|The Savvy Audiophile||by Rod Nattrass|
a sure-fire method for proselytizing the glories of high-end music
to the MP3 crowd
Perhaps history will note the first decade of this century as a strange step sideways in the evolution of audio.
Never before has it been so easy to obtain and listen to music. You can sit at your computer in the comfort of your home, search for your favorite artist, then download (either legally or illegally) MP3s of the desired work by that artist. Then you can load up the MP3 player with dozens (if not hundreds) of tunes to listen to wherever and whenever you want to: in the car, at the park, on the bus, while cutting the lawn or walking the dog. The dream of instant and easy access to music has finally come true.
Personally, I think this is more of a nightmare than a dream. The price of such convenience and portability is serious degradation in the quality of audio playback. For the first time since I have been alive, people have taken a big step backward, trading convenience for poor quality sound.
The Inner Ear celebrates the highest achievements in the art of high-end audio engineering, reveling in the exquisite perfection of accurately reproduced audio.
We heap accolades on those who would devote their lives to the pursuit of this Audio Nirvana, and we will stop at nothing in order to experience the ultimate in sound made possible through the alchemical combination of technology and art. In short, we will leave no dollar unspent, no spec sheet unread, and no combination of wires, tubes and integrated circuits untried in our attempt to experience the Holy Grail of high-end — the Inner Eargasm.
Those who join in this quest know what it is to experience the joy of sound so vivid one can almost reach out and touch the performers; sound so realistic you need not imagine the orchestra in front of you because, if you close your eyes, your ears will tell you that it is there, in all its fully-realized three-dimensional glory.
A properly set up system of high quality components, playing back an equally high quality recording, will provide your brain with all the aural clues needed to convince you that the stereo image has height, width and depth.
But is our crusade in vain? Have we isolated ourselves in an Ivory Tower?
The Scourge of MP3
We are, alas, a group of acolytes that is dwindling in number. You see, there are new forces about; false prophets preaching a new scripture, leading the lay public down the chimerical paths of 5.1 surround and MP3 playback.
OK, so I’ve stretched the metaphor about as far as it can go. What it comes down to is this: We have reached a point where the average consumer is being told that for $699, he can purchase an “all-in-one” system, one that will provide “stunning” surround sound and “thunderous” bass in the comfort of his family room and is capable of playing back DVDs, CDs and MP3s. To the untrained ear this marketing ploy appears to offer up the Swiss army knife of home entertainment, and retailers are selling such gear at a furious pace.