When well-intentioned designers go too far in any one direction it’s usually at the expense of everything else. Remember the THD wars of yesteryear? Some audio companies worked so hard at lowering THD to vanishing levels they forgot everything else like good sound.
Balance is essential in a successful design. Too far in any one direction and the end result can suffer.
But, balance must be tempered with inspiration and daring. Trying too hard to keep everything in balance we risk dumbing the product down to the point of boring.
In the end, we always have to come back to listening as an essential tool in the designer’s quiver.
Just as any great chef must smell and taste their creations, audio designers must spend as much or more time in the listening room than they do in the design lab.
It might sound obvious to readers of Paul’s Posts, but you’d be amazed how few actually pay more than lip service to this vanishing art.
You can’t build remarkable products from a cookbook.
Riding the wave
Technology can be thought of as a wave and its users like surfers riding atop its crest.
Once you’ve jumped onboard the wave everything looks to be normal and the way it is, though that’s merely a viewpoint. Those people left behind in the trough have a very different view. A good example might be early CD adopters back in the 80s and 90s. Those riding the wave were early adopters moving with what seemed like a natural evolution of audio reproduction. Those left behind with their tried and true vinyl systems were paddling through what had always been and felt like it might never change.
Today’s comparison of surfers vs. paddlers might be between the few who have adopted streaming and abandoned physical media. In the world of television viewing, it’s almost universal: the surfers have moved on. In audio playback, streaming is the anomaly. Is one better than the other?
Our opinions on technology are shaped by our position on the technology wave. Those atop the wave have a different set of results to compare against those that haven’t yet made the leap.
Both views are valid. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. In the case of streaming vs. physical media, each can boast the plus and minus benefits of their respective choices: the ease of managing your library at the touch of a finger vs. the better performance of the best transport mechanisms.
Over time, the new merges with the old and becomes the norm. The early adopting surfers move on to the next wave, the rest of us paddle through the changes as if they were always there.
Are you surfing or paddling?