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Positive Feedback ISSUE 60
march/april 2012


The Audio Circular - Number One in a Series of Parallel Narratives
by Gary L. Beard


Five years ago, my life began to spin dangerously out of control and I had to run the old give and go (sorry, watching too much March Madness). Among the casualties were numerous unfinished and un-started contributions to this fine webzine. PFO's own David Robinson and Dave Clark stuck with me when they could have kicked me to the proverbial curb, so I would like to thank them for their continued support. With a clean slate and a fresh outlook, 2012 finds me ready to write about audio once again. It feels good to be back.

Hello PFO! A Reintroduction

I believe a little context is a good thing, so as my first effort in a new (an hopefully, long-running) series of audio articles, I decided to share a bit of information about myself with the readers of Positive Feedback:

Generally, I write about audio as a matter of discourse rather than using the more "traditional" reviewing method. That suits my situation, disposition, and most probably, my talents. At 56 years young, I find my ears are not as good as they once were, yet I can still hear subtle differences between gear. I have a good, but not great, room. I have zero sophisticated testing equipment. And although I have a great desire to do so, I've never been to a big-time high-end audio show. Once upon a time, I had access to a rotating stable of exotic high-end equipment just minutes from my home. That has changed too and I no longer have a bevy of beautiful world-class gear at my beck and call.

Damn it.

So what would I hope to offer PFO readers? Perhaps commiseration with my fellow audiophiles that you are not alone in the struggle for audio gear to reign supreme in your castle. Yes, good citizens of the audio world, I feel your pain. My own system may be a good representation of the average enthusiast's room; a not-quite-optimized high-end system enjoyed in a not-quite-perfect location.

In my home, there is a continual struggle for audio-space with inanimate objects as well as with the lovely woman who sweetly tolerates and even encourages my affliction but doesn't pretend to understand, "Why do you need those big speakers there?" says she. So yes, I understand the tug between audiophile dreams and monetary, spatial, and spousal realities. I've made concessions and so has my spouse. We now live in peaceful co-existence where an imaginary line of demarcation between the bedroom and the "audio room" keeps musical harmony.

Yes, it's as good as it's gonna get, but that my friends, is good enough for me.

Do these admissions damage my ability to write about audio?

I don't think so, but of course that is a subjective matter of your opinion and is not for me to decide. Be gentle...

Wired Up and Grounded

I began writing for PFO in 2002 as a music loving, greenhorn reviewer. In the years since, I have gained some measure of experience in this high flying audio circus (and paid handsomely for it too). While I have had valuable time with many types of audio gear, I am far more experienced with Tube preamps, Tube amplifiers, CD players and DACs than with solid state amps, turntables or speakers. That is just the way the audio ball bounced.

I will be updating my system for the PFO staff pages soon, but for a taste I can tell you I am still tilted heavily toward tube gear, although for the moment, I own a stump-puller SS amp too. I have both vinyl and computer-based front-ends and love the sound of both. The CPU > Modified Squeezebox > DAC gets used the most by a factor of 3 to 1. That is not likely to change as I enjoy good digital streamed from a computer. I also enjoy a new audio pursuit in assembling my own gear and hope that will continue. I would like to further explore computer-based audio and gain experience with fine loudspeakers. I foresee that all happening, albeit slowly so.

While a part of me will never surrender the ideal (hit the lottery), I not only get value; I live value and look forward to discovering that next great audio bargain. Deciding what the term "value" means is another can of worms altogether. Generally speaking, I will write about gear in the sub $5k range with most equipment well below that price point. However, when good fortune strikes, that may go skyward. Heck, I'm not going to turn down hearing something special just because it's expensive... I'm an audiophile not stupid!

And finally, here is what you can expect from me as a writer: I try to be insightful, informative, honest and at least occasionally funny. Be it duly noted that my narratives are subjectively opinionated entertainment that can veer perilously toward parody at any time. That said, when subjective commentary specifically references the operation of someone else's audio equipment it is serious business... at least until the punch line. It's my PFO job 'ya know.

Yes dear readers, I can cook up a good audio story. One fraught with emotional shipping accidents; raining down musical metaphors like LP's and CD's (wink); sprinkled with off-kilter humor, superficial catch-phrases and served up warmly like late-night tunes from a glowing 300B. I like that writing style—it's my calling card. Read it and gently weep; smile and gently nod; perhaps even laugh out loud. Or don't. It's only entertainment after all...

Write you soon!


Gary L. Beard