Letter of the Week – “Explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works.”

More of the Music of Dire Straits

Reviews and Commentaries for Dire Straits’ Debut

One of our erstwhile customers asked me a question not long ago:

Hey Tom, 

Some audiophile guy professes to me that he prefers his Japan and German pressings of Dire Straits’ 1st LP over the UK press. How can I tell him in a kind way that he is wrong?

Dear Sir,

You can’t, in a kind way or any other way.

You have to play the two pressings for him, on his stereo or yours, and that’s simply not possible unless he lives near you, which is rarely the case, audiophiles being fairly thin on the ground as far as I know.

Explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works.

All forums — whatever their benefits — cannot overcome this problem.

Next time someone posts an opinion about a record, ask yourself “What does his system sound like?”

If you don’t know the answer, why on earth would you put any stock in his opinion? For all you know his system sucks and his critical listening skills are non-existent. He might have a pair of JBL 100s in the basement and a Dual turntable (or the modern equivalent of same).

He may hate the records whose sound you love and love the records whose sound you hate.

I Look Forward to Being Proven Wrong

Along those lines, I had a new customer tell me that this record was one of the better Heavy Vinyl reissues he had heard recently. Rather than just paint every Heavy Vinyl pressing with the broad brush of disgust I normally reach for when doing reviews for them, I thought maybe I should actually give this one a listen.

It might change my mind. It might help me see the light. Maybe I could even learn a thing or two instead of being so relentlessly negative about modern reissues. They can’t all be as bad as I say, can they?

So I took his advice and ordered one right then and there.

For thirty bucks, I learned a lesson worth a great deal more than the money I sunk into such a worthless piece of vinyl on the say-so of someone whose stereo I had never heard, which is this: never believe a word you read about audio or records, no matter who says it, or where you read it, except under certain circumstances.

What circumstances, exactly?

To my mind there is only one circumstance when it makes sense to believe what somebody — anybody — tells you about the sound of a record: If that advice comes with a 100% money back guarantee of the purchase price if you are not happy with the sound.

It can’t get any more simple than that, now can it?

Do any of these guys ever put their money where their mouths are? Not a one of them ever has to the best of my knowledge, and why would they? Plenty of downside, but not a trace of upside. To quote Don Felder, Don Henley, Glenn Frey and J.D. Souther from Victim of Love, “I could be wrong, but I’m not.”

Of course we do things very differently here at Better Records. Yes, we have strong opinions. Lots of them.

But we back those opinions up with a full money back guarantee. The upside for us is huge — a satisfied customer, our favorite kind — and the downside is practically nil — whatever record someone returns just goes back up on the site, sells to someone else and we never see it again.

Voila, another satisfied customer!

I don’t know how Chad Kassem would react to you trying to return his awful Stand Up or his mediocre-at-best Tea for the Tillerman, but I doubt he would take too kindly to the idea.

And speaking of not being wrong, we actually go out of way to point out when we are.

Better to be a scout rather than a warrior.

There are way too many warriors on audiophile forums as it is.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

The Importance of Critical Thinking Skills in Audio

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide to the Fundamentals

More on Forums and Comments Sections, etc.

4 comments

  1. What is wrong with Dual turntables? It seems hypocritical to broad brush the entire line as poor when you make the case that records must be listened to in order to judge their quality.

      1. Well, I don’t want to argue the point with you, because I don’t expect you to respect my opinion. Let’s just say that we disagree.

      2. Steve,
        I would love to hear the evidence you can offer in support of your opinion.

        Opinions in the world of audio don’t count for much unless they can be backed up with evidence.

        Naturally I respect all audiophiles who have done the hard work it takes to have actually learned something through experimentation, especially the kind that can be replicated by others. If you have done that work, please feel free to share with me the lessons you’ve learned.

        I share the lessons I’ve learned over the 40+ years I have been in audio all over this blog.

        I invite anyone who actually knows what they are talking about to do the same.
        Respectfully,
        TP

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