Originally Posted by WLC
This topic is very interesting to me. Obviously, there are many facets to it. But there are two I have focused on in particular. One is the despair caused by the perception of unlimited choice.
This perception now has a modern term: FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). It also describes the constant channel-changing ("surfing") engaged in by some TV viewers -- mostly male, of course.
I think this is a consequence of the relative wealth that almost everyone on this forum enjoys. I don't mean millions, just enough disposable income to be able to indulge our enthusiasms.
"Should I pop for a few thousand bucks to get that new 21-inch subwoofer that will knock the plaster off the ceiling?" That self-query devolves into a simpler question: "What's preventing me?"
If I can buy, within reason, what I want, how do I know I've got the best? Of course, I can't really. But that's not really the question. Am I happy with what I have? Am I sitting here thinking about what I'm missing or thinking about how lucky I am to enjoy what I have.
That's another question: What constitutes "the best" in anything?
Like many men, I'm not particularly interested in how I dress. (Women, of course, often are -- in this society, they have to be.) However, my wife expresses concern on what I wear when I am in public, especially in more upscale locales. (Check out this
neat, well-written tale on the subject.) So one day I parted with over a hundred bucks to buy some better-looking dress shoes. Man, were those things hard on my dogs. Years later during a visit to Baja, I came across a shoe tent event and bought some decent-looking shoes for $20. Turns out they were made of sheepskin, and are by far
the most comfortable shoes I've ever had. I wear them everywhere -- I even went back the next year and bought a few more pairs so that I could wear the first ones while doing repair chores around the house. If you ask me what the "best" shoes are, I can confidently answer: the ones on my feet right now.
Sometimes this dilemma takes the form of, "What would you get if you won the lottery?" With cars, many say they would run out and buy a Lamborghini -- mostly the younger crowd who have never driven over 100 mph. It has become common in Los Angeles to turn on the 5 O'Clock News and see pictures of a twisted hunk of metal that used to be a Lambo that someone wrapped around a telephone pole at two AM in the morning. Having something can be less interesting than wanting something -- and sometimes not as much fun.
Several dealers and high end manufacturers have told me over the years that some of their most frequent customers don't really seem to enjoy using their systems but rather are always upgrading.
Robin Williams famously said that cocaine is God's way of telling you that you have too much money. In the AVS realm, $10,000 turntables serve a similar purpose.
Deeper questions arise: What are audiophiles trying to accomplish? One popular concept says that elaborate audio systems are an attempt to re-create a live concert experience. The problem with this idea is often overlooked: no stereo system that I have heard in a career in audio even comes close to simulating the live music experience
. This isn't necessarily an obstacle to enjoyment, as much of modern music was created in non-real time in studio isolation booths and significantly altered during the engineered mixdowns and mastering. There was no originating performance to begin with, everything was piped through loudspeaker monitors and evaluated that way. This reminds us that music over loudspeakers is a different realm than live performance -- not necessarily inferior
, just a different animal which should be appreciated on its own merits. And those merits, considering all of the tweaking that was involved in the recording, are so subjective that a listener should become familiar with the controls at his disposal that can alter and, in some cases, actually improve
on the recorded rendition.
A second question suggests itself: What motivates this drive to exert control over a musical performance? I think that part of it has to do with an audio amateur, in many cases, being a frustrated musician who never mastered an instrument and in his own way is compensating by trying to play all of the instruments
I personally have accumulated two wonderful systems (surround sound and stereo) over the years, but I only upgrade when a component breaks or new technology requires it. Each time I upgrade I am first sad because I have loved what is now broken and then pleasantly surprised by the improvement the years have brought to whatever component is being replaced. My speakers are 19 years old and with any luck will never be replaced. Do I think there are better out there? Of course. But there is a type of mental discipline required to enjoy what I have, not worry about what I don't have.
This school of thought originated with Diogenes the Cynic in ancient Greece, who famously walked about in broad daylight carrying a lit lantern, saying that he was searching for an honest man and, as such men are rare and hard to spot, needed as much additional light as possible. (Diogenes also lived in a dugout, which might be taking asceticism a bit too far.) A more modern expression of this thinking comes from Sinead O'Conner's I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got
I have only written this response because you have raised the issue for yourself. Anyone who doesn't share this concern should just ignore this post.
Perhaps I should have preceded my post with this.