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The Judgment Triangle, a.k.a., You May Be Right, I May Be Crazy

Before engaging in, uh, "passionate discussion," it's critical to ask oneself a single question: "Am I willing to allow for the possibility that I might be wrong?"

As a rule, I don’t join in conversations about politics or religion. Conversations become debates, passions get involved, and it usually doesn’t end well. There’s a sort of primal defense mechanism that engages when strongly-held beliefs are challenged.

Much as I try to avoid these situations, they arise frequently enough in audio. Just visit the online forums and you’ll see no shortage of heated debates over sampling rates, clock jitter, dithering versus truncation, audibility of phase shift, array shading…

Before engaging in, uh, “passionate discussion,” it’s critical to ask oneself a single question: “Am I willing to allow for the possibility that I might be wrong?” If the answer is yes, debate away, but if not, it might be better to move on to something else. There’s no point in two people hollering (or typing) at each other if neither party is willing to even consider the other’s position.

Expanding Universe

Our field is young, highly technical, and quickly evolving. This isn’t stone masonry; less than a century ago our jobs did not even exist. So everything we know about our craft is relatively recent, and our best practices keep “bettering.”

Honestly, who expects to see a gigantic ground stack at an arena show these days? I cringe at the thought (mostly on behalf of the folks in the front row) but not too long ago, it was the best method available to do the job. Magnetic tape wasn’t chosen for recording because of its vintage sonic characteristics, it was the best thing they had at the time. Today “tape sound” is a creative choice, as it should be, not something forced upon us for lack of a better option.

There’s continuous redefinition of what’s possible continues today. I remember when Celemony released Melodyne DNA, claiming that it enabled and engineer to somehow reach inside a stereo recording and change single notes played by individual instruments in the mix. Everyone knew that was impossible, and I thought it was a hoax until I actually used the software. I stood corrected.

Similarly, years ago I was researching compact-format array modules for an installation project when I discovered a product that, on paper, seemed to be better than anything in its class while also being significantly cheaper. I was skeptical right up until we powered up the demo rig in our shop. I spec’d the rig for the venue, and years later, visiting engineers are still impressed with it. This forced me to admit that I held a preconceived notion, and that notion was wrong. Again, I stood corrected.

This happens a lot in our field as technology marches on – think of a certain digital desk that turned the 32-channel console market on its head. I judged it, then was proven wrong, and then bought one.

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