in the good old days of hifi, the master-pupil relationship was very prevalent amongst asian audiophiles, notably in hongkong. aspiring audiophiles actually learn the art of hifi from their "sifu" (cantonese for master or mentor). it is a common practice for veteran, established and respectable audiophiles to adopt pupil(s) who believe in their school of thoughts and "specialization", and want to learn the skills from these masters. by "specialization", i mean there would be a sifu for planar speaker (there is such a person in real life! in fact, he is still very much alive in the hongkong hifi circle today), a sifu for 300B, a sifu for LS3/5a, the list goes on. each of this specialization is not unlike your chinese kungfu clans, i.e. you get the shaolin, wu tang, er mei etc etc. or course, there are also sifu who are not specialists but generalists who are just as willing to impart their skills to their pupils.

in any hifi demos or home visits where the sifu brings his entourage, he is always given the privilege to sit in the sweet spot before anyone else. and everyone in the room will be waiting anxiously for the sifu's comments as his words are sacred and have far-reaching impact to the ego of the system's owner. i remember being in such scene many years ago. it can get very tense. and the sifu in particular is a very critical audiophile, who more often than not, dishes out harsh criticism rather than praises.

a sifu is someone authoritative and influential. whatever hifi gear he buys, his pupils would follow suit. if he says MIT cables give the best separation of images then his pupils would take his words as bible and stick to MIT. if he says AQ cables are crap, none of his pupils would argue with him. whatever LP or CD titles that the sifu says is good, his pupils have to get it. a sifu has to be a generous person as he would foot the bills after lunches and dinners with his pupils. failing to do so and you would not be deemed as a generous leader.

the sifu is also respected by hifi dealers. he is often offered new high-end gear to try out. once he says something is good, the word will spread and chances are, the thing will sell by itself. on the other hand, if he gives thumbs-down, that piece of gear would have difficulty getting sold. as a result, some mischievous dealers would try to butter him up in the hope of getting some good reviews.

interestingly, the characteristics of his pupils' hifi systems always have some shadow of resemblance to the master's system, since they are using almost the same brands of amplifier, cable and tweaks.

when the pupils mature and build their own following, they can in turn adopt pupils. the master-pupil relationship is a sacred one and the hierarchy can go many levels much like in a shaolin clan.

i have come across cases where the pupil fell out with his master and they turned nasty and became enemies ever after. normally it is caused by the deviation of their beliefs and when there is no longer a meeting of minds.

sadly, this interesting master-pupil culture has largely vanished among today's audiophiles in malaysia. i am not sure what's the main reason.

audiophiles from the west or other parts of the world, would you like to enlighten us if such culture exists in the west?

12 comments:

aldridge said...

Thanks for the post,

In England at least,the dealers seems to have such a role.more often than not,these dealers are such passionate music-lover that ,they got into the business so that they can be as close as possible to the gears,the music and helped people fulfill musical enjoyment better.


Case in point;A lot of ATC users uses Bryston for amplifications,at least in UK.They{ATC,Bryston}can rarely,if ever,be found under the same roof...

Having said that I would love to have the Aian model though.It just add some 'heat' to the hobby....

sam elliot said...

I envy you guys in this part of the world actually,
If I rwere to have such master during my "growing up day" It would have saved me a lot of money....Well I think ego Is not a problem here..I would gladly massage his ego and carry his b#%@Ls!!

JOHN said...

I think it would have been a wonderful models to follow and how I wished I had one..

I know a lot of my contamporaries in the UK started off by following the system that has been put up by Magazines like Hi-Fi world, HiF- Choice etc...

From then ,you start to hang ariund the dealers shop and meet different people..more serius people.

They normally impart thir knowladge albeit less forcefully I guess..

but most of the time you are pretty much on your own.
It haqs been my observation[ You Can quote me on this} that Asian audiophiles are much more knowladgeable than their wester counterparts.NOW I KNOW WHY!!!!

Heck Maggie,even you would put alot of the so -called experts in the Brit.hi-fi mag to shame.

That is why i FOLLOW YOU BLOG

aboon said...

Maggie,
Are u the bald one in the middle?

jamie said...

Hi Maggie,
Nice Blog

In the states ,we normally started off with the "Show off" brands like krelll.

Most of us the will join an Audiophile club where you get members to mingle,and invite variuos professionals like engineers,designers and dealers to give talks etc

Seriously though ,I find that the engineers are not the best persons to talk too.They are to analytical{being an aeronotical engineer myself I know I'm shooting myself on the ffo!!!} I find the veteran audiophiles to have the best wisdom.They were the ones that convinve me{by demonstrations ,mind you}abt the benefits of good cablings...
Yeah I am using Kubala-Sosna Emotions cables too.If the rumor is true the M'sian Audiophiles will be a lusky lot.Really good cables...

mel said...

Agreed with the above

I find that most of my asian friends are more passionate about their hi-fi than us .They seems to be the masters of tweak too.If you look at most successful cables companies ,their designers are mainly asians...

I really would wish I had a sifu during my early days ..the amount I have spent on speakers/amp upgrade ugh...when i realized than years later that all you need is a RG and some cables upgrade.....

atiam said...

I find most of the HI-Fi grandmasters to be better than the so called expert from your Hi-fi magazines.

Their only motif?total love for music.I have seen them actually spent from their own pocket and the wisdoms that they have is impecabble..

Do we have such peple in Malaysia? plentiful....except that they don't blog.

But reading your scribe Maggie,I think You have Reached That GRANDMASTER level...why do you think so many peple[here and abroad] read your blogs?

ken said...

I think the "sifu" metality is only prevalent in Asia. I don't see it in the western countries. Having spent 5 years in UK, I can attest to that.

But some sifus in Malaysia do demand absolute obedience from their pupils. Everything the sifu says is correct. I had a sifu only after I started dabbling in hifi for about 4 years. I can say that I learn more from my sifu in that 1 year with him than I ever did with my usual hifi dealers.

But sadly, me and my sifu when our separate ways because of a little misunderstanding. But I do cherish the time I spend with him.

walt said...

I remember going to one of those Hi-fi clubs in Calofornia

I was A fresh graduate {many Moons ago!!!!] and I still remember the theme of the talk"does Hi-end Cables work?"

The demonstation involved 2 kettles one attched to the stock cable and the other one using a "hi-Fi' PC cable,and using a stop watch,the demonstrator started boiling water..

Guess what the result was?The water that used thea"hi-fi' AC cable got boiled a good 90 seconds earlier!!!!!

All of us rushed to the nearest hi-fi shop to buy "audiophile' grade Ac Chord

junichi said...

In japan ,all of us has senior people advise us abt hi-fi.in japan,more tubes,esp SET amp because listening area very small,same with dining area.so must use good speakers and resonators to place to get good sound.but this putting resonators need expert.once you get good set of resonators the sound better than live music

maggielurva 愛美姬 said...

john, atiam
i am flattered by your compliments ;-) i am just doing what i enjoy since the mainstream media here is not really interested in hifi. watch out for my blog next week ("carrie bradshaw of audio journalism") on my aspirations for this blog ;-)

aboon,
the one with receding hairline and bulging tummy....

jamie, walt
audiophile club won't work in malaysia because people here have to much ego to really come to accept each other's eccentricity. you guys in USA are lucky lot!

junichi,
wow! reader from japan! i welcome you with a red carpet ;-)

Anonymous said...

Japanese audio gear is an undiscovered gold mine... too bad some Malaysians still think that
"i do know that japanese have distinct tastes for hifi which is unique and quite different from the rest of us. "

:-)