Disclaimer: J-Dog and I have nothing going on the side. No hanky-panky, no monetary sluice from DARKO to ohm. J-Dog graced OHM AIR with a showing in two parts (Legally Inactive PT1 - Legally Inactive PT2). God bless you, Mr. Darko.
Before I publish this year’s hardware year-end ohmage, I’m going to tip my hat to a site, and a colleague, for whom, as a publisher, I have the utmost respect. That site is Digital Audio Review. That colleague is J-Dog, whom I am told, prefers to be called John, or when formality takes over, Big-D.
DAR's web was slung in 2011, a year before ohm, and right before everyone and their dog began blogging about audio gear. Like anyone and their dog, DAR’s earliest steps wobbled. But after strengthening its editorial angle and readership, DAR eschewed the too-common geek-as-editor schtick for an appeal to music culture.
DAR places importance on the appreciation of music rather than the audiophile passage, or album, or genre. And while his appreciation of the experience has led to a number of articles engineers would frown on, he has single-handedly raised the cultural roof of the audiophile blog.
His trips to the record shop, his descriptions of the shoppers there, and his focus on music, fit uncannily well next to proper reviews. That’s part of it. DAR is about flow: flow of music and hardware, of end user experience and the devices they put up with.
My beefs with DAR are rally 100% around subjective platitudes which I'll not get into in this piece. For every discordant point between us, three brotherly and dulcet agreements spring up. Take for instance John's recent plea to raise recording quality, whose less colloquial analogue is planted in my pseudo-scientific thrashing of 24-bit audio. Besides, John’s foot is firmly planted on the right side of a number of salient issues, gapless playback being the most important. As a matter of course, mine is further to the right. John stops at gapless playback of lossless audio; I take it to MP3, AAC, ogg, and whotnot. Whatever our difference there, we agree that if a DAP can’t play music as seamlessly as a CD player, it doesn't deserve to be called audiophile.
When in town, John spends equal parts at the show, equal parts scratching through the world’s largest vinyl shops. He huffs it from one manufacturer HQ to another. He’s between planes more often than IKEA flatpack. And while he hans’t explicitly said so, his mission: to marinate the dry world of audio web geekery with a cultural appreciation of music, is crystal clear.
John isn’t saying it’s all for the love of music, he’s living it.
Some of his words are big. But by and large, he keeps it simple: most of his articles rarely pass the 1000 word mark, and can be digested piece by piece over lunch. They are brilliant, salient, and as the days stretch into months, John displays greater editorial patience.
Almost without exception, three to five well-written articles pop up at his home page per week. Each is assiduously edited, parsimoniously tallied, and engaging. In the last half year, he’s really picked up the pace. He knows his sponsors. He knows what Manufacturer A was aiming for. Subjectively, he knows where they made it and where they failed.
John also knows his readers. They are an informed, polite, and socially mobile lot; less like an enthusiastic internet rabble and more like a university roundtable of panel academics.
John is tall. He has been known to taxi across town for a tall pint of Guinness. He’ll go even farther for a 400¥ vinyl record. Recently we sat elbow to hip bone at an Akihabara Izakaya. We ate fish, noodlels, and sipped what, politik and sober as ever, John enthused was ‘great beer’ (it was shit). He opened up with me about hi-res audio, crooked-toothed university students, and touch screens. We agree about the first and the second, but fell out about the third.
John likes to touch. I do if and when it makes sense. Otherwise, I’m down with a snuggle and a light finger. And, while John’s and my approaches differ, and our conclusions, and words about certain gear differ, I’m totally down with DARKO. Because when everything is said and done, review blogs are geeks looking for street cred. John is on the street, hitting up the latest audio festivals, touring factories, and hobnobbing with geeks, manufacturers, distributors, and eerily silent vinyl hunters.
He is the hardest-working audio bloger out there, and it shows. Like me, I hope that you find something to love at DAR.
Here’s to a great 2016 and a lot more DARKO.