Thursday, August 1, 2013


Have you ever had one of those days when you thought you understood what it is you wanted? Then it turned out that once you got it the newly-arrived "savior" of your rig was in fact the "devil" in disguise? I imagine that all of us have had something like this happen at one time or another in your listening experience. This is the wishful-sinful part of the high-end and frankly there is just no way around it other than to share what it is that happened to you with others so that the wheel need not be reinvented.. Here is my version of inventing the wheel again.

I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent audiophile, one who has worked his way up in the ranks of listening for nuances and swapping out equipment to achieve that perfect sound. But as Jacky Gleason typically said in the old TV series "The Honeymooners" to his wife Alice or friend Fred Norton, "BANG...ZOOM!" meaning that his frustration level with their relationship was at its limits. Today, I reached a similar "bang...zoom" level with my rig (note the lower-cased version of this highly technical and precise measure of stress). This time, it's those dreaded crossover network capacitors. ARGH!

Swap this style out for that and I get this improvement...but wait, there's that annoying thing in the percussion section that was not there before. Rolling it out and trying another kind of capacitor fixes one thing and breaks another. Then moving this speaker a smidge over there restores it to its previous pristine level and then lo-and-behold, something else rears its head - the dreaded bass buzz.

Switching things around is normal for any audiophile but someone who hears everything across the entire audio spectrum such as myself (and I suspect that you do too) is just like someone with perfect pitch listening to a performance with a string out-of-tune, just enough to...well you get the idea. There ALWAYS seems to be something you can do to change, improve, or destroy any high-end system (usually arriving in the same package).

In the high-end, one thing is certain: you never get anything for nothing! There is always a price to pay for whatever it is you buy, beg, borrow, or steal (stealing as in getting it for a rock bottom price, that is). Everything is dynamic and every person's ears are different. Swapping cables to that new cryogenic tsetse fly urine model may finally lift the veil between you and the music, but the smell may be so repulsive that out the door they go in next month's budget (thank God!). So what sounds not-so-good for me may be in your I-need-this-now budget next month. What a dilemma.

So what do you do? What do you as an audiophile to filter out this garbage so that it never makes it into your system? How do you keep the BANG...ZOOM effect from reaching your doorstep? Good question.

When I consider getting something new, I look at the manufacturer's specs and see if the features I want are available in that model AND if I agree with the sales hype about that product (or the company's reputation which is almost the same thing). Then I weed out the trash from the treasure by looking at if it is a good bargain by what others say about it and what I understand about the technology.  From this "short list," I chase the sheep away from the goats by auditioning them in other systems, be it an audio salon or a friend's home. Once I hear something with my own ears and I like what I hear, then there is a good chance that I will plunk down the cash and take the plunge for the purchase.

You may or may not agree with this method of decision but whatever you find that works for you, just do it.  What I do works for me and what you do may work for you.  If not, you may want to tweak your decision-tree process a little and you may consider something I have said to help you do so.

Hopefully, those new capacitors I have on order will again lift the level of realism to yet another previously unattainable height and the "bang...zoom" effect will not be heard within the walls of my listening room.

My wife, bless her heart, still clings to that simple phrase when I ask, "did you hear the difference?" by wisely responding, "It sounds great."  I sometimes hallucinate that she could be happy with a Walkman cassette deck and blissfully meditate next to my McIntosh amplifier without even wanting to turn it on. But such is her ears and I am grateful to have mine. Even though I may get frustrated at crossover networks, interconnect cables, and God forbid a warped record, I still would rather have all of these frustrations than none of them at all. Are you with me?

My BANG...ZOOM level of frustration means that I am listening, I hear things, and best of all I am not dead.

Thanks, Jacky Gleason, for keeping me sane...and helping me find a way to gracefully embrace new things!

Yours for higher fidelity,

Philip Rastocny

I do not use ads in this blog to help support my efforts. If you like what you are reading, please remember to reciprocate, My newest title is called Where, oh Where did the Star of Bethlehem Go? It’s an astronomer’s look at what this celestial object may have been, who the "Wise Men" were, and where they came from. Written in an investigative journalism style, it targets one star that has never been considered before and builds a solid case for its candidacy.

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