Time machines

February 15, 2020
 by Paul McGowan

Wouldn’t it be wild if we could bring some of the early audio pioneers like Emile Berliner, Thomas Edison, Alan Blumlien, or even Alexander Graham Bell into the future? Sit them down and play for them a modern stereo system. From their perspective, I’ll bet they’d think we had made magic.

In a way, we have.

I remember hearing a vintage JBL system that once would have been the pinnacle of sound reproduction. It was memorable not for its perfection, but because it sounded so contrived. I was not listening to music, I was listening to an obvious contrivance, a HiFi, a recording. Good? Yes. But compared to even the simplest of modern systems, it couldn’t hold a candle.

Progress comes in small little bites that might seem big when you’re in the middle of them, but lasting change comes only from their accumulation. How many thousands of hours did audiophiles spend tweaking their JBL systems into perfection only to be eclipsed over time by the accumulation of shared knowledge that resulted in real innovation and progress?

The future is built brick by brick, layer by layer. Each tweak, each improvement we make adds up, but only over time.

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