Positive Feedback Logo

If it Sounds Good, it IS Good

01-01-2024 | By Editors at Positive Feedback | Issue 131

This article by Dan Wright of ModWright originally ran in Positive Feedback ISSUE 4 December/January 2003, so while we call this section "New Old Stock - Articles from Our Days in Print" you are also going to see some articles from our early days of going online. 

Dan Wright has joined the editorial group here at PF Online. In the interest of full disclosure, and to remove any potential conflicts of interest, we inform our readers that Dan is the President of ModWright (www.modwright.com), that he advertises with PF, and that he works on audio projects with another PF Online luminary, Jennifer Crock of JENALabs. I should also reveal that he's a heckuva great fellow, builds beautiful equipment, does fantastic mods with tubed outputs for Sony SACD players, and knows a thing or two about audio that our readers might learn from.

If that's not enough disclosure for you, feel free to NOT read this article! Nothing like a free country, eh?

And if YOU are a gifted audio designer/engineer, get in touch with me; PF is an open forum for the audio arts. As long as your article doesn't sound like yet another "white paper," or an infomercial, I'm certainly willing to look at it.

Enough said! Enjoy… Ye Olde Editor

Audio Anxiety

Do you spend more time analyzing the sound of your system and worrying that it could be better? In short, are you more anxious or excited about audio?

As President of ModWright Audio, I get calls and e-mails quite often, asking me my opinion about system configuration and specific pieces of new equipment. I can often make suggestions based on experience, and this is beneficial if the individual is a customer and/or knows what sound I like.

I also often reply: How does it sound to you?

Queries like these beg the question: "Why are we audiophiles, and what drives us to find better sound?" More importantly, are we enjoying the quest or is it an anxiety-ridden compulsion?

The point is, this is supposed to be fun! Audio is a wonderful hobby and upgrading your system over time is an exciting quest. I feel it important that we not lose sight of the goal. Ultimately it is a quest for better sound and, most importantly, for enjoying the music. As audiophiles, we are all on different paths. For some, it is about the equipment. For others, it is about the music. The common thread, however, is enjoying better sound, without losing track of what the better sound is supposed to convey.

I believe that subjectivity is the key to understanding what fuels the audiophile's obsession; it also helps us to understand the anxiety that's pretty common in high-end audio. People ask: "What is good sound? What sound is better than what you already have?" The big breakthrough occurs when you realize that ultimately, only you can make that determination.

We look to reviews and reviewers for advice for good reason. It is not possible for any one of us to have the time and ability to audition all of the equipment that we would like. Equipment reviews offer a means of auditioning a variety of gear, vicariously, through the reviewer. This is beneficial, provided that you are familiar with the reviewer's own biases and tastes. Because every review is subjective to some degree, it is important to know if the reviewer shares the same sonic tastes as you. Read carefully; listen to everything you can; compare what you hear with what you read…and learn which reviewers enjoy the same things that you do. Then you can follow their work with some confidence that they can act as a guide to you in your own searching.

About those upgrades…

There are different ways to pursue system upgrades. There may be a local audio shop with a liberal lending policy. Audio clubs and societies also provide a means of hearing different gear first-hand. The Internet also opens a huge window into reviews, debates with other audiophiles and the prolific used-gear trade. There are a number of ways to research your next upgrade and make intelligent upgrade decisions. Most importantly, make the decision according to your tastes; don't rely on somebody else's opinions to determine your choices.

This hobby is expensive and this can lead to "system upgrade anxiety." Let's face it; none of us wants to spend money upgrading our system, only to find that we have lost something. This is where we cease enjoying the journey and start obsessing about it.

But how do we avoid this anxiety? Well, first of all, stop, take a deep breath, and think about why you started out on this path. Remember the first time you heard really great sound and how it made you feel. I believe there is something inside each of us, as audiophiles, that resonates when we hear good sound. Play some of your favorite music, stop analyzing the sound and start enjoying the music. After you have enjoyed the music and remembered why you enjoy audio, think again about your upgrade goals.

The "bottom line"

Audio should be enjoyable. We should pursue upgrades with eager anticipation, not anxiety. Read equipment reviews from reviewers who have similar tastes as yourself—but don't lose perspective. A review from a reviewer that you are not familiar with will be interesting, but will not tell you how the system will sound to you. Go to your local audio shop, listen to friends' systems and learn what you can from the Internet and local audio societies. Invest TIME and EFFORT in your audio education; then you can learn to trust your own preferences, as they develop over time.

Then, once your upgrade decision is made, put on some of your favorite music, relax, and enjoy!

Remember: if it sounds good, it IS good!