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2008 Resolution

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The Beatnik’s New Year’s Resolution

I wish all of you a very happy and prosperous 2008. As I start this new year, I have had an interesting learning experience for me as a reviewer. No, it hasn’t come from going to CES, which I didn’t get to go to by the way. No, it hasn’t been from some incredible piece of equipment that has come in for review, though the Merrill MS21 turntable and the Teresonic Integrum’s have both been just that.

No, this lesson came from the decision to get a new television for the room where we all watch TV as a family. I personally hope to never have to bring a television into my listening room again. Anyway, this experience has led me to make a new year’s resolution, and promise to you the reader.

I’m not a videophile though I have always had a nice television. My first one – my father got for me in college. It was an Arvin, because my father had never heard of the other one the store sold, some brand called Sony that he pronounced as sunny. Maybe that’s why every television I owned after that one was a Sony Trinitron, up until 13 years ago when I did some research and purchased the top of the line 35-inch Proscan. That has been our main television for the last 13 years and we have finally made the decision to go high definition. I know I’m not exactly an early adopter here.

So the research and shopping begin. This has been a nightmare. Maybe you can, but I can’t tell anymore about televisions in stores than I can about speakers. I don’t know how they are setup, if the lighting is the same, if the cabling, or even the source is the same. Then there is the reviewing. I know I would never trust consumer reports for reviews on stereo equipment, so who am I to turn to.

My decision was to take an afternoon and go to the bookstore, and get every magazine I could find so I could do some proper research. Well, after about two and a half hours of reading, I went home and got on the internet. My first decision was that the reliability ratings seemed much higher for Plasma’s and LCD’s than for any of the rear projection units, so I ruled them out. Then I talked to my audio-bud Steve who has been raving to me about how great high definition television is for a few years. He tells me that I can get an ultra-slim projection high definition television for a lot less money and it will have a better picture than a LCD, and of course he has never had any problem with his.

Well, I won’t go any further with this saga, and I haven’t even talked about the ultimate nightmare of who and where to buy the television from, if I ever make up my mind on which one to buy. I do have a point to all this though. A point that applies to the audio reviewing I do for you. This whole process has taught me to think about the reviewing process more from the potential customer’s point of view, or maybe I should say from different customers’ points of view.

You see, my gut says, “well just go out and buy the best one you can afford”, then I see the price and my audiophile side kicks in and says if you can save $1000 you can spend it on vinyl. So I begin to think about the different kind of people in the high-end audio world who may be willing to make the same kind of compromises. I ask myself, “Am I helping them more than these video reviewers are helping me?” I sure hope so.

I know there are audiophiles like me who are always seeking the best they can afford and are willing to change components whenever they can make a significant, and sometime not so significant, step up. Then there are those who are like I am about the television. Yes, they want a really nice sound system, but they would rather have a nicer car, boat, or whatever. So while they are putting together an expensive system, they have qualifications in regard to how much of their disposable income they are willing to put into a sound system. There are others who have room or significant-other restrictions. I could go on and on but surely you get the point by now.

I see now more than ever before how important it is to relay as clearly as possible how a component sounds; not just in absolute terms but also in relationship to other really good sounding components below and above its price point. For example, just a couple of weeks ago I turned in a review of the Merrill MS21 turntable with Tri-planar tonearm to the editor. This is an all-out-assault on the art of making a turntable. Indeed, this is one of the hardest things about being a reviewer: Returning such a magical music-making machine because you can’t afford it. Yet, the time spent with the Merrill did help my personal system. I had never even tried the peripheral ring that was offered as an option for my turntable, neither had I ever thought of using coupling disc between the cone/silicon feet of my table and the big hunk of maple it sits on. No, these two things did not make my table sound like the Merrill MS21, but they sure made it sound better.

Another example is the Teresonic Integrum’s that I am reviewing right now. They are the first speakers I have reviewed that have made me think twice about whether or not they are better than my Ikonoklast speakers. The real question isn’t which is best, but how to tell you how they sound so that you can make a decision about which is best for you. For as I have learned with the televisions, it is unlikely you will get to see or in this case to hear them in your room with the best amps for them, before you at least invest the time and money to buy them. Even if you get a return privilege as you should, it’s still a lot of work and some expense to do this.

So here is my New Year’s resolution. I will do my very best to help you know these things when I write a review. Until next month, keep bopp’in and come back for more.

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