I hear you. I have found that the process of evaluating gear and enjoying music are mutually exclusive.I can do one or the other, but not both.
I bought a fix for that problem. For me the problem arises from having a system set up too well, i.e. the clarity and imaging are good enuf to become distracting (when listening in the sweet spot). I bought a Black Ice Foz SS, a device that allows you to apply more out of phase information which in turn creates a sound (variable of course) with the center image less in focus and the soundstage much larger. Reminds me of what panels and electrostats and omni's can) do. I put it in a tape loop and now I can read and listen to music at the same time. Just for fun! Anal folks need not apply. :-)
Not for me - I'm only playing my gear when I am actively listening to it - I don't keep music in the background for day-to-day activities, just like my TV is never on unless there is something I am particularly watching. That doesn't mean I'm evaluating the gear, just engaging brain more with music....
Always looking for new interesting music no matter how it's recorded poor or good and always looking for undiscovered old music no matter how it's recorded poor or good.
For me listening is not analyzing how it's recorded, but analyzing how it's played.
As to the volumes, mostly love it big, natural and revealing even for casual listening.
Always looking for new interesting music no matter how it’s recorded poor or good and always looking for undiscovered old music no matter how it’s recorded poor or good.
I have a thread I started today about Amapiano music and a mix is posted in the thread, please check it out and let me know what you think when you have time. Thanks
I listen to music for enjoyment and "critical listening" would seem to defeat that purpose. Listening to hear how certain instruments sound or if singer is off key would be defeating the purpose of listening.
I know a guy who plays the guitar and on an album recorded by either Porcupine Tree or maybe RUSH there is supposedly an "error" and he says it ruins the whole song for him. I feel sorry for people like that and those that listen critically.
My system exist solely for me to enjoy the music. I have to confess that from time to time I find myself listening more to the sound quality than the music, but that is the exception not the rule. I have pretty much reached my endgame system and can take great pleasure in just leaning back and enjoying it. Audio systems should exist to enjoy music, not the other way around.
OP, I think you’ve said that -- for you -- "relaxing" means not thinking critically or doing analysis.
Sometimes, that’s true for me. But I enjoy critical thinking, too. So, sometimes, relaxing for me involves critical listening. Or doing a crossword puzzle.
I don’t see different "camps" in this question, as some do. I see mere differences in how people relax, and not much more.
Now, if people have trouble shutting off their critical listening and are unable to relax and enjoy the music, this is saying nothing more than they're unable to relax.
And that is not really about being an audiophile. It's about their psychology in general.
You got my drift. By “casual listening” I didn’t mean not involved. Quite the contrary, I want to get MORE involved in the music.
@rvpiano I think you've opened up an interesting topic. There are various ways of attending which are between "critical" and "casual." Sometimes they teach this in meditation or martial arts. A way of being "at rest" but still "active," mentally.
When I think of the term "critical," I think of problem solving. As I see it, the puzzle becomes, how does one remain an active listener without also remaining in problem-solving mode?
For me, listening to recorded music involves three essential factors. The first is the quality of the playback system. Unless there's a new component in the system I already know what it sounds like, so at the moment I'm listening there's not much point in analyzing it whether I'm listening casually or critically.
The second factor is the quality of the recording itself. Someone else here said that listening isn't analyzing how the music is recorded, but rather analyzing how it's played. For me that's true to some extent, but if it's simply a bad recording I think it's hard to ignore no matter how casually I'm listening since it's going to affect my ability to accurately analyze the music. I may or may not put with it depending on how interested I am in that bit of music. But if it's a reasonably good recording, and one can usually tell pretty quickly, then there's no point in analyzing it further.
The last factor, of course, is the quality of the music being played. I tend to save my critical listening time for music that's at least a little more complex and that requires full concentration to "analyze" and appreciate. Then there's the less complex stuff that I might listen to while reading or doing something else that shares my attention. That music will normally be played at a lower volume, and I'm hearing it but I'm not fully engaged in it, i.e., listening casually. Of course, there have been many times when I've been hearing but not "listening" to a piece of music when something yanks my attention away from whatever else I was doing and requires me to turn it up and shift into critical listening mode. I love those moments!
Although I’m not happy about it, I too tend to have problems listening to poorly recorded music no matter how good it is. However if it’s historically significant, I can make allowances for the sound and go right to the performance.
there is a major difference between being immersed in something, feeling the music -- vs -- being evaluative or analytical in your focus - both are types of intentful listening, but quite different -- one is for enjoyment, the other might well be an enjoyable process for some, but it is ’work’ of sorts as it is being quite analytical and evaluative, trying to judge, parse, decipher, gauge, compare what one is hearing against something else, or some ideal we have in mind
a trained musician can listen to a piece of music and be evaluative also, but not of the sound, but rather, the construction of the music and/or the technique, say, of the pianist or singer...
so it is really about mindset, are you willing to engage in a way to be moved, transported, etc... versus asking yourself, what is good/bad/right/wrong?
There is definitely a difference between listening to your system and listening to music. Your can switch on the “analytical” mode… or try not to turn it on.
However, your system plays a big part of what you tend to do. For decades I worked on improving all the obvious stuff, details, slam, imaging, sound stage. I proudly listened to my “Reference System” as I came to call it. I could instantly identify the venue, mastering of the recording.
I would be glued to my system, for 45 minutes many evenings. The most I could get as I was working. But if I did have more time… well 45 minutes was enough. I would loose interest.
Making a very long story short. I realized the details were way out of proportion to the music and the rhythm and pace was being destroyed. Ten years later… all tube Audio Research gear and Sonus Faber speakers (I ditched the planar speakers) and I am pulled into my system. All the details, soundstage, bass is there. But they are in proportion to the major musical components and the rhythm and pace is spectacular. I fall into the music… I don’t notice the system. I listen now three hours a day and find it really difficult to pull myself away from it at the end.
I can tell in any system what is distracting from the music now. This skill took me a very long time (decades… ok, I’m slow). But as an example I took a friend down to an audio store. We auditioned three integrated amps. The Luxman - highly detailed, The Pass - natural and foot tapping, Audio Research… my eyes would close and I would fall into the music. Easy to tell which I wanted. But I recommended the Pass for my friend. It was because he was new to high end audio and craved slam and flash. The Pass delivered that, but with the rhythm and pace which would satisfy when you were not being impressed with the bass and soundstage.
There is equipment made for many different purposes / tastes. Many of us love the pursuit because we enjoy using our analytical skills. But these can lead us away from what we really wanted when we started.
I’ll have to look this up.
I feel I’ve finally “come out the other side,” blessedly.
Lets say you go out to eat. All you want is a steak cooked right but the chef has it too salty or too well or its too tough. You never would have "evaluated' the steak quality unless some "distortion" would have caught your attention. You intended to simply enjoy the steak meal but you were jarred out of your naïve wish but these cooking errors. And so it is with audio for me and I suspect for most of us. We fully intend to just sit back and enjoy our choice of music when we are jolted by the "too much salt" issue. We weren't looking for the "distortion" but it forced itself into our palate uninvited. Are audiophiles too picky. spoiled OCD obsessives looking for blemishes in a blemished world? Maybe. But frankly the crap some people tolerate calling itself music reproduction is the reason so few bother or believe music can be an exhilarating. engaging, and an enlightening experience. My American made Raven Audio Integrated tube amp while one of the least expensive options on my wish list, ended up being all I could have dreamed of and more. Line Magnetic,Leben, Primaluna, Vincent, all vied for my loyalty. Sorry to mention brands but I searched a long time. Read reviews endlessly. Years buying, trading, auditioning, .....I feel like one of the three bears! This is "just right"! You'll know it when you hear it. No tweak like top grade equipment.
very well made point (well, at least up to the point you mentioned the raven amp 😂)
no, seriously, this is an apt description of what i go through sometimes, when i sit down to listen for a while.... i am listening to the music till something starts to grate sonically (of course i make allowances if it is new music, thus just the recording quality)... i make a mental note of what the sonic ’problem’ is... keep listening, if it recurs, then i am flipped into problem solving mode, and out of just ’enjoy the performance’ mode --
just like as you say, i want to enjoy the steak - then bite in and think 'man this is real chewy...'