During the past two decades in practice as a psychotherapist and Doctor of Clinical Hypnotherapy, I have witnessed most every psychological disorder listed in the Diagnostic Service Manual. This manual defines each psychological disorder which Psychiatrists, Doctors of Psychology and Doctors of Clinical Hypnotherapy treat in their practice. One of the disorders listed in the manual is the Obsessive, Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
A person with OCD behaves in such a manner that they are obsessed to do certain things compulsively. An example of this would be an obsession to always have clean hands and, therefore, the patient impulsively washes his/her hands dozens of times daily for no apparent reason. A person with OCD may be obsessive about cleanliness and neatness. Therefore they feel compelled to keep their home extremely clean, even sanitary. They arrange items on shelves, in cabinets and drawers, on counter tops and even items in their refrigerator to be neatly placed in a specific order. Everything must appear organized, labeled, catalogued, very neat, aligned, placed just so, and of course, be extremely clean. By the patient’s physician’s referral, I have hypnotized these people to end this subconscious driven disorder. Now, what has this all got to do with we audiophiles? Read on and you shall find out. You may discover you are an OCD Audiophile.
In my hobby of audiophilia (the mental dominion of the audiophile) I have noticed that some audiophiles are obsessed over the quality of sound reproduction from their audio system. Further, the manner in which they go about perfecting the sound they hear and the audio system, recording and the room that reproduces it is clearly compulsive. If you are free from this disorder, you may find the following symptoms amusing. If you see yourself in several of the following examples, you may be an Audiophile with an obsessive, compulsive disorder commonly referred to as the OCD Audiophile. It is a mental disorder or disease for which there is no known treatment.
What follows is how an OCD Audiophile thinks and how they behave:
- An OCD Audiophile begins a serious listening session by cleaning his ears with a an over the counter ear wax removal product purchased at a local drug store. He makes certain his ears are pristine clean to assure he will hear all high frequency sounds played by his speakers. He may even have his hearing checked by a board certified audiologist annually just to be assured he is not missing any of the sound frequencies on the recordings he listens to. When not listening to his hifi, he has in his ears a small wad of cotton to protect his acute hearing accuracy from everyday loud noises. He can hear better than his wife and children which he considers is the bragging rights of a true audiophile. Sound bizarre? A leading reviewer of a major hifi rag admitted to this behavior, years ago. And, yes, he was diagnosed s having Audiophile OCD.
- The OCD Audiophile makes certain that the listening room in which the stereo speakers are placed is free from pets (including a goldfish in a fishbowl). He checks to see if the room is clear of human beings and closed off from intrusion of outside sounds that rattles or rings when music is played loudly. He clears his mind of all thoughts other than those related to his audio hobby when having to do something with his stereo. He forgets he is married when he does this and considers all audiophiles who submit to WAF (wife approval factor of a man’s hifi set up) as being wimps and not true audiophiles.
- Before he begins a component or speaker install or a music listening session through his heman audio rig, his cell phone and landline telephone are turned off. The forced air heater or air conditioner is turned off to eliminate any sounds of moving air from vents in the room. He would rather freeze or sweat then turn on these appliances which he believes wrecks the sound during a listening session.
- He hates ceiling fans because they move the moving molecules of air (which is sound) in the room, thus distorting the sound before it reaches the OCD Audiophile’s ears.
- The listening room is checked to make sure everything is in its proper place.
Even the crystal glass from which the audiophile was knocking back a shot of Whisky is removed from the room. He believes that a glass left sitting on a table may cause the sound heard from his speakers to not be correct because glass and/or ice cubes may ring or rattle altering the sound reproduced from the speakers.
- All controls on the preamplifier are set to flat or to a direct bypass mode of operation. Digital EQ and other external sound processors are turned off or disconnected. Purity of sound is lusted after. Therefore, anything in the signal path other than a straight solid gold wire used as a conduit to transmit gain is a violation of the secret sound purity oath taken by all true OCD audiophiles. So, the less stuff between the signal source and the speakers, the better.
- All components in the stereo rig from the dedicated electrical circuit from the street into the audiophile’s listening room to the little stands which supports the speaker cables so they will not touch the floor and, ohmy gosh!…vibrate, thus distort the sound, are in place. All electrical connections and wire connections are cleaned with denatured alcohol to assure no signal resistance, thus no retardation occurs. Speaker mounting hardware screws are torqued to 5 ft lbs each using a calibrated mini torque wrench to assure a perfect, snug connection. He rationalizes that if one speaker cable is not fastened to the speaker or the power amp as tightly as another like wire, the sound will be out of phase. (Honestly, OCD audiophiles actually think this way).
- Speaker grills, socks and clothes, if present, are removed and trashed. They are, to his thinking, high frequency sound suppressors that act like a muffling treble tone control turned down a notch or two. Therefore, panel and electrostatic speakers shamefully bare their all to satisfy the OCD Audiophile.
- During a stereo audio system install, the OCD Audiophile listens monophonically to the right speaker only to determine its best placement away from the rear and side wall. A 20Hz to 20kHz sweep tone CD is played through the the speaker. After no less than 20 sweep tests @ 75dB are heard, and measured for the best, flattest decibel sound reproduction (without the aid of any EQ application), masking tape is applied to the floor to mark that speaker’s location. The left speaker is then installed at the exact same distance from its side and rear wall to assure a perfectly balanced stereo image. He first learned of this technique when he set up his first hifi speakers which were Bose 901 speakers. He hung them from the ceiling on chains. This was, in his thinking, to eliminate stands. He thinks stands absorb speaker cabinet vibrations and transmit them to the floor. The floor, then becomes a giant speaker and everything is in a hell of a mess. He later abandons this technique as he realizes the chains would ring and became tweeters, thus messing up the beautiful highs produced by a stereo pair of 18 over equalized, 3inch, $3.00 speakers mounted in a pair of Bose 901 speaker enclosures.
- The OCD audiophile measures the exact distance (+ ¼ of an inch) between where the left and right stereo speakers are placed. The Audiophile then sits erect at exactly that same number of inches away from the front left and right speaker (being in the center between the left and right speaker) to form a perfect triangle pattern.
- The entire speaker system and room is digitally, pulse reduced, time aligned and equalized to + 2 dB at a 75dB sound pressure level while seated in the central seating position after the speakers have been properly placed. This process alone takes about 3 days to get sound to be as flat as possible when the microphone is placed precisely where the ears of the audiophile will be when listening to music at the primary, central listing position. The OCD Audiophile always holds his breath during each sound sweep so its sound will not be picked up by the measuring microphone. This is part of his obsession.
- The OCD Audiophile then prepares to digitally record live music on a stateoftheart digital recorder, at 96kHz 24 bits resolution or higher, using a professional studio microphone stand which supports an expensive, studio quality, calibrated microphone connected to the recorder by a studio grade, highend microphone cable. The OCD Audiophile rationalizes the more expensive these items are, the more accurate the test results will be.
- This music is played on a real musical instrument by a professional musician in the audiophile’s listening room. The live musical instrument is played and recorded from its highest to lowest note for which the musical instrument is capable of playing. All notes the instrument is capable of playing from top to bottom are played in a 3 minute time span for subsequent audio memory retention purposes.
- The musician and musical instrument played is placed precisely between the audiophile’s stereo speakers. The musical instrument is then played and recorded for 3 minutes. This is the number of minutes required to obtain a 30 second audio memory of the sound produced by the musical instrument. Okay, stay with me here, this is really how an OCD audiophile thinks and often behaves.
- The recording microphone is placed 1 meter from the musical instrument played and exactly at the measured height of where the audiophile’s ears are from the floor when and where he always sits to listen to music. This process is done with every musical instrument commonly played in a world class symphonic orchestra to include a huge timpani drum, kettle drum, bass drum, bass viol, electric bass guitar, cello, violin, wood, reed and brass instruments all the way up to bells, a variety of cymbals, a piccolo and a triangle. Only one instrument and one musician at a time is allowed in the room in which the recordings are made. The audiophile is always seated where he always sits to listen to his stereo.
- A professional, highend decibel meter is used to record the decibel level of each live musical instrument played. Each musical note or octave decibel level is noted. When the recording is played back through the audiophile’s speakers, the playback sound decibel level (volume) is set to be identical to the sound level the live instrument was recorded at. This is the only reference that can be taken seriously by an audiophile with OCD. Anything less than that used as a reference to compare music from one’s speakers to the music produced from a live musical instrument within the listening room would cause the OCD-afflicted audiophile to cringe and possibly suffer a nervous breakdown.
- After a given instrument has been recorded, and its decibel level noted, the OCD Audiophile then plays the recording of that instrument back through his heman stereo rig for three minutes while the audiophile’s audio memory is reliably functional. The difference in sound then heard compared to the sound remembered (an A to B comparison) is noted. Note: A true OCD Audiophile will not subject himself to an ABX (blind) test, as he feels above that sort of thing. It is his opinion that a simple A B test (not blindfolded) is all that matters.
- The audiophile than looks for the difference in measurements taken in 20hz to 20kHz sweeps of the musical instrument’s notes and that of the same notes played through the OCD audiophile’s speakers. The difference heard of the live versus reproduced sound of a musical instrument’s note should be seen when comparing the computer’s frequency sweep charts of the live musical instrument’s notes and the recorded, reproduced and played back musical notes through the audiophile’s speakers. Now, at this point if you are having difficulty staying with what is being said here, you might consider you are suffering from an Audiophile Attention Deficit Disorder which is an entirely different mental disorder to deal with.
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