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Auroville 35: Chips and Bile
by Srajan Ebaen

Nothing in recent memory has stimulated more AA threads than Golden Sound's Intelligent Chip. For those who've somehow not yet heard of it, its a digital camera look-alike "memory card" that gets placed atop a CD player while a CD is loaded and spinning. According to the instructions, this chip performs a 2-second permanent treatment on the CD. It's also smart enough to recognize whether a CD has already been treated or not. The chip must be stored inside its plastic case lest it expire prematurely. And only a preprogrammed number of CDs can be treated. Currently two different chip "strengths" are available that treat either 10 or 40 CDs.

The responses to this chip span the gamut from foul cries over a ridiculous hoax (nearly exclusively from folks who haven't tried it) to strong endorsements even from the engineering community (John Curl) —though never with solid explanations or even quasi Physics theories on how the chip works. Those who've tried it—going in knowing that it couldn't possibly work—attest that it does work.

What further blurs matters is the implausible explanation by the manufacturer. It talks about realigning 1s and 0s. This presumably entails a physical action (or one that somehow influences the reading laser to "see" differently). How digital coding engraved in polycarbonate could be realigned "by proximity" isn't explained. It's obviously so weak-ass a point in the defense's disfavor that naysayers can't be blamed for crying "hoax" like a pack of hungry wolves.

Mysteriously, those who profess to have a reasonably good idea how it works adamantly overlook the manufacturer's amazing penchant for dreaming up explanations and answers that seem to defy all Physics. In fact, proponents are just as vigilant to call naysayers and their contrarious arguments dim-witted, narrow-minded or simply rude as heathens are quick to poke fun at the extent to which the gullible are prepared to be taken for a ride. Nano science, quantum dots, artificial atoms and programmable matters are terms bandied about in the chip's defense while assurances of fraud and dangerous gamma radiation turn into counter attacks.

The most curious aspect of this whole affair is really the vociferousness and charged attitude by which both sides pursue their arguments. Why is it that audiophiles as a group tend to be so war-like, so ready to pick up the axe and whip to bash skulls and open skin on anyone who disagrees? It's nearly as bad as religious persecution or the unyielding stance of racial intolerance. What other hobby ignites its participants to splinter off into so many radical sub cultures? None that I know of.

It's peculiar, too. Ostensibly, the enjoyment of music is a predominantly emotional matter. It's supposed to nourish the soul or spirit, or whatever you're inclined to call that part of yourself that feels fed, inspired, or vivified by music. If the involvement in audio truly caused its participants to feel "well fed" in that regard… well, wouldn't you'd think that being part of a fellowship of like-minded folks would generate a benign attitude based on personal wellbeing?

Let's put it this way. Do fanciers of grass delight in passing around the weed or do they withhold it in anger if you profess to favoring Hawaiian over Nepalese or Humboldt County origins? If music is about getting high in some manner—albeit by one's lonesome, usually—why be so belligerent when others get there with different music and hardware?

Perhaps the crux of the matter is that most who profess to being into it "for the music" do in fact not derive the soul high or heart opening you think they do (or they think they should). Perhaps all this hostility grows out of not getting any. If you've spent the long green and endless calendar years on pursuing your audio system like a randy dog never blowing its wad, perhaps that's why you're ready to tear out throats and maim.

I'd actually really like to know. Naturally, this is as lame a hypothesis as invoking programmable matter about that chip. Alas, it's based on an observation that most of us will be able to agree on. Audiophiles are a trigger-happy bunch. We have more churches than Christian sects. Holy war on the non-believers becomes the business to wage on anyone belonging to a different creed.

It strikes me that if half the carefully assembled systems out there were as satisfying as their expense and complexity suggests they should be, we wouldn't have half the embittered, foaming-at-the-mouth antics we routinely see in our community.

Do you think that most audiophiles truly derive emotional—and repeatable, predictable-—pleasure from listening to their systems? If they did, it's bloody hard to reconcile how happiness would so often turn into aggression. If you think most of them are in fact not getting laid by their rigs on a routine and healthy basis, why should that be? Is it because they don't know how to listen in the properly attuned way? Is it that no matter what the hardware, they ultimately always miss out? Is "I can't get no satisfaction" the true mantra of audiophilia?

This is such a nicely open-ended opportunity to bow out of asking all these interesting questions that I shall take my leave. (Honestly, for once I don't even have the faintest self-delusional glimpse of an answer to this conundrum—at all. It baffles and bothers me and I wish someone, somewhere, would come along and finally solve it once and for all. Perhaps you are that someone. If so, put me out of my misery. Pray tell. What's wrong with us ‘philes? Why do we prefer to argue and disagree endlessly rather than spending that precious time on grooving to our fave tunes?)

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