That’s me on the left. They call me “Shippy”. Because of a stout mariner upbringing? No. Because at a certain period in time, my moniker on audio discussion groups was “Sound Has Priority”. One of the ankle biters (on the opposite side of the scrimmage line), thought he would get to me by calling me “Shippy” (riffing off of the abbreviation “S.H.P.”). Abbreviate that to “SHP”, then get lazy and add a suffix, and then you end up with “Shippy”. It just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?
Another one of his buds that was also sparring with me, just went and stole my moniker whole, and started identifying himself by the same name – on the same forum. (And a good time was had by all….). Long story short, this caused a lot of confusion on the groups, because people who wanted to go after me, just didn’t know who to go after. The identity-thief had this cockamamie idea that stealing my name would rob me of my Beltist “juju”. As if. Silly rabbit! My magic does not come from a name. So it’s too powerful to be taken down by one! Of course, the world wide web is full of hysterical nutbags like this one. I should know, I’ve been debating them for decades.
It’s a thankless job defending Beltism on the internet, but someone has to do it. (reg. tm.). In the course of which, some of the cheeseheads I’ve encountered in these travails, have at some point accused me of being Peter Belt, under an assumed name. (I guess that explains why he’s never been seen on the Internet?). One trolling windbag in particular, even angrily demanded that I produce Peter Belt, and have the man himself argue on the forum in my stead. It sounded like he thought that I was not only in cahoots with Peter Belt, but that he thought Peter Belt was a leprechaun or something, that I kept in my pocket. And could just fish out at the first angry request. Good God, are these people ever dumb. Like I said, it’s a thankless job having to deal with all the ragged audio cynics out there.
Still others, accused me of being his wife, May Belt. (I figure at least one of them must be wrong??). At other times, I had to deal with the usual grossly predictable accusations thrown at me. Namely that I must be working for their company, P.W.B. (Which ought to be a challenge at the very least, since I’ve never spoken to any of the Belts, or set foot in their country….). One wackjob just took the easy way out, and made a serious offer of $50 to anyone in the audio discussion group that could identify me. I didn’t even know what “identify” even means to him, really, but who am I to pass up a golden opportunity to separate an imbecile from his $50 bill? So I took him up on his offer. After all, who better than me to say who I was?? For some reason, he didn’t take the bait. I guess he wasn’t sincere after all. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I was once told on a discussion group that… “We’ve seen objectivists pass through here… we’ve seen subjectivists…. but y’know, I don’t think we’ve ever had a witch doctor before“. Aye, roger that. So that’s me, “Shippy”, the voodoo witch doctor of the audio community. (If you want to know any more, it’ll cost you a sweet, crisp $50 greenback). I’ve got all the right incantations and spells, to kick your sound up a notch or two. Bam!
And if you want the origin story of this website, it sprang from a dare. Sort of. I’m remembering a convo from years go, with one “Clark Johnsen” (he of “Positive Feedback Magazine” fame). Roughly, the conversation went something like this…
CJ: “Ok, so, when you get finished kicking objectivist ass on the forums, how about you do something positive for the community?”
Shippy: “Positive” ❓ 🤔
I didn’t know what he meant, by that. Or if it was even meant to be taken literally. He didn’t elaborate. To be honest, I wasn’t all that familiar with the term. I know it’s one half of a pair of battery terminals, but apart from that…. “positive” was something I had to Wiki. And Wikipedia wasn’t even that helpful on the subject. So I asked Google…
Google: Q. “What does Clark Johnsen mean by ‘positive’?”.
On the results page, Google just returned one of these: 🙄
So when I asked Clark to elaborate, knowing I’m full of it (“it” being “opinions on audio”), he suggested I write a blog. I told him I wasn’t crazy about that idea. Only because I didn’t like the word “blog”. It was a “geek” word, and I’m not really a geek. The term sounded too much like someone vomiting. However…. it occurred to me that I could circumvent that little problem by making it a website, instead of a “buhlaw–“. Well, I don’t wish to lose my lunch, so finish that sentence yourself.
Besides, I’m (almost) always up for a challenge. And doing something “positive” quote unquote, a concept so foreign to me I couldn’t even conceive of what that might look like on paper, certainly qualified as one. So I set about trying to come up with something that could maybe fit somewhere within the framework of what he had in mind. And once I was done with my first version of this website, I went back to Mr. Johnsen, and I said, simply…
“Is this ‘positive’??”: www.theadvanceaudiophile.ga.
(FYI: the “GA” stands for “God’s Audioguy”. But it was originally www.theadvancedaudiophile.tk The “tk” stands for “The King”, natch).
I think it met with his approval. 😎
I was finding it difficult to update the first version of the website, though. In those days, it wasn’t in WordPress. I think I wrote it in HTML scripts. Point being, it was real hard to quickly post articles to it. So as a reprieve, I created an actual “blahwg” (which I prefer to use the slightly less geeky term; “weblog”), called “The Advanced Audiophile Press“. It was meant to supplement the website, and provide a more personal perspective on this thing we call “Beltism”. I ended up writing more articles there than here, because they were easier to get up. Then more recently, I decided to just incorporate the articles I wrote there onto this site, so that everything can be contained in one large audiophile “Stop N’ Go”.
With a 30+ year audiophile career behind me, much of it tinkering, you can bet I’ve done a lot of audio tests. No doubt, far more than most so-called “professional audio journalists” (“it was either that or sell carpets… and dude, I hate the smell of carpets!”). I’ve done sighted tests, blind tests, double blind tests, ABX double blind tests…. I’ve tested myself, my friends, other audiophiles, and non-audiophiles. I’ve tested them on advanced audio principles (ie. Beltist), and conventional principles. None of this was for the sake of “tweaking”, but for the sake of “discovering”. Having an interest in music and an interest in audio doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive, as many seem to think.
Discovering new things in audio by experimentation has always provided an interesting challenge for me. Long before messing with the ‘quantum world of Beltism’, I was the guy with 3′ horns sticking out of the front of his speakers. The guy with a stack of things 2 feet high under his portable CD player (starting with a hubcap….). I remember walking into an audio shop, listening to a $1,000 home cd player, and saying “This thing doesn’t even sound as good as my portable!”. And the salesman would ask “What do you have for a portable??”. Errr… nevermind. (Not an easy question to answer…).
Most of the time, I would keep my esoteric experiments to myself (and I’m talking about the conventional ones!). Even audiophiles didn’t get it, or didn’t appreciate it. With them, the conversation would, in no time, get into theoretical arguments. I might have been ready to discuss the isolation properties of eggshells or whatever, but I was long past the notion of whether ie., “cable direction” matters. But my fellow audio compadres would still be stuck on the idea that cable direction doesn’t matter. (Did somebody say “G.M.A.B.”?) Something I’ve long since confirmed years ago. So then I would find myself in the position of having to engage in arguments with what I might be inclined to call “audiophile infants”. Who either haven’t done the experiments on ie. cable direction, or have, but haven’t been able to hear it’s effects (and can we move on already?!).
I don’t care if someone gives me 65,000 reasons as to why x idea shouldn’t work, backs it up with journal citations from the AES, the NIH, the NSA and the FBI. My ears are the final arbiter of any such judgement call, and that’s the end of that. Many other audiophiles have yet to learn how important that concept of empirical evidence is, and choose to believe in words, citations and so-called “objective” tests. So be it. As my granpappy from Tullahoma used to say, “You cain’t make chicken scratch from hawg grits“. (Okay, I don’t really know what that means. Okay, I didn’t really have a granpappy from Tullahoma either…).
The theoretical arguments about what one should and shouldn’t be hearing quickly grew boring, because they only wasted time that I could use to learning new ideas, and hearing hundreds of the same arguments repeated over and over again by the same ideological zombies in the audio world was mind-numbing. I wasn’t learning anything new or interesting from them, and they mostly just refused to learn anything from me. I had to realize at some point, that the problem wasn’t simply a lack of imagination on their part (that something could work). But the fact that all my hands-on experimentation caused my listening skills to develop, and the lack of desire from my audiophile peers towards doing the actual legwork of testing these concepts never did anything for their listening skills.
So more often than not, it ended up that even if they could or would believe a certain product or idea works to effect a change, their listening may not be up to par to easily identify the change. I knew what I was hearing though, regardless of whether others didn’t. Because I could characterize the change, in so many words. In more recent years, all bets were off when I learned to feel the changes had, via physical reactions. (I also discovered the characteristic we call “musicality” can be divided into at least 2 distinct groups, and then in more recent times, discovered a couple more facets to this). But trying to convey those changes to someone who wasn’t conscious of them was like trying to describe colours to a blind man. That just leaves me with blind men who refuse to believe that the concept of “colour” even exists.
Nevertheless, I grew to believe that it didn’t really matter if another listener couldn’t hear changes that I could, whether from a change of components or a modification to components (or supports, or the electrical line). If the changes were truly there, they would still have to be affected by them in some way. But, different people do react differently to the same changes. Which confuses the issue about whether those changes exist even more. Developing an understanding of what changes were important, and which weren’t, was also an advancement in the learning process.
I could see that even if others could hear those changes, they might characterize them in wrongful ways. For example, hearing more real detail in the highs may get characterized as being too bright, for someone used to not hearing those frequencies in the music, or who simply prefers less detail. But as well, improvements in one area, at the expense of another more important area, was later considered by me as unacceptable. Most audiophiles (manufacturers included), haven’t even begun to understand this concept. They think that if some aspects of the sound truly improve, then it’s an improvement. But I could discern which improvements were most beneficial to the listening experience in a “musical” sense (hint: timbral resolution is one), and which could be sacrificed as “superficial excess”.
The discovery of Beltism (a 2-part process to be sure….), added a whole new dimension to my audiophile career. For the first time, I experienced an audio discovery that I could say had an influence on my line of thought well outside the audio industry. That’s another way of saying that discovering and exploring the existence of the Belt phenomenon was such a unique experience, that it opened up a lot of other questions about other alternative approaches in the pursuit of scientific (or medical, etc.) endeavours. Not to say I paste unicorns on all my footwear or wear rainbow foil hats. But, even though I was an open-minded chap long before Beltism, I am now far less likely dismiss something just because it sounds “unlikely”. Not if I don’t know much about it or have never experimented with it. (“Dowsing” or “holistic medicine” as a couple of examples.
For example, I will not arrogantly dismiss all beliefs in the entire New Age movement, as all dogmatic audio skeptics I’ve seen will. I don’t practice any New Ageism either, but that’s just the point; I don’t know enough about it to dismiss it all. If it helps some people, who am I to deny there may be something there? Millions of people for thousands of years practice Feng-Shui or principles of Chi, and more modern Western studies that may be based on that phenomenon. It’s not a sign of intelligence in the slightest to dismiss such well practiced phenomenon when you don’t know anything about it and can only speculate from your ivory tower, using ignorant judgment based on a very limited understanding of the world (including the world of science). Those who join in on that form part of their own fraternity of religious zealotry.
It’s as May Belt points out, once you have experienced this (Belt) phenomenon and come to the realization that there really is something to it, that the products really can change your perception of sound in a real and tangible way, you can’t go back to your mocking ways any longer and ridicule those who use such products. For those audiophiles who have been courageous enough to persist in testing the techniques and ideas I offered them, that certainly turned out to be true. They stopped mocking me, apologized for doing so, and even thanked me for the tips, wonder of wonders. So really, this has all been a big 25-year misunderstanding between the traditionalists and the avant-garde. But in a few hundred years when the general public catches up to Peter and I and the rest of us in the “secret community of advanced audiophiles”, boy are they ever gonna have egg on their faces! 😮
“you can really learn a lot that way
it will change you in the middle of the day
though your confidence may be shattered,
it doesn’t matter”
– “For The Turnstiles”
: Neil Young
the advanced audiophile