The comings and goings of audio

Paul McGowan:

Remember when we thought the best way to get pure live sound from our hi-fi systems was to artificially make them better? Dynamic range expanders, click and pop eliminators, aural exciters, holographic generators, stereo dimensional arrays.

Even something as unexciting as an external active crossover was crafted to better serve up music. It wasn’t good enough to just trust the passive versions built into our speakers. The external active device permitted multiple amplifiers and greater control than we had before.

I think innovations in service of music are great, but I often wonder about our tendency to stray from the basics with new fangled toys. Our urges seem to come in waves. During vinyl’s reign we were flooded with guns that zapped sparks, gadgets to straighten arms with precision, and power supplies to ensure perfect rotational speed. When we moved to optical discs we were swamped with pens, devices to shave CD edges, mats to damp their movement, and demagnetizers to work magic.

And then they all faded into the past as we settled into the mainstream of devices that simply did a better job than all those comings and goings of audio tweaks.

But still, I have fond memories of the tweak parade.