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Sound Practices Magazine Online!
Sound Practices Magazine Online!
Grand Illusion

Article By Joe Roberts
From Sound Practices Issue 9, Fall 1995

 

  Way out on the paranoid fringes of contemporary American thought, miles beyond even the craziest audiophiles, there are some scared technology worshippers who believe that an international elite bad guy network of power-hungry conspirators has been conducting massively funded, wildly successful experiments with holographic imaging technology. The claim is that gizmos exist for creating 100% real-looking motion pictures in 3-D space, 4-D if you count time as a D. These infernal devices can materialize illusions that can pass through our senses as reality itself! Yikes!

The above-mentioned whistle blowers are trying to warn us that fancy hologram projectors will play a central role in the ultimate power grab in all of human history, planned to go down at the turn of the millennium. Over the generations, many predictions were made about the year 2001, the dawn of the new Aquarian age, and in five years we'll be there. The sinister plot intends to take full advantage of all the symbolic weight we loaded onto the coming of the 21st C as a weapon against the mind.

Imagine the effects of a totally realistic 3-D holographic motion picture show of the Virgin Mary descending from the heavens directly above the field where the final match for the World Cup is being watched by billions on TV worldwide. Then a fleet of UFOs flying in formation is spotted by 100,000 tourists over the Washington Monument fifteen minutes before the 4th of July fireworks display. Elvis comes out of hiding. Bill Clinton starts blowing tenor like Eric Dolphy. Vinny Gallo delivers the Altec 755A + cabinets he borrowed from me "for a few days" back in 1991. The impossibilities are endless. After a few weeks of this kind of virtual unreality programming, our belief systems will be mush. World societies will be flung into chaos and the tyrannical monsters with the projectors will rise to global domination -- or so the story goes.

What I want to know is what do these schemers plan to use for speakers for this megascam? I don't think they can pull off a convincing soundtrack with Bose PA speakers and Crown amplifiers. Or Avalons and Krells, or anything else that I ever laid ears on. Would you believe an end of time show that rolls off at 50 Hz with a bit of squawk in the midrange like an Altec A7? How about an array of eighteen Wilson X-1 Grand Slams powered by Cary 805s suspended between two black helicopters? Nah, those diabolical New World Order cats better have something really hot up their sleeves, not just run-of-the-mill Recommended Components List junk.

Although audio brand names bow to the concept of the grand illusion we're all seeking to achieve, not even the best audio gear can truly deceive us into thinking we are there. None of this stuff sounds absolutely real, really. Even at its best, it's just a tease. Reading all the self-congratulatory prose in the glossy mags studded with loaded terms that don't permit argument or room for improvement -- accurate, neutral, and transparent -- one would think that designers own the mysteries of music. Properly taken, terms like "accurate" don't permit gradations. Either it is or it isn't, so far it mostly isn't. Real sound is pure romance at our current level of practical know-how.

I'm not saying that it doesn't pay to set high goals, only that it is not productive to convince yourself that you're sitting under a tree drinking iced wine in the promised land when you're really still out in the desert sucking on a dry rock. Religious metaphors are appropriate here, because like other esoteric cults the High-End offers a menu of unquestioned articles of faith, arcane language, idol worship, crusades that nobody else cares about, anointed priests, and obscure ritualistic practices. Consequently, for average music lovers, a typical high-end product review is about as readable and relevant as Hare Krishna mythological epics. Indeed, attitudes and preferences which come naturally to music lovers enjoying their music are often loudly condemned as heresies of a high order among the Holy Knights of the Soundstage. No wonder so many non-audiophile music players and listeners think high-end audio geeks are just a bunch of clueless arrogant jerks with extra-loud stereos.

Maybe over the course of the next millennium, we will learn how to fashion audio systems that we won't have to study hi-fi magazines to appreciate, sound that everybody will instantly grasp, reproduction that imperceptibly dissolves into reality itself not some fake-science definition of "transparency". If the Aquarian Age brings us 100% real audio, then start worrying about the creeps with the hologram projectors. For now, let's just work on creating systems that can at least play music.

 

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