Try walking in my shoes

  • Empathy – to place oneself in another’s position – is this reviewer’s most valuable skill.

    To understand that journeyman audiophiles see their multi-box systems, complete with hi-fi rack and cable salad, as an audio playground BUT ALSO that many others are repelled by such monstrous setups, preferring instead the Future-Fi minimalism of a pair of active loudspeakers and a streamer or a pair of passive loudspeakers juiced by a super-integrated (where streamer, DAC and amplifier play from one box).

    To understand that state-of-the-art audio invariably means small production runs and a price tag that would otherwise buy a six-month vacation BUT ALSO that many would-be hi-fi buyers are horrified by the idea of dropping new-car-money on an amplifier or DAC.

    To understand that the most crucial component in any loudspeaker audio system is the room BUT ALSO that the majority of listening (living!) spaces, like mine, might not do proper justice to uber high-end loudspeakers that demand a set of uber high-end electronics.

    To understand that some audio folk are into sound more than they are music OR that their pleasure is derived more from digging into playback technology with the same recordings, buying them again and again in refreshed formats. BUT ALSO understanding that there are others who want their hi-fi to improve their listening experience with music they already love, stored on media they already own.

    To understand that many audiophiles actually enjoy listening to Diana Krall, Patricia Barber, The Eagles, Nils Lofgren, classical or opera but don’t – or choose not to – see how many of these recordings have, through endless repetition, become audiophile clichés; BUT ALSO to understand that not everyone enjoys this kind of music — that the hi-fi enthusiast world is made up of people who also dig indie rock, techno, drum n’ bass, house, Dad rock, metal, reggae, dub and world.

    To understand that some people enjoy the sound of music encoded as MQA or DSD…BUT ALSO understand that some object to the technology itself whilst others find their enthusiasm stunted by hi-res audio’s still anorexic library.

    To understand that some people will compromise heavily on aesthetics and comfort for the ultimate headphone experience BUT ALSO that others find heavy headphones tiring or freakshow aesthetics too much for street life.

    To understand that not everyone is ready to hear that not all digital sources sound alike – that digital audio isn’t just ones and zeroes – BUT ALSO that there are listeners out there whose hands-on experiences, often conducted over many years, DO hear differences between streamers, USB cables and – yes – even Ethernet cables.

    To understand that some people, especially Baby Boomers who were brought up on vinyl and have invested heavily in the black stuff over several decades, will brook no criticism of the format, irrespective of quality or price level; BUT ALSO that others hear audible flaws in entry-level turntables and find the maxim “nothing beats the sound of vinyl” overly simplistic and hopelessly out of date.

    To understand that many portable audio enthusiasts prefer a DAP’s higher quality audio circuitry and hi-res support for listening to music whilst out and about BUT ALSO understand that there are listeners whose pocket, wallet or plain old thirst for simplicity will not accommodate a second smartphone-sized device and who instead opt for a dongle DAC, a smartphone designed with one eye on sound quality or a pair of high-quality noise-cancelling headphones.

    Empathy – to place oneself in another’s position – is a Darko.Audio reader’s most valuable skill.


    Wishing you all a less idealistic and more pragmatic 2019.

    Written by John

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

    Stand in the place where you live

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