September 15, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

The author of the Sherlock Holmes Mysteries, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous line was, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

And so it goes about the truth. We’re taught as children to always be truthful but it doesn’t take too long to figure out the truth can sometimes hurt—like a smack on the butt or a good scolding for whatever crime the truth-teller has just owned up to.

But being truthful is at the core of trust and it is trust most of us work our whole lives to earn.

That said, I think it’s important to titrate the truth to fit the situation at hand. Never lie, but sometimes it pays to soften your words. You’d hardly want to crush the spirit of a young child asking for your opinion on her latest crayon creation, and then there’s always the potential minefield for unsuspecting blockhead males not thinking through the answer to “how does this dress make me look?”

When it comes to audio there is as well a fine line to walk. How could I tell the whole truth of how awful something sounds when the presenter has worked their heart out crafting the masterpiece?

I make a point of doing my best to never falsifying anything. I mix this credo with a dash of softness and a sprinkle of surely there has to be something positive to say.

And then there’s the opposite situation where words aren’t adequate to express the truth and beauty of someone’s stereo system.

The truth cuts in many ways.

Never lose sight of it, but like strong medicine, be careful with its application.

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38 comments on “Truth”

  1. **Off Topic**
    I just saw footage of the senseless slaughter of 1,500 dolphins
    on the shores of the Faroe Islands…WTF is wrong with people??

    Being truthful is definitely one of my Pillars, however many seem to view being
    truthful as an impediment to them getting what they want…me..Me..ME..ME!

    1. They live on a small island far at see. Their horizon looks the same to them now as it has for hundreds of years, if not longer. They don’t see the big picture. We need to get them an internet provider ASAP.

    2. I saw the same article. I guess stunned is an accurate description of my reaction. I’m a certified diver and having swam with dolphins I can’t see myself killing one.

    3. [sarcasm font on]
      The Grind is a traditional tor the Faroe Islands people, so hey, it’s gotta be okay! Right?
      [sarcasm font off]

      Slavery is a traditional also. There are still places in the world where it is a legal practice, but doesn’t make it right. How is the wholesale slaughtering of other highly intelligent beings for food any better than privately owning other people? What we Americans did to the North American Bison was just as bad, so we can’t really talk. Still . . .

      It makes Paul McG’s decision to become a vegetarian seem reasonable. I was going to have a hot dog for supper, but I’ve changed my mind. Tomato soup, probably. Maybe with a grilled cheese sandwich.

  2. I mainly read two newspapers, The Guardian (centre-left, although to Americans it would be far-left) and The Times (centre-right, but probably still liberal by American standards). The Guardian has an “Opinion” section and The Times a “Comments” section, made up mostly of editorials and the so-called “opinion writers”. The rest of the newspapers are meant to be the objective truth. The reason for reading two newspapers from broadly opposite standpoints is that you see how even fact-based reporting is shaded. We are lucky in the UK to still have a free and well-regulated press and the BBC that is by law politically independent and will get about as close to the truth as any news organisation, but most truth is shaded. It can be as simple as the difference between “10 people plunge to their deaths as bridge fails” to “bridge in spectacular collapse, 10 fatalities”.

    The problem in many places seems to be that people have lost sight of the difference between opinion and objective reporting. Opinion sold as truth is often misinformation or propaganda. Objective reporting without factual accuracy is just dishonest.

    So a good audio review does not necessarily have to include the writer’s personal opinion on whether they actually like the product. I tend to skip anything along those lines as I don’t read reviews as opinion pieces.

    However, if you ask for someone’s opinion and they say, for example, “it measures terrible and looks dead ugly, but I enjoy listening to it”, as least you know it’s their opinion and not fact or the truth. It’s just an opinion.

    I seen no reason for not saying something is bad or broken, as long as that opinion can be justified by specific examples from personal experience. The problem of trying to ameliorate with some positive comment is that it may just be disingenuous. Some things are just bad. You can’t easily say something is bad if you are not independent of the person whose product is being criticised. Because the audio press never say anything is bad, I do not accept it is independent.

    1. Do not be too hasty to paint all Americans with one brush. There are still a number of us old hippies (okay, I was actually more of a science nerd, but pointed that direction in spirit) still hanging around and I have abiding faith and hope (and even love for specific individuals, see one of my comments yesterday) in many of our young people. I will acknowledge that there are a large number of people (too many) with neo-fascist tendencies here, but the same can be said for much of the rest of the world today.

      Good plan going with the two newspapers to strike a balance.

      1. Fascism creeps up on you without noticing. Madeleine Albright wrote a scary little book (Fascism – A Warning) 2 or 3 years ago. One of the better efforts is Ionescu’s play “The Rhinoceros”. It is proving popular in Eastern Europe. The first victim of Fascism is the truth.

        Europe/UK and the USA are similar in that, generally speaking, there is a swing vote in the middle that determines the outcome. Only a handful of states matter in US general elections. I suppose in terms of selling audio there is a mass of music listeners that are completely beyond PS Audio’s persuasion, the focus just has to be on those within PS Audio’s sphere of influence and sell a truth relevant to them.

        The problem breaks down in a two horse race when one is in a deceasing minority and can only win by changing the rules (or making them up as they go along). That is how this outsider sees the USA. A lesson learned is that if you repeat something often enough and loud enough, whether or not it is true, eventually people will believe you. How far this works in audio is anyone’s guess.

        1. Indeed. And may I add for consideration a small volume entitled On Tyranny – Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder and also the lengthier The Soul of America – The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham.

          The United States of America can seem like a schizoid place, especially when viewed from the outside. It even seems that way to me quite often and I live here, near the geographic center of the contiguous 48 states (about 110 miles/180 km west southwestly/bearing 230d of here at 39d 40m north latitude, 98d 35m west longitude; too much information?). However, it is hardly the philosophical/social/political monoblock that pundits (those loud shouters of which you speak) and politicians hell-bent for election would like to have you beiieve. We run the whole gamut of humanity from flaming a-holes to saints, but the peak of bell curve is populated by basically decent people. Not perfect, subject to swaying passions, but also capable of thoughtful reflection. You know, people.

    2. Both those newspapers are biased left and far left. Most magazine reviewers never say a bad word OR have a negative overall opinion on a piece. Some of them can say some negative things during the article, but at the end, they somehow turn their opinion positive

      1. rs350z,
        That’s been my experience of nearly all magazine reviews as well and why I pay the most attention to any negative points. Will that negative be a negative to me or does it not really matter? Also try to read between the lines and think what they didn’t say.

        Everything gets a good review these days. I like to be and think positive but not everything can be good. As we used to be told at work, somebody has to be in the bottom 10%, performance management I think they called it. If anyone has seen any one or two star reviews lately please post a link 🙂

  3. “…. truth can sometimes hurt.”, indeed. That’s why self-awareness and self-criticism are that rare and many are afraid of taking an “objective” look at their mirror image – better to beautify it with makeup and special illumination etc. 🙂 Repression is a powerful and effective psychological tool – as can be seen concerning the reactions to the study “Global 2000” made by the Club of Rome.

  4. Sparing someone’s precious feelings today…. Talking about climate change and being stewards of the earth yesterday.

    Make sure your opinion is ‘correct’, or to put it another way, have the ‘proper truth’ before responding to an author or audience.

    I may spare someone’s feelings, but it’s typically an outright lie / untruth to do so… Call it being civil, polite, or a societal standard to justify it.

    If my audio system sounds like crap (to many it may) and Paul heard it, I don’t want my feelings spared I want to know what and why. That’s before I throw him out for not coddling my feelings 🙂

  5. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
    — John 8:32 (KJV)

    Presented for your consideration by your friendly neighborhood heathen protestant.

  6. Mt father was president of the Rotary Club in Fort Worth, Texas. I learned of the Four-Way test as a child.

    The Four-Way Test – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Four-Way Test of the things we think, say or do is a test used by Rotarians world-wide as a moral code for personal and business relationships. The test can be applied to almost any aspect of life.[1] The test was scripted by Herbert J. Taylor an American from Chicago as he set out to save the Club Aluminum Products Distribution Company from bankruptcy. It was later adopted by Rotary International, the global federation of Rotary service clubs.[2]

    In the early 1930s Herbert J. Taylor set out to save the Club Aluminum Products distribution company from bankruptcy. He believed himself to be the only person in the company with 250 employees who had hope. His recovery plan started with changing the ethical climate of the company. He explained:
    The first job was to set policies for the company that would reflect the high ethics and morals God would want in any business. If the people who worked for Club Aluminum were to think right, I knew they would do right. What we needed was a simple, easily remembered guide to right conduct – a sort of ethical yardstick- which all of us in the company could memorize and apply to what we thought, said and did.

    I searched through many books for the answer to our need, but the right phrases eluded me, so I did what I often do when I have a problem I can’t answer myself: I turn to the One who has all the answers. I leaned over my desk, rested my head in my hands and prayed. After a few moments, I looked up and reached for a white paper card.

    Then I wrote down the twenty-four words that had come to me:

    Is it the truth?
    Is it fair to all concerned?
    Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
    Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

    I called it “The Four-Way Test of the things we think, say or do.”[3]

    First testing it out on himself, he realized that the first question, “Is it the truth?” was barely applied in his business’ day-to-day operations. After 60 days, Herbert J. Taylor decided to share those principles with the four department directors of his company (each had a different religious faith). Those four directors validated his principles, and rolled it out company-wide.[4]

    When studying his advertising statements, he realized how very little could be stated as “truth,” so a lot of copywriting adjustments were made to realign the company’s messages with a sense of genuine truth. The aggressiveness towards competition was also scrutinized and eliminated.[4]

    In 1932, Taylor’s company was on the edge of bankruptcy. 20 years later, by applying the Four-Way Test, the company repaid its debts, generously paid its shareholders, and had a healthy financial balance.[4]

    Adoption of the test by Rotary
    In the 1940s, when Taylor was an international director of Rotary, he offered the Four Way Test to the organization, and it was adopted by Rotary for its internal and promotional use. Never changed, the twenty four word test remains today a central part of the permanent Rotary structure throughout the world, and is held as the standard by which all behaviour should be measured. The test has been promoted around the world and is used in myriad forms to encourage personal and business ethical practices.[3] Taylor gave Rotary International the right to use the test in the 1940s and the copyright in 1954. He retained the rights to use the test for himself, his Club Aluminum Company and the Christian Workers Foundation. [5]

  7. This may not make any sense to anyone here, I just wanted to share it with the family.
    I’ve heard it said all my life, “the young should always respect their elders.”
    My dad has always told me, “respect is something you have to earn.
    Nobody has the right to demand it from you.”
    I didn’t always understand that, until I found myself at a school in Saint August Teen Florida, where everything was happening, except the right thing.
    But knowing before I became a student there, I was offered a persition of authority.
    Long story short, I became the boss.
    I was the one that reshaped that school, and everything to do with that school.
    The adults didn’t like the fact that they all had to answer to a kid, but that was just the way it was.
    But they acted more like kids then the kids that were there.
    Because, too many times, I had to tell some teachers, “I mite not have been the one that gave you the job, but I sure can be the one to take it away from you.”
    That was one way, I got them to straiten up, and fly right.
    If they didn’t, I asked my boss for pink slips, with their names on them.
    As soon as I told him what they done wrong, he would give me the pink slips, and a two way radio, just in case, I needed to call for help.
    The point that I’m trying to make here, is this.
    Be true to yourself before you can be true to anyone else.
    Because, the truth isn’t always pretty, but it’s still the truth.
    You’re gonna say some things that someone may not like, but you will still know that you spoke the truth.
    If it doesn’t sound right to you, then it may nott sound right to the next person.
    The same things that applies to everyday life, can also be applyed to audio.

    1. Unfortunately John, parents don’t always bring their children up in a way that will help them turn into decent human beings. What’s going on in this country right now is undeniable proof of that. When so many people in our country believe the color of your skin is the color of your soul we have a terrible problem in this world. That’s an undeniable truth.

      1. Good morning my friend!
        Everything you said, is sad, but so very true.
        I think we all need to do a much better job, of razing our children.
        The way things are going today, is a crying shame.
        The kids now days, can get away with killing their own parents.
        It shouldn’t be this way.
        If we kick the government out of our families, then we mite have a better chance of teaching them, the difference between right and wrong.

        1. Hey John,

          It’s very unfortunate that we live in a sick society that even stretches out to our passion of playing and listening to music on high quality audio equipment.
          I continue my search for the absolute truth in the absolute sound.

          1. Good afternoon my friend!
            I’m with you on that one!
            I feel exactly the same way, as you do.
            But as of right now, I’m trying to figure out how to skin a cupple of technical cats.
            I have one receiver and one power amp, that I’m trying to find replacement power tubes for.
            The receiver, happens to be my Fisher 400.
            I need a quod of 7868 tubes for it.
            My power amp, happens to be my Jolida JD1000P.
            I need 8 KT88 and or, KT90 tubes for that one.
            I called one vender, he told me yesterday, to check back in a week.
            All he has, is a cupple of Gold Lion KT88 tubes.
            I called another one this morning, she told me, that she’ll have them back in stock in November.
            But I’m wanting to get both of those amps, back up and running at or near the end of October.
            PS. How do you feel about vintage speakers and stereo receivers?

  8. Dear Lloyd,

    Thank you for this interesting post.

    “Is it the truth?
    Is it fair to all concerned?
    Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
    Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

    I am having trouble devising examples which will satisfy each of these four conditions. “Will it be beneficial to all concerned” seems particularly difficult.

    There is a concept in economics known as Pareto Optimality, which describes a condition in which the social welfare of one person cannot be improved unless someone else is made worse off. “Will it be beneficial to all concerned” seems to embody this concept.

    Do you have any specific examples which satisfy, at least in your opinion, all four conditions?

    Thank you.

  9. Veiled criticisms of your friend’s stereo system:
    “I’ve never heard a system quite like yours.”
    “Sounds like a work in progress.”
    “Your system takes me to a place I’ve never been before.”
    “Can you turn the volume down?”
    “What other CDs do you have?”
    “I don’t know why, but I’ve suddenly developed a headache.”
    “Is that a violin or saxophone I’m hearing?”
    “Interesting dynamics with the soundstage moving back and forth and all.”
    “Is that a monophonic recording you’re playing? I haven’t heard one of those in years.”
    “Your speakers are very articulate…I can distinctly hear each driver.”
    “My tinnitus is acting up.”
    “Don’t you think the system would benefit from an equalizer?”
    “I’ve never heard such a uniform sound.”
    “Wow! It’s as though the performers are right on top of me.”
    “Excuse me, may I use your bathroom?”
    “If I doze off, wake me up.”
    “Are there speakers in your sidewalls? I hear an echo.”
    “I know you are very proud of your system.”
    “I’d like for you to come over and hear MY system.”

  10. I was once asked what i thought of their lasagna, and i asked if she really wanted that…yes yes tell me. Well i re-learned that lesson. However much i would hope you guys thought my stereo sounded “not bad” and meant it, if i flew you in from Boulder Co. or the UK or Australia i really would want the truth. By the way, i never ask ANYONE what they think of my dancing.

    1. If you ever tried in my Lasagna you might have a different opinion.I’m telling the truth, not bragging. It used to take me 5 to 6 hours to make Lasagna. My passion for Italian food came from my friends mother who came from the old country and let me stand over her shoulder when I was 15 to watch her make “the gravy” she never called it sauce . I spent the rest of my life trying to prepare real Italian food and for the most part I got rave reviews. BTW, the last time I spoke to her son was three years ago and Mrs. Petrucci was 106 years old and doing fine. She was feisty as ever. I have the same passion for mostly everything that I get involved in.

      I have learned to try to stay out of answering questions like the one that was posed to you. It puts you in a tough position. It’s better to never ask questions like this and let comments come to you because if someone likes your food or your audio system they’ll let you know without you having to ask.

      1. Hahah. My best friends Gramma spoke mostly Italian and cooked a lot…i never would have said any negative comments…although i was not used to authentic Italian cuisine.

    2. Phil,
      I concur on dancing! Many years ago we were at a club with another couple and the woman decided since I wasn’t dancing I couldn’t possibly be having fun. After repeating myself several times, “I can’t dance” and “I don’t dance” she finally coaxed me onto the dance floor. By that time in our relationship my wife had already learned years before. After 30 seconds or so into the song the woman looked at me and said “You really can’t dance can you”. When we got back to our table my wife looked at her and said “He warned you”. Gales of laughter from everyone, me included, except my would be dancing partner. So I don’t dance and if I were to be cajoled into doing so I certainly wouldn’t ask anyone’s opinion.

      Audio is a different beast, while no one will ever mistake my dancing for good it is easy to become accustomed to a system and deem it to sound good. Add in a system that sounds great to one person may sound terrible to another and you get a whole sea of opinions. If I did ask for someone’s opinion on my system I would want a truthful one. Even if it hurt.

  11. “The truth cuts in many ways.”

    Truth and its linkage with the mind is like a knife as above. It’s how you use it that determines what happens.

    However truth associated with the spirit or heart is not an intellectual concept. Managing these different dimensions responsibly usually is where people go wrong: “unsuspecting blockhead males not thinking through the answer to “how does this dress make me look?”

    Everything has its place, keeping intellect separate from the heart is wise with those you care about.

  12. “like a smack on the butt or a good scolding“..
    good thing most of us audio geeks are raisins because I can just imagine aghast millennial parents reading that and being triggered warned out of their safe space and sprinting to the nearest cry closet…!
    I had a few wooden spoons broken over my derrière and deservedly so. Scolded? Frequently. And I’m damn glad my parents did. (Y’know, back when parent was also a verb?) I was taught the truth. And sometimes that truth brought disappointment. But it also effectively prepared me for the real world to come. “Yes Sally, you can do and be ANYTHING you want!” Sorry Sally, that’s not quite the truth….
    Sadly, I never had kids, so now I have a regrettable abundance of unused structurally sound wooden spoons.
    Truth and reality have a healthy and close relationship.

  13. The problem with truth… When it is truth. Not what you simply prefer it were.

    Men want to be liked by others. At least, their peers.

    When truth wins the disapproval of mere men? Who’s approval can you find outside of these people?

    “The author of the Sherlock Holmes Mysteries, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous line was, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

    Jesus said that men will suffer for the sake of truth … to gain the peace that they can not know unless they endure and persevere, even their own disapproval .

    “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

    We are all going to die physically. Many think they are not going that way…….. The improbable that remains does not mean its the truth. The Truth may yet to be discovered. Possibly, remaining semi hidden until all your preferred options left are exhausted.

    When you are born into this world? There were your parents. You did not question it.
    When you are born again? There is your parent. Your parents parent.

    The world is screwed up because God did not lie when he tells us it must be for a season.

    So be it…… You are independent until the ability to be so is removed.

  14. ну што, тавариш?

    Your remarks, Mr. McGowan, are always so narrowly Western; so innocently American. What you have to say about truth – “truth”, is so naive, so out-of-touch with other parts of the world.

    Here in Russia, aka The Union of the Socialist Soviet Republics, aka Muscovy, truth is as malleable as putty. Nobody worries about such childish notions as the nature of truth, and the wisdom of softening it strategically – something that seems to consume bourgeois Westerners such as you.

    For example, until recently, the last Romanov Czar of Russia [aka Muscovy], Nicholas II was vilified as an arch enemy of the masses, who caused untold suffering to the people , holding back the progress of universal, world-wide revolution, for which he deserved to be killed, along with the rest of his decadent family.

    But, now, under the current non-Romanov, new czar V. Putin, Nicholas II and the royal family aren’t only the cornerstones of new Russia {aka, Muscovy, etc.] and superior Russian cultural identity, but they’re saints. Sainted. You may look that up. Nicholas II is now a saint in the Russian Orthodox Church.

    Also, it was the USSR, not the weak, impotent West, that saved the whole world from Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War [foolishly called World War II by the sniveling, impotent, weak, bourgeois West; pfffaaahh].

    Similar malleability of “truth” occurs in many other zones of liberty, such as China, North Korea, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc.

    All of that sort puts your puny little concerns about “truth” in perspective – doesn’t it?

    Rock on.

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