I think it’s ironic when people don’t admit, or realize, they’re being religious. Or perhaps superstitious is the better word.
Audio debates around tweaks – snake oil versus life-changing sound improvements – are the paradigm case.
Skeptics often roughly dismiss an asserted tweak that isn’t accompanied by measured improvements and/or established science and engineering, and tweakers often expect everyone else to take their word that they clearly heard an improvement and that’s proof. Scientific proof versus a leap of faith. The rational mind versus the shaman.
And yet, this is a hobby. Gear is cool. Music is near our life’s blood. Why can’t we talk to each other in a more productive fashion?
AND, human rationality is just another religion. It’s mine, but the cultural relativist in me tells me it’s not inherently superior; it’s just a different way of looking at one’s relationship to the universe.
Improvements have to start as an idea, and those can come from the shaman. But it really does take science and engineering to bring an improvement from theory to reality. I believe both sides would benefit from being a little more open to the other. I’d like to propose some guidelines…
(1) Merely perceiving a sound improvement from a tweak isn’t proof and it’s not intended to be insulting when others express skepticism. This perception should merely open the question as to whether there is a meaningful discussion to be had. BUT
(2) Objectivists should be respectful and truly consider whether some difference was actually achieved. Perhaps it may not always be from the cause asserted, but keep a bit of an open mind before categorical dismissal. BUT
(3) If a meaningful discussion is going to progress, ultimately the original asserter of the tweak should expect to be asked for more evidence, more scientific basis, measurements, various things that objectivities and rationalists hold dear. If you just say that putting a red candle on your speaker made it sound like Tom Jones was in your living room, and please just believe me it did, then you are not really prepared to push the discussion forward. . BUT
(4) If you are just asking if others think it might be making a difference, and how could it, rather than dogmatically asserting it MUST be the candle, that’s a welcome invitation to explore the issue rationally
(5) Presumptively, both sides should try to be respectful of the other during the discussion; there is a lot of unfortunate energy around denigrating the other side, BUT
(6) Tweakers who present their tweaks as fact without the rational basis do represent a kind of additional risk to the community that the skeptics generally do not: audio beginners, the uninitiated, may be advised to buy a bunch of tweaks before they really know what they’re doing and may blow their whole budgets before they even have their core in place (I saw this in another thread today); and so I do understand the desire to sometimes “shout down” a proposed tweak; BUT
(7) Pointing out to newcomers that a given proposed tweak is not established audio engineering should be done as respectfully as possible;
(8) The first effort should be to explore the topic and attempt to marry the leap of faith with established science or rationality.
(9) If all else fails, just realize that neither side is going to capture the soul of audiophilia. It’s inherently splintered. Once you’ve had your say, let it go.
I’ve violated the above myself on many an occasion. But I wonder if there is a better way?