June 27, 2005
When Hobbies Attack

Don't look at me man, I didn't even know they made tube amplifiers for car audio:

It's rare to win over 90% of all car audio competitions entered in a 5-year period and even more rare to be featured not only in all of the major car audio magazines but also to appear in Time, on MTV and CNBC, and in more than 211 newspapers in the US as well as 27 magazines worldwide, yet that's only part of the acclaim and attention awarded to Earl Zausmer's BMW 540i.

Below are some articles detailing Earl's legendary car audio system, which sports two gold-plated Milbert BaM-235 vacuum tube amplifiers. The system received many awards over the years, including "best of show," "best in class," and "best sound quality."

Car audio, like home audio, is a hobby I'd love to get back into if I suddenly hit the lottery or something. As it is, I'm amazed by the amount of crap I still hold in my head about this stuff (to this day I can tell you what RMS is and why anything rated above .1% THD is crap), even though I haven't been serious about it for more than a decade.

But for now the "cash required to fun acquired" ratio is simply too large for me to have a go at it. I mean, why spend thousands of dollars on hi-fi when there are bicycles around?

Posted by scott at June 27, 2005 01:21 PM

eMail this entry!

fah - I'd rather make the car accelarate and corner better than do this - it's hard to tell that much of a difference when you're concentrating on the road. especially with my ears...

Posted by: ronaprhys on June 27, 2005 02:18 PM

As Patrick Norton said "I listen to my music, not to my speakers."

Posted by: Eric J on June 27, 2005 02:55 PM

Hmm, well actually that percentage has some play room. Why? Because the human ear really cannot tell a difference in distortion from .5% and below of the rating.

Posted by: Joshua on June 27, 2005 05:04 PM

The hi fi community (well, circa 1989 or so anyway) gets sniffy when the THD gets above .01 RMS, and positively howls when it's above .1 RMS. They claim the difference is very noticeable. But enthusiast communities of any sort are never known for rational unbiased judgements, and hi-fi weenies can be a very stuffy bunch.

Then again, if somone says they can taste the difference between a $500 bottle of wine and a $60 bottle of wine, who am I to argue as long as they're paying?

Posted by: scott on June 28, 2005 03:02 PM

As long as they're paying me.

You forgot the me part...

Posted by: ronaprhys on June 28, 2005 04:17 PM

Well, that is the problem though. I am sure that in the most ideal situations you want to have the lowest possible ratings for THD (in a studio setting where everything is digital and grabs more information), but there gets to be a point where overkill for the sake of bragging seems pointless in real world situations. Granted competitions are a different story as the quality of craftmanship is at question.

Yes it is nice to say "I have a THX certified receiver at home" but that will not give you true THX sound. Little do people know that for true THX sound you have to work with certified THX engineers (hello Skywalker Ranch) to work with you and your builders to first get the space properly designed (AC, baffles, insulation, drywall, fabrics, wiring, etc.) before you can get the equipment to get the "Certified" label. The receivers on the shelf right now are able to process the THX informaion but the quality gets knocked down once it hits the cables, the speakers and the air. I ran into this when I was running the movie theater at ECU and was upgrading the sound system. (Went from faux surround to Dolby Digital Surround)

OK, maybe that wasn't the all-encompassing example I was looking for. How about this as an addition.

Video game frame rates and video cards. Look through the reviews of video cards (when reviewers are using games as a test bed) and you see people knocking down the cards that produce lower frame rates then other cards. The cards that produced only a 120fps were quite sub-standard to thise that produced 150fps. Here is the problem, since the human eye cannot really discern the difference in rates above around 30 (maybe a little more)fps, what is the point? Bragging rights.

Having the bragging rights is all well and cool and all the power to you. The only thing that makes me wave the flag of "yeah but..." is when rates well below the human perception are given as "standard" for true quality. I dare anyone to gater a group of people and have them be able to accurately tell the difference between 100fps, 120fps, 150fps, just as I would for .1, .2, .3, .4, and .5% THD.

Hell if 30 was so far below in quality why would we still be watching movies at 24fps? And video at 29.97?

If people want to use the ultimate quality idea (regardless of if they are even able to percieve it) of audio gear, wine, video cards, etc. for their purchases then thats cool. Many people are lable-whores. Welcome to the freedom of choices (ain't it grand?), but I don't like it when people belittle others because they didn't go for the ultimate in ___.

Just sayin'.

Posted by: Joshua on June 29, 2005 10:06 AM

Yeah... it's not that I'm disagreeing witcha, just pointing out that what I learned was in "the community", which has different standards.

Still, I would never discount out of hand someone who SAYS they hear/see/feel/smell/taste a difference in something, especially if they're a pro in the field. For example, you and I could hit golf balls all day and would never care if they were perfectly round or not. We'd just be happy they went more or less straight and didn't punch out any windows or kill any birds. However, pros pay $$$ to make sure each ball is as perfectly round as possible because it DOES make a difference to them, since at their level a few inches to the left or right can mean going home with $$$ or going home empty-handed.

*And* examples such as "120 fps v. 150 fps is silly when you can only see 30 fps" are OK as far as they go, but what I see when I spot a stat like that is headroom, durability, and quality. Games are continually expanding their requirements, and the really gargantuan FPS rates you see are usually done with older games at lower resolutions. Getting the "big dawg" means I'll be able to run more games longer with much much higher resolutions without needing an upgrade.

Which is not to defend the lable monkeys. To take a certain example from my favorite hobby: if someone who'd not been biking since grade school walked into a bike shop and bought the most expensive race bike they could find because it was "best" I'd be the first to call them a poseur. However, if after thousands of miles of biking over years of time on increasingly higher quality bikes someone were to plunk down serious cash for a very high quality bike because "it feels better"... well, that would be a different story entirely.

Sort of like someone lusting after the latest incremental improvement in their favorite digital SLR, ya know? :)

Posted by: scott on June 29, 2005 10:27 AM

Ah, but only if those incremental improvements did not enhance the productivity of said work flow. Which these do ;) I would list them here but I think people would be bored out of their skull...as if they weren't already by watching us geek out over which minuscule rating of THD is required or not ;)

And I agree with you when it comes to the pro field, as stated. But on the overall consumer level it is just flopping it out on the table and seeing which goes further down the ruler. ;)

Posted by: Joshua on June 29, 2005 10:42 AM

Scott - good job of trying to make yourself feel better about looking at multi-thousand dollar bikes.

That's the line of logic I'm trying to use to get my project Jeep. I think it's going just about as well for me as it is for you...

Posted by: ronaprhys on June 29, 2005 12:44 PM
Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember info?