High End and Classical Music

Being quite new in the world of high-end, I would like to ask the following question: how many Audiogon Forum members are listening exclusively or almost exclusively to classical music? My impression is that regrettably rather few "high-enders" are interested in classical music. On the other hand, having a lot of friends - professional musicians - I also know that among them there are hardly any high end owners. I am one of them myself. Recently bought the following components: Mark Levinson 383 & 39, ProAc 3.8, cables Van den Hul The Revelation and MC Gold Hybrid. Although I am completely satisfied with this system (sounds tremendously!), I realised too late, that for the kind of music I am listening al the time (especially early music and baroque), there are maybe better combinations. So the question is: are some components more suitable than others for a particular kind of music? Thanks in advance for any reactions.
My college degree is in Music Composition, and I listen solely to "classical" music--mostly modern stuff. I have found that an excellent hi-fi system has been, in addition to a great provider of enjoyment, an educational tool. As a composer, it is extremely important for me to listen to a lot of music, and there is so much more to learn when the music can be heard clearly. I also have a lot of friends who are musicians, and most of them don't have decent hi-fi systems because they are poor and they waste too much money on coffee. I don't think, however, that being a musician or even loving music is the only prerequisite for being an audiophile. From reading a lot of posts here, I have gathered that one must also have technophile leanings. Many of us have always been fascinated by technology, as demonstrated by the "What kind of watch do you have?" post.
First, if you are "completely satisified" and it "sounds tremendous" to you, you've achieved what most audiofools are aspiring to. Sit back and enjoy. Second, even though you say you are new to the hobby, you will soon find out that there are ALWAYS better combinations, the search for the best is much of what the hobby is about. Your gear is high quality, and you obviously enjoy it already. If you've ben bitten by the search bug for perfection, hold on to your hat, and wallet. There is a fine line between happy exploration and obsession. In my experience your gear is extremely resolving and detailing, and if you like that great. For a predominantly classical menu, it may lack some warmth,depth and tonal balance, particulalry on strings.Just my experience. Adding some tubes in the pre-amplification or amplification and different cabling might lend a more natural resolve to the type of music you prefer. I know what I like and hear, but wouldn't venture to suggest what gear is best for you. There are far more knowledgeable members on this site who could do so, you may learn a great deal from their suggestions, and use them as a springboard for your own research. A cautionary note, if you truly love what you already have, the grass is not always greener.... Have fun and good luck.
BTW, in response to your first question, I listen to predominantly classical and jazz, with a dollup of rock and roll thrown in.
My music library is 60% rock/alt and 40% classical. Don't need any special equipment as classical recorings almost always are much higher quality than main stream rock. Enjoy the good gear you have now and fine tune with cables and isolation devices. Times have never been better for classical lovers as back catalogs of major labels are being released in excellent remasters at mid price or lower.
I listen to about 68% Jazz and 30% Classical (2% other stuff). I do think there are systems better suited to Jazz, Classical, Rock etc. That is if you are working on a budget. If the sky is the limit there are some fine systems that can do all quite well. As an example, in my youth I listend mostly to rock. In general this music is highly compressed and requires a very dynamic system to bring out these compressed recordings (it also helps if it can be played loud). I had Klipsch LaScala's--very loud, very dynamic--very good for Rock music. Now try to play a Eto Emma's performance of Bach's Goldberg variations. The tonal quality is there, but the nuances and the imagery of the piano just aren't. Female vocals, which I love now on Martin Logan speakers, were terrible on the Klipsch. My music tastes have changed over time, as have my system to accomodate my tastes. My current system is not as good as my Klipsch system was for rock. But that's not what I'm listening to these days. My current system's forte is vocals, jazz and classical. Hope this helps.
I have been listening mostly (certainly not exclusively) to classical music for many years on a good quality turntable with LPs. While being very satisfied with analog reproduction on a modest system, when I finally took the plunge and admitted I could listen to digital CDs, I found that upgrading to better components was the key to musical enjoyment. An audiophile friend sold me an older Audio Research SP11 tubed pre-amp and I have added tube amps and better cabling, all contributing to not only better digital reproduction, but greater enjoyment of my old LP collection. I still tell myself that my focus should be the music rather than the equipment, but there is no denying that the better the reproduction, the more enjoyment of the music. I have not experienced enough variety of high-end equipment to compare or recommend different components myself but sites like this can be very informative and helpful. For classical music, I do recommend a good turntable, a record cleaning machine, and used records because I have found that most classical records have been cared for and treated better than other types of used records. Good luck and enjoy the music.
Interesting questions. I listen principally to classical music, sing in a fairly good and ambitious church choir as well as a harmony quintet (takes 5 of us to sing 4-part harmony!) from time to time and play folk guitar. My system, which I've accumulated over years, is based around Jadis electronics, which may lack the last word in transparency and microscopic detail but are remarkably true to the music and the sound of the concert hall, which is what I'm looking for in my system. Yes, some equipment out there (like mine) is better suited for classical than rock, some better for small ensembles than large, romantic orchestral music, but I think that Mes' excellent post has it right. If you are happy with your system, and you seem to have assembled some fine components that I know do well with classical music, enjoy the music rather than worrying about whether there's something better out there (heck, there always is, that's rule no. 1 in this hobby). Good luck!
I guess I'm the black sheep, I listen to Rock & Heavy Metal, yes that's Heavy Metal. But tis true that most good recordings are in the classical jazz genre. However, there is quite a few outstanding rock recordings, ie Alice & Chains(unplugged), Roger Waters(recent live release) Pearl Jam but unfortunately many sound terrible. It's like a crap shoot every time I buy a CD. Good question. I know I get tired of reading all the reviews in Stereophile etc. and it seems that all the reviewers listen to classical music. Long live Rock anyone else agree?
"The more one loves music, the more music one loves"
I am 90% classical.
My wife and I listen to classical of all periods, Heavy Metal, Middle Eastern (My wife also belly dances)and Art Techno. I agree with the general drift of the comments above. You're lucky if your favorite music is Baroque and early music since it is less costly to approach realism with an audiophile system. I listen to a lot of early music but my wife and my greatest love is late romantic music(which is psychologically fairly close to a fair amount of Metal). We've been to over 1000 professional performances and trying to reproduce the Mahler 8th,Turandot or Bruckner in your living room when you know what it sounds like live is a VERY expensive proposition. But a system that can is also jaw dropping on Metallica, Judas Priest etc. My one suggestion if you like your system is to spend some money on room treatment. Some ASC tube traps will really bring out the nuances of Baroque intonation that are probably being obscured by your listening room interactions.
I grew up listening to what is now referred to as "classic rock" courtesy of my Father and ended up getting into Punk during the first wave in 77. This turned into hardcore and then metal with all of its variations, etc... Getting back into "hi-end" audio has DRASTICALLY opened up my musical horizons and i'm quite glad of it. I am now a supporting member of a local classical station that sounds AMAZINGLY good for radio broadcasts and have purchased appr. 200 classical CD's and albums within the last year or so. While the purchase of a few blues based discs and quite a few female vocalists have been worked in, i have yet to find any modern jazz that strikes my fancy. One thing that i have noticed is that many of the "hi-fi" type recordings that are not classical based do sound good in terms of quality, but completely lack "soul" or "feeling" to the music. It's as if they are "sterile" by nature. On the other hand, classical only gets better and better with better recordings. Anyone else notice this too ? Sean >
To give you also my 5 cents worth: Mes and Rcprince have said it all. Enjoy!
Thanks a lot for all reactions! Very valuable!
Xyzdim - I'm in your flock. Depending on the time and mood, I enjoy Ben Webster or Albert Collins, but generally I listen to rock / pop in all it's sub-genres. There's been a lot of articles lately about "guilty pleasures" - music that you know you "shouldn't enjoy" but do. At nine o'clock at night after a 12 hour workday, I find that I enjoy a lot of this guilty pleasure music and, to boot, don't feel particularly guilty about it :-)
Koen, to get back to your original question, starting this thread, I would say that for chamber music Quad Electrostats with either first class tubed electronics and top of the line XLO or Purist wires would be your best bet. Jadis comes to mind, or Aethetix, as far as electronics are concerned. If you can find the Jadis 80 monoblocks somewhere on the used market, those combined with the Quads will take you to heaven! You could add a Gradient subwoofer, if you want to enjoy a rich, full cello rendering. What I've also heard and liked with the Quads were the Spectral electronics, together with the MIT wires. The Bartok string quartets, which are full of dynamic nuances, seemed to me rendered best through this combination, but if besides sparkle, you love your strings to bloom and spread, stick with the above mentioned tube stuff.... voices, through the Jadis (or the Aesthetix) have a wonderful threedimenionality, which so far I have not heard elsewhere.
If you want bigger sound, more dynamics from pppp to ffff and you own a couple of oilwells, your choice could be a Jadis four chassis front end, their 200/500 or 800 amps and a pair of the big Soundlabs or the Pipedreams or even better, one of the bigger horn loaded speakers from A-Capella. With the Soundlabs you might have to think of a pair of SS-big babies driven subwoofers, with the other two you will not. I would combine the a-capellas with Lamm gear and enjoy the illusion of being transported to the Chicago Symphony or to Carnegie with spl close to the real thing. Imperative to achieve this, to my ears at least, with big orchetral renderings of classical music is a top notch vinyl front end. So you'll need some more oilwells.
I'm with Sean. I just got into audiodiction recently and once I stopped buying equipment every other day I started to listen and wanted that "hair on the back of the neck" feeling. I'm a Deadhead and bluegrass fan and I started to listen to Miles and 'Trane and now Copland and Holst. For me the journey started with the equipment and keeps getting better. I'll listen (and buy) anything that is well recorded, as classical seems to be. Problem is its tough to put American Beauty or the Seldom Scene on, I think I've been spoiled, or grown up.
Many of the audiophiles I know are like myself, they have a wide range of tastes. I truly love fine classical such as, Mozart, Dvorak, and my favorite, Banntok. However, I also invest time listening to Lionel Hampton, John Lee Hooker, la Vienta, Belafonte, Chet Atkins, and every piece of traditional music from other cultures I can lay my hands on. Time has taught me when you limit yourself to one or two types of music, you cut yourself off from the rest of the world. There is no greater shame.
Listen exclusively to classical; movies increasingly encroach on music's territory, however. (Gone With The Wind competes with Berlioz Requiem, etc.)
Heh, only one person listening to electronica?
Jeeze guys.
Seriously though, for an interesting commentary on genres vs. hardware take a look at this:
His premise is that the most satisfying systems will not be optimized to one particular genre, and should maximize contrast between the different recording techniques (and quality) of various types of music.
I haven't had a chance to apply this philosophy, but I do regularly listen to a great many kinds of music (if I do say so myself) and this may save me some wasted time.