which do not include your enjoyment. Adding a slight boost at the mid-frequencies would devastate the amplifier's 0.0002% distortion rating.
    Conversely, for legalistically or religiously inclined, the absolute is the sound its self. It is the compression and rarefaction of air at some unspecified point in some unspecified concert hall at some unspecified relative humidity, temperature, and altitude. Although unspecified, this absolute is known as much as the Earth is known to be only 6000 years old to the fundamentalist (and since he already know all that is important to know about the Earth, why bother with geology?). And this unspecified-but-known absolute is proclaimed by an exalted few, audio's new prophets. For these earnest few, epistemology easily makes the otherwise-impossible jump into ethics: they proclaim that any deviation from the known-but-unspecified absolute is as morally wrong as telling lies. For these grim few in the know, enjoying the sound from a table radio is no minor sin.
   A lesser sin would be turning up the volume on the tweeters to compensate for a failing hearing response at high frequencies. Surely, the nobler stance would be to leave the high frequencies flat, as that is what it sounds like in the concert hall, no matter how unpleasant the music may be at the concert hall for that reason to the man with failing hearing. Verily, if a man wishes to partake of a pure sound, first let him have pure ears. Following this logic, shouldn't all eyeglasses have flat, clear lenses so as not to alter the purity of the light? What does it matter if the near-blind are unhappy? 
   Remember H. L. Mencken's definition of a Puritan as someone with the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. Happy? Why would you want to be happy, when you could be right? But what if happiness was the goal and not absolutes? Stop and think about the consequences: if our sonic enjoyment becomes the object of our efforts in audio design, why then we might just go on to wanting chairs and sofas to be comfortable, not just orthopedically correct; office buildings to be beautiful to behold, not just volumetrically efficient boxes; and food to be delicious, not just nutritious.

    We would want to abandon singular and constant absolutes for varied and changing tastes. Supposedly objective experts would have a hard time selling absolute audio magazines, as no one could (at least with a straight face) proclaim the superiority of his own absolutely correct taste. Rock 'n roll, rap, reggae, and modern country music aficionados could no longer be derided justly by those who preferred an acoustically pure music such as jazz and classical. What sonic flavor would make everyone happy? I do not know; which one shoe size would make everyone happy? All must choose their own preferences. Without sonic controls, there can be no choosing.
   Admittedly, at least in part, the loss of control was justified by the elimination of real and imagined sonic contamination resulting from extra potentiometers, switches, ICs, transistors, tubes, and reactive parts in the signal's path. Certainly, a poorly designed tangle of wire and parts can harm the delicate signal. So no argument is being made for needless and hollow bells and whistles. No, what is needed is sonic controls that are as lovingly designed as a Stradivarius was created. So while part of the loss of sonic can be attributed to poor design choices in the past, part of the equation was also the happy renunciation of responsibility.
   I remember hearing one famous designer of men's clothing answer the question "Why does designer clothing sell so well?" with the observation that most consumers had no confidence in their ability to make valid aesthetic choices and the designer label freed them from that responsibility. Think about it: wearing another's aesthetic sensibility is as weird as wearing his old underwear or using his toothbrush. Surely, choices born of our own private aesthetic sensibility should be the easiest to make. And if those choices did not require confidence and did not often result in moral condemnation from ourselves as much as from others, they would be easy to make. By choosing our sonic palette, we must assume the responsibility of those choices.
    Since the heroic is no longer unfashionable (as of September, that is) let me tell you of one my heroes.


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