Thoughts on audiophile -isms

The debate between the subjectivist and objectivist camps of the audiophile community is probably about as old as the community itself. (Too) much has been written which there’s no need to repeat here, but if you are new to the game there’s an excellent post on this topic by Schiit audio co-founder Jason Stoddard here.

Incidentally, if you are the kind of diy’er that sometimes consider turning your hobby into a (sideline) business, then I urge you to read through all of Jason’s “blog-book” posts on head-fi as there is lots of useful information there. Anyway, that was a bit of a sidetrack… 🙂

(Also, feel free to skip the rest of this post if you’re the kind of audio diy’er that genuinely only really cares about the music (I’ve heard they exist although I don’t recall ever meeting one 😀 ))

My own position on subjectivism vs. objectivism should hopefully be possible to read in my posts, but very briefly: I have too much of an engineering mind to believe that measurements are pointless, but I have also had plenty of “audiophile” experiences to suggest that measurements don’t necessarily always tell the whole story. Whether this is then complete placebo and wishful thinking on my part I don’t know, but in any case it’s all part of the experience for me 🙂

My main point (and the only thing I want to add to the debate) is that you can be a little of both – but not at the same time. You have to make it clear whether there is objective reasoning behind you decisions and comments and when it is based on subjective opinions – however valid they may seem.

Case in point (and what actually prompted me thinking about this in the first place) – the number of questions I get on whether a specific amplifier needs an input buffer:

In a small number of borderline cases the answer is clear – the buffer is needed to prevent impedance mismatches that cause a significant (and objectively observable) change in the frequency response and loss of output drive capability. However, in most “normal” situations there is objectively no need (with emphasis) to include a buffer – but that does not mean that there isn’t a subjective change if you add it anyway and which might be preferable to you.

That to me is the essence of this debate (and about as far into it as I want to venture) – and hopefully I’ll be able to make it clear enough in my writings when I am being subjectivist and when I am being objectivist.

Anyway, in other (possibly more relevant) news: I’ve just placed my first new PCB order in months 😀 Nothing really ground-breaking I’m afraid, but still something to look forward to in a few weeks 🙂


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