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A Skeptical Approach to The Audio Game

In Other Words, Prove It


I am first and foremost a skeptic. I belong to skeptical organizations, subscribe to numerous skeptic magazines and love to read books on science and skepticism. (I get a lot more out of these publications than I do the audiophile rags, that's for damn sure.) This philosophy has come in very handy in the world of audio, where most of what passes for better sound is anything but.
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A Frequently Asked Question

What Exactly Are Hot Stampers?


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Our approach to reviewing records is pure skepticism: a record sounds good if it sounds good, regardless of how it was made, who made it, or why. I've heard lots of expensive so-called audiophile equipment do a pretty poor job of making music over the years, the owners of which had an armful of reasons for why the sound should be truly awe-inspiring. From where I was sitting little was being inspired. Most fancy gold faceplates are nothing but lipstick on a pig.

Turntables Are for Tweaks

I like to say that turntables are for tweaks, because they are. You have to like making a small change and listening for the difference. I use power conditioners, power cords, vibration reducing pillows; I reorient individual pieces of equipment in the direction they sound best -- all that stuff. Of course, confirmation bias is the biggest pitfall whenever one tweaks, but with opinionated friends and the pressing need to always have a properly working, transparent and accurate record playback system to evaluate LPs with, self-delusions and errors in judgment come to light sooner or later. Good sound is restored, usually in short order.

What Is the Problem?

Improvements in audio are frequently occasioned by the solution to problems heretofore unrecognized as problems. I was in audio before the advent of specialized interconnects and speaker wire for audio. I made my own interconnects out of Belden cable in the '70s because they sounded better than the interconnects that were commercially available.

Not that many years ago Synchronous Drive Systems for turntables were invented. Who knew this was a problem? Sticking the motor plug into the AC wall outlet after hearing it through an SDS is an easy comparison to do. It's just plain unpleasant now. How could we stand that grainy, aggressive, distorted sound? But we did! Then came power conditioners and vibration control and flywheels and all the rest, and at each stage, going back was an option too painful to contemplate.

Change the Sound, Change the Listener

And that's the way you are going to feel about an SDS if you ever try one. I'll bet my bottom dollar on it. Taking it out of the system will be positively painful, yet your system, or so you thought, sounded just fine before. What changed?

Two things changed. You solved a problem you didn't know you had, which caused the sound in the room to change. The change, the improvement, is undeniable.

But something else changed. YOU changed. You now know how much better your stereo can reproduce music in your home. You heard it with your own two ears. The same stereo you had the day before, nothing different about it other than a motor controller for your turntable.

Can't Get It Out of My Head

The memory of that sound is difficult, if not impossible, to erase. Our advice: don't hear one of these until you have the money to buy one.

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