ULTRA AUDIO -- Archived Article

April 1, 2008

Challenging Long-Held Beliefs

Have you ever worked somewhere that was resistant to change, even when that change might benefit everyone? It’s funny how human nature works: "We’ve always done it like that" is the common reply, and seemingly smart people offer such an excuse even when it offers no good reason not to look at new ways of doing things that just might be better.

Audiophiles can be like that too, and I’m no exception. Tying oneself to only tubes or solid-state, to only first-order crossovers or horn-loaded speakers, to only analog or digital, is antiquated thinking. Maybe the old way is the best way, maybe not. An unwillingness to branch out and explore other potential routes to audio nirvana can be a roadblock on your way to fulfilling your audiophile dreams.

Although I’ve been in the won’t-change-my-ways camp at certain times, lately I’ve been experimenting with music reproduction in some new and exciting ways: a computer-based source that has replaced my CD player; very-high-end subwoofers with sophisticated processing to help them integrate with my room and the rest of my system (see this month’s "The World’s Best Audio System"); and, perhaps most shocking to my previous audiophile sensibilities, room correction via an Anthem D2 audio/video processor.

You read that right: At the risk of losing my audiophile street cred, I’m exploring, and will soon write about, replacing my high-end D/A converter and five-figure preamplifier with a component that typically serves as the heart of a home-theater system. The Anthem D2 has advanced features, such as a built-in crossover and phase settings for integrating subwoofers into a system. It also includes the new ARC-1 room-correction software, developed by Anthem’s engineers at their Advanced Research Facility. So far, the results have been remarkable; you’ll read about them in detail in the next few months.

I’ve told other audiophiles about all this and have gotten some interesting reactions. One fellow stated flat out that because the Anthem D2 costs "only $7500," it therefore "couldn’t be that good." Another guy told me that he’d never use a processor in his system, nor would he even consider hooking up his pricy speakers to a component with an active crossover.

The key word in that last proclamation is consider; it reveals a resistance to change: "I haven’t considered it, therefore I won’t consider it," seems to be the line of thinking. Whether the underlying reason for this resistance is because the product doesn’t cost enough, or because it doesn’t fit the common system model, is unimportant. What strikes me as profoundly sad is the closed-mindedness it reveals -- a closed-mindedness that would preclude one from even entertaining new ideas that might prove to be advancements.

I challenge the resistant-to-change crowd -- of which I’ve sometimes been a member -- to think outside the box. It doesn’t mean we have to throw out everything we’ve come to believe in. It doesn’t even mean that we have to try anything new. It does mean that we should consider the possibility that something other than what we think is best might actually be better. Once we’ve crossed that bridge, maybe we’ll enter a new world of discovery.

And if you’re already way ahead of me -- I’m certainly not the first to try some of these newfangled audio toys -- then thank you for leading the way. My latest tinkerings are teaching me a lot about audio reproduction, and in the process, I’m learning a lot about my own audiophile preconceptions.

...Jeff Fritz

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