Irreconcilable Differences?

Irreconcilable Differences?

How did music become science? Or an ugly and personal battle royale over what speaker measurements mean? Or a mud-slinging political brawl over whether some gear writers are on the take? These are questions that I’ve pondered many times over during my years as a music editor in the sometimes blood sport universe of high-end audio.

Long ago, amid the singular natural wonders of Santa Fe, New Mexico, I was schooled in the pervasive myths of high-end audio by the late Stereophile contributor Wes Phillips and to some degree that magazine’s rapscallion J. Gordon Holt. As the story goes, on one side are those who had lots of records (by that I mean any form of physical media; yes, even cassettes), and somehow, usually through a combination of hard work and luck, came into some filthy lucre and decided they wanted to hear better sound at home. On the other side supposedly are guys who live just for the electronics. The only reason they have five or six Living Stereo LPs is because they need something — anything — to test out the gear. Wes dubbed them “Geekozoids.” The truth, of course, is not so polarized. Most fans of gear and music live somewhere in between. And there are no absolutes. One man’s Hotel California is another man’s distortion. Which speakers are THE best is, in the end, a matter of taste. Truth is, the love of gear can easily and amicably co-exist with the love of music.


  I recount all of this, not to ignite yet another verbal conflagration or light up online forums with blood curdling vitriol, but to skip the judgements and get at the question that animates this website and motivates music collectors and aficionados—the have-too-many-records crowd. What was it that first motivated them to seek out better gear and so better sound? Beyond that, what are the infectious joys of that experience and how the hell do us audioph…ahem…excuse me, not using that term here, “folks interested in better sound from our mountains of music” convince a generation or two whose ears and sensibilities have been dumbed down by the rise of MP3s and the overuse of compression (aka The Loudness Wars) that it might actually be worth exploring new, high quality LP pressings, better turntables, and higher resolution streaming?


  Flattered to be asked by Robert Schryer, editor of this website, to expound upon music in both its physical and virtual forms, I gladly accepted once I’d heard that PMA Magazine was interested in coming at the audio world primarily from the music rather than the gear side. Going forward I shall do my best to be an informative and hopefully thought-provoking voice for this brave new online venture. While I will occasionally wallow in guilty pleasures, because all true and voracious music fans have brains and hearts riddled with guilty pleasures, I plan to bring to light new recordings — the work of artists who are making a difference artistically while also caring about the sound of their recordings. The continuing flood of high-quality reissues in LP, CD, and virtual forms, which during the past decade has enriched the collections not to mention the enjoyment and knowledge base of the utterly musically obsessed will also be a focus. Finally, the world of music and high-end audio is about nothing if not constant and, at times, damned frightening change. Count how many times you’ve purchased and repurchased your favorite music in differing forms and you’ll have an idea of what I mean. The fact that streaming has made fools of everyone who spend countless hours ripping CDs to CPUs so they could discard those pesky jewel boxes is another particularly potent example. Ouch! I will stay abreast of the changes, many of which are admittedly exciting, and perhaps sniff out some of what’s next. Miles Davis playing live in your listening room via Virtual Reality? As the name of this very promising website implies, there is an essential and very real power in stringing notes, chords, and rhythms together, not to mention finding ways to disseminate them in the best sound possible, aka as the fabled and often treacherous meeting of art and commerce. It’s a force I look forward to endlessly encouraging and exploring.

2024 PMA Magazine. All rights reserved.

Dear readers,

As you might know, PMA is an independent consumer audio and music magazine that prides itself on doing things differently. For the past three years, we’ve dedicated ourselves to bringing you an authentic listening experience. Our commitment? Absolute authenticity. We steer clear of commercial influences, ensuring that what you hear from us is genuine, unfiltered, and true to our values.

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