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Positive Feedback ISSUE 23


My Audio Experience: A Valuable Experience?
by Gary Beard


Good day PFO readers. My name is Gary Beard. I am a contributing writer to this wonderful webzine. Sometimes I pen articles such as this one and sometimes I write about audio components (the latter being referred to in the audio industry as a "review"). In the infancy of my contributions to PFO, I wrote these articles for fun and yes, I won't lie, to have the ability to experience all manner of audio components in my own home. Now, a few years down the road, I still write for the very same reasons.

In the last year I wrote one or two reviews where I was soundly criticized by some of the members of various Internet audio forums—at times for my conclusions and other times for my approach. I don't mind being criticized when it done respectfully and without malice. I try very hard to be balanced, to see my own liabilities and strengths as well as those of the audio components about which I write and I have shared these views in a very personal way. So now, with a few new gear articles in the pipeline for the coming months, I feel the need to define even more fully my reasons and approach for writing about audio.

Due of course to the instantaneous and anonymous (as well as oft times immature) nature of information superhighway, I have noticed the sheer amount of heavy criticism of reviews—and reviewers—has skyrocketed. That of course is not inherently bad, as checks and balances are a good thing; it keeps people on their toes. What disturbs me is the manner in which some people display their displeasure with near venomous-like attacks aimed at ridiculing others without regard for civility.

Last year, I almost quit writing about audio. It was simply not fun anymore and certainly not worth the time required to write even a surface-scratching appraisal of an audio component. I finally decided otherwise and since that time I have been trying to distill my experiences with gear down to the basics: did I like it, did I not like it, and why. Some readers do not seem to find this style of coverage on audio a "review"—and you know what? Neither do I (hot damn, we finally agree on something!). It is in fact just the reporting of a personal experience. And that, my friends (you are my friends aren't you?), is why from now on my viewpoint on any audio component will be shared with the tagline My Audio Experience. While the editors of PFO may decide to place my "experiences" under the general heading of "Reviews", I no longer consider them as such. Therefore, whenever you read my critique of an audio component you must read it within the following context:

  1. The term "expert" implies a person is knowledgeable about every aspect of a subject. I am NOT an expert, nor will I ever be, so get over it or quit reading my columns! I am a lover of music and audio who enjoys sharing my experiences via the written medium. That's it and they ain't no mo'…

  2. There will be little in the way of technical information in my articles. No measurements, no DBT, no assessment of the appropriateness of a design. If you want that info you'll need to read about it elsewhere, and if that fact bothers you then quit reading my columns!

  3. I am not infallible (and neither are you). Jeez, I would misspell half the words I write if it weren't for spell check, so why is it so hard for some folks to come to grips with the fact that I could make a mistake without there being some ulterior motive?

  4. Everything I write, say or feel about any component, music, or cosmic event must be evaluated in context with my current audio system, bias for certain kinds of sound and music, as well as the knowledge that I have only heard a fraction of the gear in the marketplace.

  5. I do try my best to communicate what I hear and I state my personal experience the way I understand it, for better or worse. But no matter where I place my enjoyment of an audio component on the "love it-hate it" spectrum, it should be noted that you may not feel the same way.

  6. You do make friends in this business, and although I have only met one of them face-to-face, I have communicated with enough people throughout the last few years to feel strongly about a few really good people. That just makes me friendly, and does not mean that I'm in somebody's hip-pocket.

  7. Finally, in addition to my system that you can read about in my profile, you should know that I am partial to rock, soul, blues, folk, and jazz music, dislike rap and most hip-hop, and can enjoy just about anything in-between. I enjoy dynamic sound on the warmish side at relatively low volumes (got to save the old ears you know), and dislike cold, in-yer-face, overly detailed sound. I don't care if I hear the third trombone spit on the back of the second flautist, but I enjoy good resolution of a recording when it serves the music in a positive fashion. Alas, I no longer have a great dedicated listening room—but undoubtedly I am not unlike many other audiophiles who are forced to make musical lemonade from the lemons of off-axis, furniture-laden rooms. My first truly "high-end" system—Cary 303-200 CDP, First Sound Presence Deluxe preamp, Berning ZH270 amplifier and Merlin TSM-MM speakers—was the finest sound I have ever heard in my own home, and is my aural memory reference system. My reasons for selling it are well documented in my writings here at PFO, and I now generally report on audio gear that retails for less than $2500 and is a great value for the sawbuck.

In conclusion, I state this for the record: from this date forward I am a PFO contributing writer. I offer to the reader accountings of personal and subjective audio experiences, not reviews. I want anyone who reads my articles to understand that sitting in a darkened room trying to decipher whether the treble of component A is more recessed than the treble of component B is not my aim. I will occasionally use these types of references to be sure, as no matter how imperfect, it is the only common language we have as audiophiles. I desire to spend my time listening to music, not straining to hear whether that trombonist's saliva made its way onto the head of the poor flautist, so at times I prefer to be a generalist: either I like gear or I don't.

After all, audio reproduction is not just about a single component; rather, all the gear in the room playing the chosen music received by the ears of the listener that is ultimately the system. It cannot be recreated anywhere else at any other time than in the moment. When all is right, it is a magical experience. And quite hopefully, when I experience my own audio magic, it will be an entertaining way of assisting you in finding a little of your own.