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A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, a group of elite Jedi fighters were training to use a mysterious "force", to aid them in their quest for security and a better life.

On this planet, not so many years ago (roughly 10), I embarked on a series of audio experiments that involved aligning slotted screws on light switch plates (link), so that they were 180 degrees vertical. This was, naturally, an idea from Peter Belt, of P.W.B. Electronics. One which I sought to validate or invalidate. Of course, like all P.W.B. ideas on improving perception of sound that I have ever tried, it worked. Actually, I knew that going in. I was already an experienced “Belter” by that point, and I had already done the screw alignment thing elsewhere.  Apart from the improvement in sound, what I noticed each time that I aligned the screws, was that my throat would start to create saliva. A kind of tension in the throat feeling.

Of course, like most everyone at first, I didn’t think too much of it. Strange though, that it kept occurring right after that specific event of "turning the screw”, and even if it didn’t happen every time, it happened over and over again, as I went throughout the house turning screws on all the wall plates. I have since experienced this very same feeling dozens of times or more, over the years that have passed. I didn’t know it then, but this was one of the most earliest times when I finally started becoming conscious of the fact that the things I would do during my audio research experiments, could be felt before they were ever heard. 

 Another early example of this, was after I initiated some sort of tweak. It didn’t have to be a P.W.B. “Belt tweak” either. I would go to hit PLAY on the CD or cassette player, and I’d get a funny feeling. A premonition, of what the resulting sound would be, just before hitting the PLAY button. Whether that "premonition” was a good or a bad feeling, it was almost always spot on. Again, as with the screws, I didn’t quite join an association with the audio-related change I was effecting. By way of my logical thinking, I just thought it was a strange coincidence, until I could be sure there was a connection. 

 Well now I am sure there is a connection. I have been for years. I use that connection all the time now, when attempting improvements in my sound. In fact, I still get that “throat saliva” feeling (a symptom of anxiety and tension). But only on occasion, and only under specific conditions. I have yet to determine if there’s a pattern for the saliva condition. But, for example, it recently happened when the polarity of my speaker wires was wrong. I fixed the polarity and that stopped the whole throat salivation feeling.  Sometimes I’ll be setting my equipment up and feel some anxiety, and I don’t know why. Then I take an educated guess, switch the speakers or the speaker stands around, and that’s what it was. (Yes, paired items do reflect a difference, when switched from left to right and vice versa). Or, like today, the feeling of unrest was due to 3 pieces of "Fun-Tac" putty adhesive under one speaker, placed in a triangular fashion, that did not match the 3 pieces under the other speaker, placed in an upside down triangle! This has been a "game-changer”. Not just for my hobby, but for my life. I can’t help but make comparisons to the mysterious "force" effect, from the Star Wars trilogy. Because now, that’s me. I am “Obi-Wan Kenobi” in audio terms, and I can feel the "force", that is all around us, imbued in all things. But don't worry, I will only use it for good (sound), not evil!

 For example, I can pick up a rock, or a glass of water, or scotch tape, a book, a pencil, a USB key, touch a wall… whatever… and using "the force", in a couple of seconds, I can determine that object’s “energy character”. Suffice to say, this is a great help in audio research experiments. I could, for example, approach an entire box of phono cables, that would take a traditional audio researcher countless hours to listen to, to determine the best sounding cable. Picking up and tossing each cable on to the floor, I could go through the box in a minute or two, and narrow down the best choices for trial, before listening to anything.  

Now, I don’t mean to make it sound like it's as easy as 1-2-3. The process is usually more complicated than just grabbing something for a second. Because, for example, I came to realize that the energy patterns change depending on which hand (or finger) is used to touch the object. Or when the item is changed from one hand to another. But in this case, the pattern merely -switches-. It’s not a random change, either. Like most of these sensations I'm dealing with, it’s a predictable one. More or less, I’ve learned to discard such “extraneous information”, and get a more meaningful reading of the energy patterns inherent in a “thing”. But wait, don’t back out of the room just yet!  I still do traditional listening tests! I still need to know just how my “feeling tests” correlate with the listening part. But there is always a connection between the two. And, over 10 years and hundreds of such tests later, I now know it is not a coincidence.

If there’s anything I would like people to take away from my story (besides “He’s cray-cray…. Just back up slowly and get out of the room!”), it’s to listen to those “coincidences” you may be feeling. For you may find, after time, there may be a connection with the feeling, and the event.  As an example of that, I was on the couch watching a movie one time, and all of a sudden, I feel a drop in inner tension. I may have heard a slight noise, but I didn’t know what happened. I looked over to my left, and indeed, an AC adapter had fallen out of the wall outlet, taking two or three wires out. That was not a coincidence, either. Every time I pull a plug out of an outlet or extension, that very same “drop in tension” feeling occurs.

This is because anything plugged into an outlet, is creating tension within us. And no, it's not an electrical phenomenon, ie. EMF/RFI. This will occur even if the device is not being powered, or the wire is not connected to anything. Because any one thing joining another, creates a certain tension. (It is why I recommend not to push speakers and stands right up against the wall, but to leave a tiny gap so that the two objects don’t touch).  I’m sure it strains credulity for many people, to say you can feel “energy” in objects by touching them.

Well, let me go a little further than that. This "force", these "energy fields" that I am sensing (that we are all sensing at all times, conscious or not), are not just within objects or hovering over them. They are around them. Meaning, they project out. How far out? I don’t know. I didn’t test them from outer space. I only know that I can sense their projection from one end of a room to another. For all I know, it is, like everything else in the universe…. Infinite, or nearly so.

Here’s an example of that…. One time, I was watching a friend give a Tai Chi demonstration to a group of us. He was showing us the two different styles of Tai Chi he learned. All of a sudden, I could sense changes within me, when he switched over to the second style. (He didn’t announce the switch). Of course, I had no idea that was going to happen. But it felt just like with the audio experiments. Where I would effect a change with a physical action, and feel that change within me. Except this time, I wasn’t touching any object, to feel the changes. I was simply using my sense of sight, and that by itself, could create perceptions of feeling, much as with the audio experiments.  Since then, I’ve corroborated this effect countless times.

For example, I can look at words or pictures on a computer screen, and feel specific kinds of energy from looking at specific pictures or words. (And btw, after copying and pasting the words or pictures in the digital realm, its energy will change. Even though the content itself does not). Concluding that the constantly varying levels of tension within us, change not just by the presence of objects in the environment, but by looking at them! Ok, it may not quite be “Schrodinger’s Cat” but… did Schrodinger have a mouse, perhaps? Another example might be where I am ordering three components on a shelf of my audio stand. One of them is a DVD player that is the most heavily treated audio component I have ever done. It has over 150 treatments done to it! So I put it on the bottom, then stack two components on top of that. But without bothering to listen, I can tell by feel, that this was not an ideal arrangement.

So how should they be stacked, I wondered to myself? I only know that I am not about to run listening tests on each of the possible ways to order these components! I didn’t even want to take the time and trouble to physically change them around, and feel the changes. So instead, I just looked at the components, and after doing so, some mysterious sort of sixth sense feeling (aka "the force"!) seemed to suggest to me that the treated player should go in the middle. So I tried it that way, and the feeling feedback from that particular order felt more or less right. It gave a more restrained sense of tension. 

My logical mind however, did not at all suggest that putting the treated player in the centre of the stack was the best option. Experience, if nothing else, told me it should be on the bottom. I would have reasoned that on the bottom, the object with the “good energy” acts as a foundation, and has a better chance to influence the objects on top it. Not the case, since the middle position gave the better feeling. Upon listening, as always, that feeling was confirmed. The sound had improved, but not in a way I’d expected. Instead of the expected richer sound with greater resolution, it was a more integrated sound, with greater ability to convey that elusive sense of ‘musicality’. A sound that was more captivating, than incisive. The kind of sound I never want to change, in the rare times I stumble upon it. 

But all that aside, trust me, there are definite drawbacks to being the “Obi-Wan Kenobi” of the audiophile world. As my friend Morrissey would say, “It’s lonely on a limb”. When I started out here in the online part of the audio community, some thirty years ago perhaps, I was already right out there on the bleeding edge of “audiophile loonies”, as they might have called us. I had my green “CD Stoplight Pen”, my red LED big-digits Tice power clock,  and no dogmatic technophile was going to tell me what time it was, in audiophile land!

But, at least I could say I had a few audiophile friends online, who heard the effects of things like green CD markers and other avant-garde audio gadgets, and whether they understood them or not, they were on my side of the ideological fence. They knew there were things people could hear, that science couldn’t explain (at least not with their tired old “sugar pill” theory). And so long as it improved their sound, they accepted that, whether they felt they understood the science behind the tweak or not. But this? Well, friends, this is different. This is where even what were once my brothers in arms on the audio forums, did not want to admit they knew me, or were associated in any way. There were the objectivists, there were the subjectivists… and then there was me! They didn’t even know what category to stuff me into. So they just labelled me “the audio witch doctor”.

This was not me saying “I bought a weird audio product that has some sketchy reasoning behind it, or simply no previously established modus operandi, and I swear it made a difference!". Because I know that some other people also bought that weird audio product, and maybe it was even reviewed in a magazine or two. Instead, this was me saying “I can feel specific modes of energy and degrees of tension by touching or just looking at things”. It’s the point where everyone leaves the room, and I’m standing on the podium speaking to my own echo.  Then, out and among the other members of the global audio community, the question becomes; “How do I convince someone who has no clue about any of this stuff?  Who has already built up decades of prejudices, most likely based on conventional (Western) belief systems - which says and knows nothing about “energy patterns” that affect human senses? Who not only is not at the level of where he can feel changes that affect his perception of sound, but probably cannot come anywhere near my level of listening skill, slowly built over a forty year interest in audio, when it comes to just registering fine differences, regardless?”.  It’s like convincing a man blind from birth, that yes, every object has a different “color”. He has no present way of validating that for himself, so he falls back to the default trigger; “It sounds like rubbish, I don’t believe you”. 

 When it comes to being able to “feel” changes before you hear them during (and outside of) audio tests, last I checked, no one is saying this. But… eh, perhaps not quite. There was a fellow I read of, name of “Frank Tchang”. He is notable for having designed small singing bowls, for audio use (similar to Synergistic Research's "Acoustic A.R.T. resonators"). They act as a room treatment system. To me, he is notable for one particular thing: he was said to have said something along the lines of, “Listening is a crutch for those who can’t feel”.

In keeping, I had read that he tested locations for his resonator bowls by feel alone. He is, in fact, at the time of this writing, the only other person in the audio world that I know of, that has at least a comparable ability to mine. So I am not completely alone on this (whew! Thought I was going crazy for a minute there….!). But… I doubt we have the same abilities. I’ve not heard of him applying this phenom to sight, for example. And, as individual “researchers”, we’re going to go in different directions and gain different abilities. Like anyone with anything. The other drawback to all of this, is a heightened sense of tension. Without which, I would not be able to do what I do. So it is a double-edged sword, for me.

Thankfully, I am not constantly feeling gnawing tension, on a conscious level, during everyday activities. That would be unbearable. But when I am focused on the listening experience, during tests and experiments, then I do feel those states of tension. It can also occur randomly, but it’s manageable. (i.e. I’m not thinking about audio but packing away boxes for housekeeping, I tear off the label from the plastic container, and without warning, I can feel a slight "whoosh" of tension lowering. Regardless of whether the label contains a bar code or not).  My argument, is that everyone is feeling these same states of tension. (Else, the other theory being, I am not made of human!). It’s just that I did enough audio experiments, in a particular niche of audio, to develop consciousness of what we are all feeling. Every. damn. day. of. our. lives! 

As you might imagine, this condition also makes me particularly critical of audio systems. So don’t invite me to listen to yours. I might not like it. And I won’t be shy about telling you so! I’ve heard half-million dollar systems at audio shows that I thought sucked (for the money, especially). Why, because for however majestic and powerful it was otherwise, their sound was ultimately not natural, and creating tension. It didn’t move me like a properly musical system can.

I’ve even put together systems for $500 that have a more pleasing and natural sound, producing lower levels of tension. It’s not easy, but it’s doable. The difference is, before “the awakening” (discovering "the force"), I could tolerate bad sounding sound systems. Didn’t sound good, so what, it wasn’t going to kill me. Now, it feels more like it might!  I was listening to my TV recently featuring a conversation with David Letterman, on some Bose satellite speakers I installed…. Which I’m sure sounded perfectly fine to anyone else. Put on a critical ear, and maybe you might say “They have slightly peaky upper mids, so what? Adds clarity”). Anyone else would have listened to the show, and that’s the end of it. But after a few minutes, I could no longer stand to listen to this, because of the tension created by those little Bose speakers! (And I knew very well they were the source of my unease, after I later modified them to behave better. Which I detail in the article “Home Cinema For The Minimalist Audiophile".

Much of that tension created by the speakers was eased somewhat, by simply placing the Bose cubes on their sides, rather than upright. The reason for this, is because Bose in their infinite wisdom, placed the drivers so that the usual voice coil terminations, pointed toward the right - instead of downward. Like all other speakers in the universe. You’re dealing with magnets here also, and that’s especially nasty stuff! So in its original unmodified state and upright position, the Bose speakers are creating tension. I might not notice it much, when cleaning house. But when playing something (like dialogue on the TV), that tension is literally amplified. Making me an unhappy camper, after a while. No one ever said being an "advanced audiophile” was going to be easy! Hey, it’s hard enough just being an audiophile these days! 

May the force be with you!

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