[SOUNDSTAGE!] Marc Mickelson is the
Editor-in-Chief of SoundStage!
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Monthly Editorial by Marc Mickelson
August 2003

Don't Read On

I am continually surprised by the concerns of some audiophiles. No, I'm not referring here to special footers for supporting equipment and magic potions for making CDs sound better. Instead, I am amazed by how far some audiophiles stray from what is for me and a good many right-thinking music lovers the heart of high-end audio: appreciating music. Instead of good reporting on audio gear and its effect on musical enjoyment, some audio publications consider idle conjecture about all manner of off-the-topic topics worthy of space -- and your time.

Favorite subjects seem are the comings and goings at various audio publications (including SoundStage!), the real or imagined fiscal health of various audio companies, the frequency with which certain companies' products are reviewed or not reviewed, the marketing of audio products, and all manner of other detritus that frankly makes me turn the page or click the Back button in a millisecond. Some of the problem for me is that I don't much care for this kind of over-the-back-fence gossip, but more than this is the obvious lack of real knowledge of the subject the writers often demonstrate. Reading such articles -- I've suffered through a couple beginning to end -- is sort of like picking pennies out of horse manure: You're going to be at it for a long time before you have enough money to make it worth your while, and in the process you're going to get, well, you get the idea.

I'm sorry to admit that a few Internet sites are far more responsible for this than any print publication. The reasons for this are debatable, but in my opinion it's a byproduct of the puerile interests of the people in charge of those sites as well as a cover-up for a lack of anything meaningful to say about audio equipment, the most interesting of which they can't procure for review. There's also a void of fresh ideas about music, the choices for which recordings to write about often being, to be kind, uninspired. Oh, these people are smart enough to season some of their missives with a pinch of genuine observation, but they approach their subjects with the idea of saying just what they want, accurate or not, well expressed or not, and not covering the subjects with the best interest of their readers in mind. Instead, readers get articles on the latest breach of ethics (these writers always know about such things), whisperings about audio companies, and all manner of perceived dirty dealings. It's only a matter of time before we see exposés on the private lives of audio designers. Pornography is not the only thing giving the Internet a bad name.

I'm certainly not the most-connected person in the high-end-audio business, but I do hear many of the same rumors that are reported on quickly as fact -- and a good many others, including some about the same people spreading the bulk of audio gossip, their past and present improprieties. So why don't we at SoundStage! write about it all? Heck, we have a monthly column, "BackStage!," in which we could plug such information easily. The answer is simple: As the editor of this site, I see no value in such discussions, even if the rumors that are their basis are true.

You see, I'm under the impression that you are like me and would rather spend less time reading about audio (and no time reading audio gossip) and more time listening to music. And when I do want to read, I'll spend my time with a book, not plowing through the often twisted prose of someone whose work wouldn't be publishable outside of the audio website he created. It's obvious that some audio writers don't know the first thing about good writing, but a few of these still feel the need to pontificate about the writing process more than all others combined, showing how utterly out of touch they are -- with audio and reality. Give some people a forum for saying anything they like, and some of them will do it, no matter how banal or downright dumb their message.

I have always seen SoundStage! as a means to an end, not an end in itself. Therefore, this editorial is as much advice as anything else. If you're interested in the supposed dark underworld of the audio hobby, don't read SoundStage!. While we'll certainly discuss issues that aren't always immediately related to music, you won't find speculation about blah, blah, blah or rumors on the questionable conduct of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah in our cyber pages. But if you want to find out about audio equipment, how it sounds and how it measures, you've come to the right place. Just remember to keep your music close at hand.

...Marc Mickelson

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