of cork & the several ‘Aptitlig’ chopping boards that your previous floorstanders sat on?

      1. I can’t speak for jb4, but
        “ slabs of marble/granite” can be used as head stone markers.
        The cork can be hung so that darts can be thrown at what ever picture you attach there
        The same with the cutting boards, only switch from darts to axes. ✌️ 😀

        Never mind I just read JB4’s comment @4:20

  4. Normal is a state. (of mind or judgment)

    For example…
    Any one of our systems ‘sound normal’ in the environment they are in. Change anything, room, cables, source, speakers, etc. and the system can sound abnormal initially… if the changes are left then that sound becomes the new norm.

    So what I have taken away from todays post is that once your reference system has reached the status of ‘normal’ you should be considering upgrading or changing to achieve an even better normal. Lather… rinse… repeat… forever! Wait! even that routine becomes normal

    I’ll be happy living with a normal sounding system as long as I’m pleased with what I have.

  5. Most bamboo boards ended up in my audio rack and, after retraining, became shelves.
    They are all very happy with their new job.
    A few unfortunate ones ended up in my kitchen to carry out their painful but perfectly NORMAL task as a chopping board.
    Granite I never had and the marble is used for non audio related things.

  6. [Paul:Chances are good neither you nor I have standard or normal rooms. Ours are different and thus it is incumbent on us to tweak and change setup and equipment choices to optimize the loudspeakers to better fit and match our un-standard, un-normal rooms.]

    Amen Paul!

    I was thinking last night (scary thought) that all of my past/current listening rooms had/have tremendous bearings on the final live audio presentation qualities I was trying to achieve. After component and setup tweaks, I’d get closer to that illusive goal, but synergy of components and room acoustics are equally inclusive! Currently, I’d give my dedicated music room at least 50% credit for the walk-into-you-are-there venue experience that greets me with every quality acoustical recording I choose to spin!

  7. So true. To me, normal is boring. Normal exhibits a lack of creativity. Normal is unfortunately what most people want or think they want. That is why nearly every house and yard in suburban neighborhoods in the U.S. look the same, with their fake shutters and standard gutter profile. Why so many kitchen renovations end up looking like they have the same cabinets and granite countertops as everybody else who “update.” Why nearly all new cars look so similar on the inside and out. Unfortunately people’s brains seem wired to favor designs that don’t venture far from the norm. They take comfort in the ordinary, same o same o. Even caskets look drearily the same.

  8. So here’s a thought.
    How would Paul or any one here answer this question….

    Walk into MR2 or anyone’s listening room. Kinda furl an eyebrow and say
    “This sounds normal to you?”
    Stand back for the reaction…

  9. So here’s a thought.
    How would Paul or any one here answer this question….

    Walk into MR2 or anyone’s listening room. Kinda furl an eyebrow and say
    “This sounds normal to you?”
    Stand back for the reaction…

  10. Normal is a flexible marker, it can be quite mundane and ordinary, but when things, times or situations go horribly wrong, you’ll find yourself wishing “Why can’t I just have a normal day!?”
    Or consider the vast differing assessment of a ‘normal person’ is…
    There’s a can of abnormal worms.
    I guess we want everything to be on the better side of normal.
    I dunno, sometimes I write just to hear myself type…
    Perhaps I need an “abnormal” coffee additive this morning.

Leave a Reply

Stop by for a tour:
Mon-Fri, 8:30am-5pm MST

4865 Sterling Dr.
Boulder, CO 80301
1-800-PSAUDIO

Join the hi-fi family

Stop by for a tour:
4865 Sterling Dr.
Boulder, CO 80301

Join the hi-fi family

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram