Three Stages of Truth


“All truth passes through three stages.

First, it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed, and third, it is accepted as self-evident.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

Here’s a blast from the past that may shed some light on the above aphorism.

I had an interesting conversation with one of our good customers this week [09/2008]. He had  recently been chatting with some of his audiophile buddies about Hot Stampers. Let’s just say they weren’t buying any of it. This is more or less how he related the conversation to me over the phone (which started out as an email, most of which is reproduced below). First he told me how much he has been enjoying his Hot Stampers, then we talked about his audiophile buds.

The Hot Stampers have been phenomenal as always. No matter how many records I buy, none can hold a candle to anything in my Hot Stamper collection.

A couple of my friends happen to be longtime audiophiles. As still a relative beginner to the world of audiophiles, I had hoped that these audio vets would be fans of Better Records, if not regular customers.

Instead they seemed to be incredulous at the thought of Hot Stampers — even though they had never heard one!! Admittedly, they have more years of experience in this endeavor, but I thought, hey, at least I am willing to give a great sounding record a try, right? Perhaps over the course of many years, people believe they have it all figured out.

Anyhow, even if they could ultimately be persuaded by playing a Hot Stamper from my collection, it just seemed like such a ridiculous attitude to dismiss something that you’ve never listened to. Don’t get me wrong — they’re nice people, but it certainly doesn’t inspire faith in their approach to audio. As such, I’m sticking with the Better Records advice, whether it’s a record or system upgrade. And so far the audio wisdom you guys have offered has never failed to impress me.

Equally important, I appreciate your approach to the whole process, which seems to be rooted in the apparently radical idea of objectivity. What a concept!

That’s the gist of the story. I told him that he had officially just had his first taste of those whose ears are plugged up with Audiophile Dogma. Welcome to my world!

Just to be safe, when I got off the phone I looked up the word “incredulous”, which is defined as “unwilling to admit or accept what is offered as true.” In this case, these guys not only don’t believe two identical looking records will often sound quite different, they cannot even accept the possibility that they would.

It’s fine to be skeptical; I’m as skeptical as they come, and proud of it. But pig-headed is something else. I recently wrote this on that very subject:

A Skeptical Approach to The Audio Game

If you know anything about me, you know I am first and foremost a skeptic. I belong to a skeptical organization (csicop), subscribe to numerous skeptic magazines, and love to read books on science and skepticism. (I get a lot more out of these publications than I do the audiophile rags, that’s for damn sure.) This philosophy has come in very handy in the world of audio, where most of what passes for better sound is anything but.

My approach to reviewing records is pure skepticism: a record sounds good if it sounds good, regardless of how it was made, who made it, or why. I’ve heard lots of expensive so-called audiophile equipment do a pretty poor job of making music over the years, the owners of which had an armful of reasons why the sound should be truly awe-inspiring. But it just wasn’t. In my opinion, most fancy gold faceplates are nothing but lipstick on a pig.

Regarding your audiophile friends, do you think they believe in fancy power cords, interconnects that cost four figures, ball-bearing feet for turntables, and all the other things that nobody in his right mind accepted as “real” thirty years ago when I was starting out? You bet they do.

But different copies of a record all sound different? And sometimes better than the Heavy Vinyl Pressing? Forget it!!

Once you’ve experienced records that sound as good as the ones we sent you — those were some killer titles, I heard them myself — it’s pretty hard to go back to playing plain old LPs. Or audiophile pressings. The important thing is not whether other people hear what you hear, but that you hear it.

And when your friends start to be violently opposed to the idea of Hot Stampers, that means they are only one step away from finding the idea self-evident. They will have arrived at the truth. Then, and only then, will you know that they hear what you hear.