The “Best”

I’m always amazed at how many products out there are claimed to be “the best.”

What does that even mean? Best for what? Best for who? Whenever this word is used (and I’ve used it REALLY sparingly in the last 17 years) it draws a mental line in the sand meaning nothing is better than this, because well, it’s the best.

My travels to Europe and Asia, interacting with others around the world leaves me thinking that other cultures aren’t quite as fixated on being the best, and having the best. I think we Americans have more of a propensity for needing to have the best. Laurie Anderson did a great tune called “0 and 1,” from her Home of the Brave soundtrack. As she says in her computer enhanced voice, “everyone wants to be number one, nobody wants to be 0, a loser.” Yet in this analog world that we all seem to worship, there are precious few shades of grey.

I have a hard time believing that all the people that design and build hifi gear want to build products that are less than. And on the flip side of that maxi single, there are so many claiming to be the best. How can there be that many bests. The New York Times recently claimed that a very popular $600 turntable is “the best turntable.” As Hall and Oates say in “Possession Obsession,” so why would you want more?

Well, why would you?

I fear that in today’s influencer laden society, no one wants to be caught with having any less than the best, yet there are so many great products available. There have never been more variations on the theme, regardless of what shape your hifi system needs to take.

This is something I’ve agonized over since I started writing about hifi. Trying to have enough insight to put things into perspective. To try and help you make intelligent purchase decisions that will help you. It’s not about me/us at all. We’ve all drawn our lines in the sand as to what we like, and what helps us achieve our music reproduction goals.

Back when I worked at The Absolute Sound, and used to chat with the late, great Harry Pearson on a semi-regular basis he always used to say: “Kid, don’t use the B-word. Resist the urge. The minute you do, you’ve painted yourself in a corner you can’t get out of.”

And while attaching those four letters to one of our reviews would certainly get us a lot more web traffic, and perhaps a better ranking on Google searches, it doesn’t help you one bit. What happens when you bring that best turntable or those best speakers home and they aren’t the best? Hmmmm. How likely are you going to be to listen to what we have to say in the future?

For all but the few people that can build an awesome system out of the chute and have the fortitude to stay there, the pursuit of building an audio system is usually a journey, an evolving thing. As cool as it is to say “I’ve got the best..” you probably don’t, because it doesn’t exist.

Here’s to hoping you’ll continue to enjoy your journey, wherever you are on that path, and that you can have the courage to enjoy the gear you’ve spent your hard earned money on, whether it’s the best or not.

-Jeff Dorgay