UNCERTAINTY: I am 100% certain about why it’s not sensible to be 100% certain – writes Howard Popeck

Occasionally I get a call or email from a potential customer with a problem and he’s “100% sure” it cannot be this or it cannot be that causing it. This causes a smile here; but not an attitude of condescension. Why? Because I used to be like that and as you’ll see below still am in some fields of activity although pretty much cured of it in the retail audiophile world.

Anyway, when someone tells me they are 100% sure of something I am, initially at least, sceptical.

Certainty in audio?

Surely not?

Sometimes they’re correct, but rarely. Does this mean that I always identify the problem? Err .. no, not always. When I identify that problem then do I first time? Well yes I do. Is that a paradox? No it isn’t. So what’s going on?

“It can’t be the power cord” is a case in point. If I hear this then this immediately points me to the power cord being worthy of investigation. Incidentally, this isn’t the time nor place for a debate on whether power cords can degrade a sound or improve it; other than to say that increasingly my customers find that the change of power cord (not always the same brand or model incidentally) is – within the context of their total system expenditure – THE most cost-effective upgrade they made. So anyway, it’s interesting to me that whatever someone suggests they are certain it can’t be something it’s an indication that’s exactly the area the problems lies in.

This is a normal human trait I believe and I suffer from it too. I'm as fallible, (outside my chosen field of audio work) as the rest of us. One of my other businesses is as a software conceptualiser. This means that from time to time I write code. Not particularly sophisticated stuff, but occasionally challenging for me. I was building a semi-automated quotation system and for the life of me I couldn’t get it to run properly. I found myself saying “I’m 100% certain I have this right”. Of course I had it wrong – otherwise it would have worked. In an equation there was one too many brackets; as simple as that.

So here’s the moral of this little story; whenever you catch yourself having this thought process, put it aside and keep it in the background. You’ll do much better keeping an open mind to fixing audio problems. It may well be far cheaper in the long run, and it's certainly very satisfying!

Thank you for your attention

If you have any comments re this post then I’ll be happy to take a look and I’ll respond if I can.


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