Does anyone know where this J. Gordon Holt comes from?

Interviewer: “Do you see any signs of future vitality in high-end audio?”

JGH: “Vitality? Don't make me laugh. Audio as a hobby is dying, largely by its own hand. As far as the real world is concerned, high-end audio lost its credibility during the 1980s, when it flatly refused to submit to the kind of basic honesty controls (double-blind testing, for example) that had legitimized every other serious scientific endeavor since Pascal. [This refusal] is a source of endless derisive amusement among rational people and of perpetual embarrassment for me, because I am associated by so many people with the mess my disciples made of spreading my gospel. For the record: I never, ever claimed that measurements don't matter. What I said (and very often, at that) was, they don't always tell the whole story. Not quite the same thing.

Remember those loudspeaker shoot-outs we used to have during our annual writer gatherings in Santa Fe? The frequent occasions when various reviewers would repeatedly choose the same loudspeaker as their favorite (or least-favorite) model? That was all the proof needed that [blind] testing does work, aside from the fact that it's (still) the only honest kind. It also suggested that simple ear training, with DBT confirmation, could have built the kind of listening confidence among talented reviewers that might have made a world of difference in the outcome of high-end audio.“


+1 @ghdprentice. The listener needs a sonic standard of reference, however this might be described in words. I share the "recreate the live event" standard. Just finding this much easier to achieve via LP than streaming (the quest continues).

If we visited the listening rooms of all the people on Audiogon who say that their systems sound like real instruments in real spaces, I'm pretty sure each system would sound different from the others. 

Then there is the problem of what does real sound like.  The venue you listen in and your seating location while real instruments play greatly affects how that instrument sounds.  We all hear differently too, very differently.

Then there is the fact that we are listening to a recording.  On the first Stereophile test CD (yellow booklet) there is a track where none other than J Gordon Holt reads an editorial from a very early Sterophile entitled, "Why Hi-Fi Experts Disagree."  He is recorded through 19 different microphones and it is not that hard to tell when a microphone change occurs.

So, it seems to me that real instruments in real space is not a hard objective reality.  Of course, most of us want our systems to sound as real as possible and I'm striving for that too. I try to get vocals to sound natural.  I'm closer than I used to be, but I don't think I'll ever get to the point where a large percentage of my recordings fool me into thinking that there is a real vocalist standing between my speakers singing just for me.  YMMV

One’s perspective of what constitutes “real live sound” can be different depending on one’s circumstance - and all can be true.

For symphony orchestra listeners, it isn’t just what seat in the house you like to sit in. We who play in orchestras are right in the midst of the action, and acclimated to that sound. I play hundreds of professional orchestra concerts a year, and am lucky to get to go to one. It is probably why 60s Columbia recordings with all their myriad close mics picking up the bows’ rosin, the clarinets breath escaping the reed, and the horn’s spit splaying out the mouthpiece, sound very much ‘correct’ to me. That is my milieu and my baseline for judging orchestral recordings (I miss John McClure’s aesthetic for producing orchestral recordings).

I suppose I also belong in the camp that ANY recording is a synthetic creative product, and never an actual exact representation of the live event (like Glenn Gould), as opposed to the “2 or 3 mics in the prime spot of the hall” crowd (although many of those recordings sound fantastic!). So why bother fighting this reality?

In other words, the whole “high fidelity” concept is a product of it’s original time, back in the 50s when it was very difficult to acquire equipment that was not fraught with technical problems. We might just live in “post hi-fidelity” times.

@jonwolfpell  - What do you think of Tedeschi Truck's Layla Revisited?  IMHO, it ranks up there with the best live rock albums of all time.  I don't understand why more people aren't raving about it.  I'm sure the album sounds better than what people at the LOCKN' festival heard.  No drunk behind you whoopin' at the top of his lungs and spilling beer on you either.

@tomcy6 . Great album by a great band! Susan is a really good guitarist & a great singer & Derek is probably the best rock / blues guitarist of our time now. 

So funny how you described their concert. Not 20 minutes into the show, a fairly young woman ( all relative) in the seat directly in front of me was drinking & passed out & had to be carried off. Additionally, everyone was standing & half dancing the whole show which is fun but at 65, it’s a bit much for over 2 hours straight. It was worth it but thankfully my home system reproduces their music quite faithfully