assumptions

Hot Stampers and Occam’s Razor

Skeptical Thinking Is Key to Finding Better Sound

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide

This is an excerpt from a commentary I wrote many years ago in reply to a letter writer who thought our records were ridiculously overpriced.

When people ask us how our records can possibly be worth the prices we charge, this is our answer.

As a skeptic, I require evidence for what I believe in order to believe it. Although it’s certainly possible that our customers are willing to pay our admittedly high prices on nothing more than our say so, I see no evidence that this is the case. All things being equal, I think they must really like our records. They tell us so all the time, and they keep buying them week after week, so if they really are just fooling themselves, they apparently can’t stop doing it.

Occam’s Razor

The scientist’s and skeptic’s best friend, Occam’s razor, comes into play here. It holds that “the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible.” It’s often paraphrased as “All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.” In other words, when multiple competing theories are equal in other respects, the principle recommends selecting the theory that introduces the fewest assumptions…”

Why assume people who buy expensive records are crazy? Why assume that the records they buy aren’t every bit as good as advertised, if not better? Why assume that the “other resources available for buying music” are even remotely as good, absent any evidence?

People assumed that the CD was going to be a cheap and easy source for their music, and look where that got them.

Assumptions? Us?

I could go on for days about assumptions. We try very hard to make as few as we have to around here. We bend over backwards to let the pressings speak for themselves. Most of the time when we’re doing our shootouts we have no idea what pressing is on the table. All we have to go on is the sound.

It may be relative — everything is — but people seem to be able to replicate our findings in their own homes pretty well. Well enough anyway. When they write to us, they really don’t sound all that crazy. In fact they seem fairly rational to us.

More than anything they seem to be enthusiastic about the great sound they’re finally hearing on a favorite album of theirs, courtesy of Better Records. After having played the records ourselves, we don’t think it’s the least bit crazy to believe them.

The assumptions we really do take issue with are these:

  • Carefully remastered records pressed on heavy vinyl and marketed to audiophiles typically sound better than vintage mass-produced records sold to the public at large.
  • Original pressings always sound better than later pressings.
  • Records that look the same should sound the same.
  • Buying audiophile pressings guarantees better sound.
  • Buying audiophile equipment guarantees better sound.

I could go on for days about assumptions or theories that are easily disproved. All you need to do is play a representative sample of the records in question and listen to them critically using a blinded approach. (We call them shootouts.)

If you want to find out whether something about records is true or not, then find out.

Don’t guess and don’t assume. Get the evidence.

There are many commentaries on this blog that will help anyone to improve the way he thinks about records. I implore the reader to make use of them.

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