Voices From The Fringe?
Audio today consists of a much wider range of practice than you'll find reported in the glossy mags. Some of the most interesting activity in the hobby takes place outside the borders that commercial producers of contemporary equipment accept as their playing field. There are vintage gear enthusiasts, modifiers of old and new gear, and people who build things that the manufacturers are wise to avoid - products with limited popular appeal or which are not economically viable to manufacture. Except for Audio Amateur/Glass Audio, there's no dedicated forum for do-it-yourself audio, one of the most rewarding facets of our hobby. Only a few decades ago DIY was an important part of the hobby for people as committed to it as we are. What happened?
Since most magazines focus on the latest gear and currently fashionable technologies, any sense of the development of audio over the decades is lost. I consider the absence of historical perspective in the literature a very major failing. The development of the technology over the 80 years since the first useable tubes came along is a fascinating and important story which is too seldom told. And we would have a clearer understanding of present trends in audio (and other technology) if we study the past accomplishments of the ancestors and evaluate our practice in light of the technical and institutional factors which give it its present shape. Besides, some obsolete (and otherwise unfashionable) technologies can produce superb 1992 sound! Witness the current triode "revival".
My academic training is in anthropology not engineering. One of the main tenets of anthro is "relativism", the idea that one should keep an open mind about different ways of being. First you must consider what people themselves think they're doing, from their insider perspective, if you want to understand their actions. If you enter the worlds of sound engineers of the 1930's, Japanese horn speaker listeners, or contemporary high end designers you will meet some very smart people. The tools, technologies, and values are different, but there is a timelessness in the wisdom (and sometimes foolishness) of all sound practices.
Everyone who contributed to this issue is writing on a subject they get excited about. To get Sound Practices rolling, I wrote an article on one of my favorites, the single 300B amp. Then, I approached a few passionate, perceptive, and particularly adventurous audiophiles and asked them to write about what they believe needed to be said. I think you'll agree that there is an atypical group indeed gathered in the pages of our premiere issue. You would never read this stuff in The Sensible Sound. Voices from the fringe? Perhaps, but they say it with heart.
Lunatic fringe, DIYers, historians, and experimenters. There is a group of us looking beyond what is available in the glossy magazines. We know who we are and, as the old Spanish aforismo puts it, "We are not many but we know how to find each other." Maybe Sound Practices will be a place where we can meet and enjoy the benefits of the gathering.
Note: Enjoy the Music.com highly encourages our readers to buy the Sound Practices CD filled with all 16 issues in high quality format from publisher/editor Joe Roberts' eBay store by clicking here. What is below is merely a small sampling of the many great articles within the CD.
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