Unlocking secrets

December 22, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

There are literally thousands of books claiming to unlock secrets: how to lose weight, read faster, become a better person, sharpen the memory, improve your stereo system.

And to one extent or another all of them no doubt have value.

So one must ask themselves a basic question. If there’s so much knowledge available, why haven’t I availed myself of it? Why don’t I have a better memory, read faster, become a better person, or learn the art of turntable setup?

I believe the answer’s really simple. We’ve not yet opened the door. It’s the old you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink routine.

There’s loads of advice at the ready when we are at the ready.

We’re not interested in uncovering the secrets of room acoustics until we have a need for it. We don’t search out the answers to proper turntable VTA adjustment unless we’re interested in setting one up.

Educating ourselves without first having a need for the information is often a wasted effort.

We unlock secrets when it suits us.

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30 comments on “Unlocking secrets”

  1. CtA,
    Take heed of today’s topic on ‘Paul’s Posts’
    And not everyone wants to move in locked-goose-step
    along with you, singing ‘Kahneman uber alles!’

    1. Kahnemann is how we think and decide.
      Toole (and others) is how we listen.
      You could take Paul’s advice and learn.
      Integrating Kahnemann and Toole will do you lots of good.
      Even you could learn. Amazing.

        1. Unlike you, I am in a constant journey of improvement and learning. I know that there are others that will teach me.

          You, on the other hand, suffer of Dunning-Krueger.

          That is the difference.

          1. ‘CtA’
            Good for you!
            Because most of us here know that you need a lot of improvement in so many aspects of your character & your life…& I mean A LOT.
            It would also behove you to learn a bit about home audio equipment.

              1. You have enough knowledge? You are confortable in your own spot? I am always seeking more information. There is always something to learn, something new, something that will really challenge me.

                It is fascinating to be constantly seeking more knowledge.

                1. Bully for you.
                  A lot of knowledge is peripheral & virtually useless & I have better things to do than waste time during my next 20 years sifting through what else I need to absorb & what I don’t.
                  When I’m on my death-bed I’d rather look back & remember all of the enjoyment that I had listening to music than how much useless information I tried to cram into my porridge.
                  Canned music will never sound the same as live music & rather than obsessing over it, like you do, I’d rather sit back & enjoy said canned music to the best of by financial limit (priority) from my current home audio set-up.
                  You are looking for (claiming) perfection from measurements that are only useful in the development & testing phases of home audio production…these products are built for musical enjoyment not for constant measuring & critical evaluation.
                  You keep missing the point of home audio or/& you are aurally challenged.

                  Stop blindly quoting others & start thinking for yourself…& stop lying too!

  2. I never saw a user manual for loudspeakers covering the needs for a minimum amount of room treatment and requirements for room dimensions. Were there any requirements from BBC for room treatment and set-up for BBC monitor speakers including their use in outside broadcast vans (LS 3/5a)? Only a few manuals focus on basic setup requirements and most loudspeakers are sold without any hints for procedure for audiophile optimization. I am pretty sure the definition of hifi never covered room acoustics. There was a standard for hifi in Germany decades ago (DIN) covering only a minimum set of measurable parameters. And even today the minimum requirements for a basic quality for a holographic recording and holographic reproduction including crosstalk cancellation aren’t standardized. Isn’t it strange that we still hear the loud promises of stereo (holographic imaging) but the basic requirements are ignored? We rather discuss cable lifters, footers, sophisticated fuses and all kind of exotic materials and gear for “harmonizing” the air in the listening room, lol.

    1. Harbeth include a user guide in the box with the speakers. It covers all the essentials of set up, installation, positioning and room treatment. It is also available online: harbeth.co.uk/userguide/

      Your points are all entirely valid, but the best way to get it right, or avoid an expensive mistake, is to consult a dealer who will visit your home as part of the advisory process and then deliver and install the speakers and other audio equipment. At the very least you can take photographs to the dealer or email them beforehand, and describe the construction of the room.

      There is so much useful technology these days. We were buying rugs last week. The shop is the other side of town (about 45 minutes), so I had a long WhatsApp video call with the sales lady the week before, she saw the space and existing decor and we saw some of the stock. She then came around with three items in her van and we could see them in place. She also brought a helper to carry and roll out the rugs and move furniture. Out of this process she got the sale of two rugs and a happy customer.

      When we were planning building work my wife was rather upset that the architect did not have virtual reality kit so she could see what he was planning using a headset. This is becoming standard these days.

      Getting the right product that works in your home, whether speakers or a rug, should not have to involve a lot of research, more a practical and increasingly technology-assisted relationship between the retailer and the customer.

      If you have a look at the REL website, they have a huge number articles about choice and set-up, including a tool for selecting the right product depending on your main speakers, room size and use. They also provide a 60-day free trial and return in the UK. I bought one from my dealer and he delivered and set it up.

      1. Many thanks, Steven. But aren’t these rare exceptions? I recently visited a high.end loudspeaker manufacturer whose demo-rooms had no room treatment at all. And don’t most audio dealers prefer recommending most expensive cables and footers or better phono cartridges or DACs as well as high-end LAN-switches instead of selling drugs?

        1. The dealer I use, and the other dealer of choice, both have sensibly treated rooms, several of different sizes, and furnished like a home listening room.

          Neither dealer sells foo products – they leave that to the online charlatans. When I bought Wilson speakers they were demonstrated with an appropriate cable, Chord Signature, a 3m pair costs £900, about $1,200. The dealer sells very few accessories and only stock two brands of speaker cables, Chord and Transparent Audio. For mains cables they stock Chord, Vertere and Shunyata. Coax – only Chord. They do sell 4 ethernet switches (2 x Chord, SoTM and Melco), power is limited to Shunyata conditioners, they recently dropped AudioQuest, they’ve dropped the brand completely.

          I like that dealer because they offer a limited range consisting what they consider the best products, some of which change quite frequently, and only the products they want to sell and not everything the brand makes. I think it’s a very sensible approach because the customer does not get confused by the vast range of products available.

          The approach of some dealers is to try and compete with online warehouses. I don’t think that is sensible or possible. A good dealer can offer service and advice that you cannot get online, and certainly there are many dealers in the UK doing that successfully.

    2. paulsquirrel,
      It doesn’t necessarily address the points you mentioned but worth noting the Audio Physic website has a detailed section on speaker set up.

      1. The founder of Audio Physic, Joachim Gerhard, favored nearfield listening and a wide listening angle minimizing combfilter effects due to crosstalk. I think he always was in close communication with Floyd O’Toole. Again a rare exception!

  3. I think a lot of closed doors in audio is firmly because of money. Most people would like to start close to or near the very best in audio reproduction by acquiring some v audio products that perform well, but of course it takes a good amount of money to do it.
    The loudspeaker and turntable set ups are good examples. Secrets get lost because of the amount of money some audio hobbies demand.

  4. Unlocking the secrets to a better….whatever. Don’t those titles just draw you in. After all who doesn’t want to know a secret and steal a march on others. Yet when you finally take the plunge they’re invariably a disappointment. They don’t contain secrets at all. Knowledge yes, facts, myths, stories and common sense which, as we know, isn’t that common.
    Even the title is a complete fallacy, a published secret is no more. Okay, so I’m being a bit literal here, but I have a strong dislike for false marketing.
    Educating ourselves is never wasted, you don’t know when the information will come in useful. The problem is remembering it.

  5. Not knowing something doesn’t make that something a secret.

    I spent many an hour in the way north Atlantic during the golden days of the Cold War. What was done there may be a secret to most but not to all.

    Maybe A better way to think about it is a secret is some knowledge that doesn’t or hasn’t been shared with others.

    The availability of books and the ‘info net’ makes obtaining information readily available. How that info is applied may unravel what you thought was a secret. All you have to do is separate the wheat from the chaff.

  6. As Paul says, there is a lot of info available. Sometimes too much. Just because it’s not on a mimeographed sheet of paper in the box, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Although I do miss the buzz from those fumes 😉
    Magnepan includes some basic info about setup. The trouble is when you look at online forums. There is SO much misinformation about Maggies posted from users. But how is a newbie to know?

    1. “mimeographed “

      A step into the way back machine 🙂

      An easy fix would be to standardize rooms, both in dimensions and furnishings. The setup could be written once and then done.

  7. “misinformation about Maggies posted from users”
    How can you tell it’s misinformation ?
    The only “tools” I use to place my speakers in exactly the right position are my ears.
    Not some dealer who decides for me where they have to be placed, or some book where I can read where they “should” be placed (golden rules etc.etc.).
    Placing the speakers in YOUR room in the FOR YOU right position is where you get the best results for your own ears.
    Not for the ears of the dealer or author of whatever audio book.
    That’s all there is to it. Nothing more.

  8. Today’s easy tip is fairly quick and inexpensive for the Holiday cheer…

    Get a measuring tape and measure from the inside rear edge of your speaker cabinet to the back wall and make them match on both L & R cabinets exactly. Do the same to the outer edge to the rear wall. (yes, even 1/4″ makes a difference)

    Happy Christmas… Merry New Year!

  9. With all this overload of information, it reminds me of some of my favorite lyrics from Ian Hunter’s “When the World was Round” that say “there’s too much information, and not enough to go on”. Paralysis Analysis is another way to put it. We see it in our real estate buyers all the time in recent years, overanalyze everything.

    We also have learned to piece out information to people as they need it, otherwise it often gets overlooked. We can send a client a whole primer on what will go on with their transaction, for instance, with step-by-step milestones. They still reach out constantly with “what do we do next” as they don’t get the need for knowing everything until the time they need to know it.

  10. Paul

    To your point, ever heard of the medical condition Uveitis? probably not. I never did until my daughter was diagnosed with it. Now I know more about the causes and treatments than anyone other than the specialists that treat her.
    I wish I didn’t need to know but circumstances lead to my education.
    The same can be said about prostate cancer treatments and medical procedures to cure atrial fibrillation. I know all about these conditions because I had them. I wish I didn’t have to know but circumstances led me to the learning trough. Such is life…

  11. I think Paul took a bit of poetic license when he said “Unlocking Secrets”. The knowledge he is taking about is neither secret or locked. However, if the major source that one uses to gain knowledge is the internet that ( as pointed out above ) much of what is on the internet is not vetted. This is not to say that there is not good information on the internet. If you go to the Mayo Clinic’s website to gain knowledge about an illness you can be sure that the information there has been vetted.

    In stark contrast to the internet is getting knowledge through a good education. When I went to college and then grad school to learn about physics and math I never had to question if what I was learning about mechanics, E&M, optics, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, integral transforms, probability and statistics was false information.

    It strikes me as ironic that the internet was developed as a research tool for scientist to exchange large amounts of data and it was trusted that no one would falsify their data. How the times have changed.

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