Wednesday, June 25, 2014

US Republican Party Audiophiles: A Self-Contradicting Stance?

Given that it was Ronald Reagan who cut public high school music programs in favor of team sports during his presidency, is being a US Republican Party audiophile a self-contradicting stance?

By: Ringo Bones 

Or maybe the proper term for it is an oxymoron, but it is probably during the political turbulence of the 2012 US Presidential Elections where US Republican Party / GOP stalwarts got labeled as “hypocrites” that ones begins to wonder if being a US Republican Party advocate in a relatively high financial cost but liberally tempered hobby such as being an audiophile / hi-fi enthusiasts is a self-contradicting stance. More than just a “broad brush” used to paint an entire American political movement, Republicans have always been accused of being “Philistines” since the time of Ronald Reagan given their propensity to throw public high-school music programs “under the bus” in times of government fiscal austerity. 

Even though the then US President Jimmy Carter was instrumental in the signing of the Omnibus Regulation Act of 1980 and 1981, it was President Ronald Reagan who used it to defund alleged non-essential programs such as public high school music programs and its ilk that eventually lead to the “Ketchup is a Vegetable Controversy” of the Reagan administration. Given such “anti-music outlook” what does a typical “Republican Audiophile” listens to in his or her hi-fi rig? 

Surprisingly, it is not the Themes From The General Electric Theater (ACS 8190) where a young Ronald Reagan served as “Host and Program Supervisor” while Elmer Bernstein serves as the orchestra conductor. I mean I have yet to hear first hand a “Republican Audiophile” tuning their system using a well recorded track of that signature “bland Ronald Reagan baritone”. So what then does a typical Republican Audiophile use to tune and play on their hi-fi rigs? 

 Most GOP voting audiophiles I know – and there’s only a handful that are still in speaking terms with me as of late – seem to gravitate towards the XLO Reference Recordings Test & Burn In CD as their primary test and set-up record for their system; Which is also very useful if they intend to upgrade their rig for something better sounding when they audition for new audio gear. Priced at US$ 29.98 back in 1995, it was easily one of the most expensive CDs widely available at every Tower Records branch across America – and the rest of the world. And it may have been the “snob factor” that makes this particular CD the “de rigueur” for “Republican Audiophiles”. 

With XLO’s Roger Skoff and Reference Recordings’ guru Keith Johnson sounding like the go to guys in a Ken Burns PBS documentary about iconic action star Charles Bronson, this is one foolproof CD to guide you in improving and burning-in your audio system and being HDCD encoded, the resulting superior audio quality when compared to the bog-standard 16-bit Redbook Spec CDs is also an added bonus. Inexplicably, the XLO Reference Recordings Test & Burn In CD uses mostly music tracks and a few useful test and burn-in tones to test your audio gear – not Ronald Reagan’s signature “bland baritone”.     

Given most US Republican Party stalwarts’ current unquestioning support of the American Military Industrial Complex with their rather dislike of “namby-pamby” parts of academia like government subsidized music education programs, timbre-accurate audiophile recordings of various kinds of gunshots from small arms to crew serve weapons systems and other military hardware that would certainly appeal to the dyed-in-the-wool GOP audiophile seems, at present, thin on the ground. The last time I saw one was back in the mid 1980s of an “audiophile quality sound effects LP record” that featured an allegedly timbre-accurate recording of an  M-14 rifle fired in an open field and in an armored personnel carrier and various other locations. Given the largely “liberal” political outlook of most keen sound recording enthusiasts, I don’t think that Stereophile’s John Atkinson is currently improving the ability of his proprietary microphone set-up to faithfully record the timbre of gunshots, so I and many others are probably not expecting an audiophile quality gunshot recording comparing a Colt M-1911 semi-automatic pistol firing a World War II era potassium chlorate doped ammunition to one firing a more modern, less corrosive ammunition. 

Originally released in Europe back in 1993, The Sound Check Alan Parsons & Stephen Court The Professional Audio Test Disc by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (SPCD 15) would surely have appealed to “Republican Audiophiles” because it featured – along with the de rigueur useful music tracks and test tones - a rather realistic sounding Chieftain Tank recording track! Legend has it that back in 1994 while testing their prototype of the Nautilus 801 Monitor Loudspeaker, the loudspeaker testing personnel at B&W using the Chieftain Tank recording track played at a realistic volume level in order to test the maximum power handling of their B&W Nautilus 801 Monitor loudspeaker prototype managed to brought down the ceiling of their loudspeaker test and demonstration room at one demonstration! Sadly, none of the “Republican Audiophiles” I know seem to have - and even heard of – The Sound Check Alan Parsons & Stephen Court test CD. 

And as usual, most Republican Audiophiles I know don’t seem to have – or had been rooting for to add to their record collections – one of history’s first ever audiophile test records – the 1957 EMI SDDI stereo demonstration LP. Complete with traffic noises and trains that when you are seated in the “sweet spot” of your listening room, manages to transform your two-channel stereo into a full blown surround-sound system with sounds that seems to come from behind you even if there are no speakers installed there. By the way, the bulk of the 1957 EMI SDDI stereo demonstration LP are audiophile quality music test tracks. 

Even if starting tomorrow “Republican Audiophiles” managed to acquire non-musical test tracks that would enable to set-up their hi-fi systems to almost faithfully reproduce full automatic assault rifle fire, it could uncover yet another can of worms – namely the sound effects in most movies made by Foley artists don’t always correspond with what they see on the screen. Though still in the minority, I’ve heard back in 2004 audiophiles whose two-channel stereo systems allow them to play movies in them had already reached a level of fidelity that they complained on how the timbre of the river sounds of the action movie Tears of the Sun sounds as if they are recorded in the Los Angeles flood control canal – not the actual sound of a natural riverside with a real large granite outcrop in the middle of equatorial Africa. 


Elisabeth said...

The former US President Ronald Reagan's signature "bland baritone" may not be pleasing to everyone's ears - but if your hi-fi makes the Gipper sound too much like iconic crooner Bing Crosby, then maybe its time for a much needed audio equipment upgrade.

April Rain said...

Speaking of "dyed-in-the-wool" U.S. Republican Party audiophiles, how about using that Vietnam War era - as in released back in 1966 - Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler singing The Ballad of the Green Berets LP (RCA LSP 3547) as an audiophile demonstration disc?

Lilith Fair said...

Even though you've failed to include in your discussion the US Republican Party's "perception" on Baroque and Classical period Christian Church music - though if you've included this your blog entry could resemble a 250-page doctoral thesis - it seems from my point of view that only audiophiles with a "liberal streak" are interested in both timbre-accurate recordings of Baroque and Classical period Church music and will rearrange their "life-schedules" to hear a live performance of one free from any electronic amplification.

Nancy said...

Did you know that the Ronald Reagan and Elmer Bernstein collaboration LP Themes From The General Electric Theater was released by Columbia records in both mono (CL1395) and stereo (CS8190) LP versions back in 1959?

April Rain said...

Speaking of hi-fi loudspeakers that can "accurately replicate" the gunfire timbre of a modern assault rifle firing the now de rigueur 5.56 mm X 45 mm NATO round, have you tried playing that distant gunfire part of the DVD / Blu Ray of 28 Days Later on a pair of Quad ESL-63 electrostatics? Warning, too realistic it might induce PTSD on some people.

Arlynne Ann said...

I think if your audio system cant differentiate the subtle timbre difference between Ronald Reagan's bland baritone from the comedian Rich Little, then your audio system needs an upgrade.

Marie Lynne said...

Speaking of eerily realistic sounding gunfire in movies, check out 28 Days Later that stars Cillian Murphy. The distant gunfire - probably 100 to 300 meters away - of the SA-80 Mk.2 assault rifle firing 5.56-mm X 45-mm rounds is the most realistic I've heard so far especially if shown in a home theater system whose front main channel speakers consists of hi-fi electrostatic loudspeakers.